IACP Blog » Opinion: Faking It

Opinion: Faking It

May 15th, 2012Posted by: Amy Reiley

The Annual Conference session "Bloggers & Marketers: Crafting a Rewarding Alliance" raised the ire of one food journalist

By Amy Reiley

Those of you who know me probably had a certain expectation when you saw I wrote a blog post called “Faking It.” (For those of you who don’t already know, I should probably add here that I’m noted as an authority on culinary aphrodisiacs.) So you see where the mind might go with a title like the one above. But that kind of faking it is old news. I’m writing this post to address a new trend that’s been fast to infiltrate the culinary world.

When I attended my first Annual Conference this year, I was more interested in connecting with other professionals in our field than in focusing on the education aspect of the seminars. However, one seminar I attended gave me far more of an eye-opening education than I could have ever dreamed.


It was on a bit of a lark that I signed up for "Bloggers & Marketers: Crafting a Rewarding Alliance." Although like many professional food writers, I maintain a blog (The Aphrodisiac Queen), I do not consider, nor ever refer to myself as a blogger. However, the seminar description mentioned monetizing and, as the editorial director of a well-established online magazine, EatSomethingSexy.com, I was interested in seeing if these strategies could apply to our business. To say that the information discussed was jaw dropping would be an understatement. I think I spent the next three hours with my jaw dangling somewhere between my knees and China.

What the seminar quickly revealed was that major as well as small, well-respected organizations in the culinary business (like Kraft, the Got Milk? campaign, Kitchenaid, etc.) are contacting high profile food and lifestyle bloggers to endorse products, create recipes, photograph dishes made with the company’s products, and conduct giveaways for reasonably substantial financial gain.


Sitting in the seminar listening to several highly respected marketers discuss the kinds of relationships they develop with bloggers, I could feel a negative current ripple through the air. For those of you who weren’t there, the majority of attendees were professional journalists, recipe developers, publishers, home economists, and editors. It was clear to me that the general feeling in the room was one of shock, discomfort, and if I’m being completely honest, probably a little jealousy. And, trust me; I threw my emotional lot in with the majority.

In addition to the marketing representatives on the panel, there were a couple of food bloggers. (At one point I wondered if they were about to be lynched—luckily, we behind-the-desk food types tend to be a peaceful lot.) When asked to talk specific monetary amounts, both the marketers and bloggers on the panel suddenly grew shy. One marketer mentioned a blogger not in attendance turning down her client because said blogger doesn’t accept less than $500 to develop and photograph a unique recipe. The test kitchen director from a major appliance company seated to my left looked at me with the same shocked expression I’m sure was painted across my mug and said, “that’s not exactly a lot.” I agreed, wondering how, depending on the ingredients, you could possibly develop and test a recipe and still make enough money for the hours of work to be worthwhile for much less. …And then I got my answer. The recipes aren’t tested.


Certainly, we could debate how much testing is enough. The test kitchen policy for my cookbook publishing company, Life of Reiley, is that the final recipe must be tested three times in the kitchen, then pass the test by a minimum of two home cooks (sometimes three depending on the recipe’s complexity) before it’s approved. If something doesn’t work out with just one of the home cooks, we go back to the start and totally retest. I know many of you test much more. I have a friend who, as an intern, once tested a cinnamon roll recipe 100 times before it was deemed fit for publication by America’s Test Kitchen. But whatever your testing policy, I know that we can all agree on the importance of ensuring that the experience of making a dish goes smoothly for a home cook.


It shocks me that some of our industry’s biggest and brightest companies are willing to farm out this kind of work to home cooks, whose skill in recipe development and writing haven’t been proven–and, at least in the case of the examples discussed at the seminar, without any control over how well the recipes have been tested. The bloggers are, essentially, faking it. And then marketers are sharing these recipes with the public—and paying hobby cooks for the kind of skilled work most of us have spent a career developing. I also can’t help but question to what extent do the companies check to ensure the resulting recipes aren’t plagiarized from professional sources. The most important message I got from the seminar was that we, the professional journalists, researchers, home economists, recipe developers, food stylists, and photographers are getting aced out of much needed work in our chosen field by stay-at-home moms and accountants with a cooking hobby.

It would be completely unfair to say that all the bloggers reaping the benefits of these arrangements aren’t qualified or don’t posses a unique set of skills deserving of the leap from Wordpress to notoriety (The Pioneer Woman comes to mind). But, in general, this trend is a glaring example of what many have complained is a general “dumbing down” of the culinary profession, particularly food journalism. At a time when legendary publications like Gourmet are shuttered, it makes my skin crawl a little to think that advertising dollars that could have helped sustain high quality food writing and recipe development, (not just Gourmet, but the great food writing and stunning photography newspapers and other magazines have lost to cutbacks), is going to people with a hobby and probably too much time on their hands.

I agree that everyone in the culinary world needs to make a living however they can—it gets harder every day! And I can see from a marketer’s perspective why it would be smart, from both a PR as well as a financial standpoint, to hire someone with a following who will work for a modest sum. But the food professional side of me is outraged. The work of great recipe developers, food stylists and photographers, and, of course, food journalists are skills, crafts honed through years of education and/or apprenticeship. If this trend continues, we’ll all be out of work. But, setting personal feelings aside, what is much worse is how this hurts the consumer. Until now, consumers have been treated to professionally created recipes, photographs, and fact-checked information on food. If this trend continues, quality communications from the food world to the consumer will be a thing of the past. Don’t we all deserve more?

From the editor: Please note that the opinions expressed by contributors to the IACP Blog are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position of IACP. We welcome posts and opinions from all members on the IACP Blog. Send your questions and comments to us at communications@iacp.com.

Before commenting, we ask that you read the follow-up post from IACP.

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Amy Reiley is the creator of EatSomethingSexy.com and writes The Aphrodisiac Queen. Follow her on Twitter @forkmespoonme.

Photo @ Boaz Yiftach, used with permission.

Your Comments

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The demise of the glossy food magazine should not be blamed on so called “stay-at-home moms with too much time on their hands”.  Do you live in a cave?  Did you forget about the near economic collapse of this country?  Marketing dollars have to be spead thin and if bloggers meet the requirements for the budget allocated, then let them write! 

I blog as a hobby and often find recipes that don’t taste good, are incomplete, or just don’t work.  Why?  Like you said, they were probably never tested or not tested enough.  Have you seen Food52.com?  This is yet another example of mostly non-professionals writing and photographing their recipes.  The contributors don’t see any payment but there’s a slim chance your recipe will be picked, tested, and voted into the next cookbook. 

I for one don’t care to be paid to blog, I do it because I want to share my passion for food with a community and family.

Posted by: Heather05.15.2012
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Wow. Clearly, you have not been paying attention. You are venting (in an unkind way) against a make-believe enemy. Unfortunately, this article reflects the attitude that the previous generation of food professionals has about the new generation of food professionals (for lack of a better way to put it). As we all know, the food world is in enormous flux and it can be scary to those for whom the former ways were comfortable and easy to navigate. But, it is a mistake to assume that just because one has not yet been paid for their food work means that they don’t know anything and is not creating good, quality work. And, it is a mistake to blame the bloggers as somehow the creators of this new world. The economy created this world.  The bloggers are (for the most part) smart, talented folks who have seen the ivory towers of the old establishment come down and have taken smart advantage of the fact that this dismantling has opened up more room for more people.  New doesn’t equal bad, it equals the need to step up and reorient one’s thinking.

All of that said, I do think your points about large companies taking advantage of bloggers is something to be monitored and I also feel quite strongly that badly tested or untested recipes that make it into a cookbook or other “sanctioned” place are a scourge on our community, regardless of where they come from.

Posted by: Jeanne Sauvage05.15.2012
Wendy L Kirby's avatar

I appreciate your concern for the economic consequences of brands working with bloggers but I feel your anger is misdirected. My jaw was on the floor reading about what you perceive to be the “dumbing down” of the culinary profession. Your perception of nonprofessionals as “people with a hobby and probably too much time on their hands” is insulting. A lot of food bloggers I know are incredibly busy. They carve out time for their blogs because it is their passion. It’s a creative outlet. It’s a way for them to share their craft and be a part of a community that shares a similar interest. It is also a way to earn income.

There is no denying that those who have worked in the profession for an extended period of time need to find a way to bridge the gap with those new to the profession. This piece does nothing to accomplish that goal.

Posted by: Wendy L Kirby05.15.2012
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Except for the part where Amy called some non-professional bloggers people with too much time on their hands, I totally agree with her on the larger points of her story. a. Prominent companies hiring far-from-qualified people to develop their recipes (I have seen it first hand only recently, it was embarrassing what that company put out: I will kindly leave it unnamed). b. It is a great disservice to the public, for whom food standards will go to abysmal lows. People shouldn’t blog recipes to indulge their passions: Recipes need to be professional if they are going to be published and shared, and some people are posting the darnest concoctions: I think it’s not OK!

Posted by: Levana Kirschenbaum05.15.2012
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Though you purport to be concerned for the consumer, I don’t hear consumers complaining.

Big companies have zero financial incentive to pay more for work they can contract for less. If there’s a big dip in quality, that’s a different story, and things may change, but so far that hasn’t been shown to be the case.

Posted by: Cheryl05.15.2012
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Cheryl, that is precisely the tragic part: How can consumers complain, if the standards are set from much higher up, and they are so low? Consumers start thinking this is the new “good”!
You say “If there’s a dip in quality, that’s a different story” Nonono, that IS the story!

Posted by: Levana Kirschenbaum05.15.2012
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Levana, you and I disagree.

I am both a blogger and a food professional, and I believe this article paints with far too broad a brush. The slam against stay at home moms was completely uncalled for.

As for consumers, they have and always will complain with their pocketbooks. And if brands are not making money with these new strategies, they’ll change their tactics and adopt fresh contracting protocols. Simple economics.

Posted by: Cheryl05.15.2012
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Cheryl,

Let’s just say the following and leave it at this. the slam against stay at home moms were uncalled for.
The second part of your response: I respectfully disagree with you. You are thinking home economics, I am thinking lowering the bar on quality standards that are already at a severe all-time low

Posted by: Levana Kirschenbaum05.15.2012
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Levana - I totally disagree with “People shouldn’t blog recipes to indulge their passions” - a blog is a journal. If our great grandparents didn’t journal their recipes, often in language that wasn’t exact (“add some butter”) - cooking wouldn’t be an art form. We’d have very little to work on. I know plenty of food bloggers who LOVE food and blog - publishing maybe not so exact recipes. Many of us get inspiration from those bloggers.

I do think that published recipes sponsored by companies should be professionally created, tested and written. But hey, that’s their prerogative - it’s a free market and those who thrive rise to the top. Those companies who hire subpar recipe developers will hear it LOUD and CLEAR firsthand via social media channels (I’d be pissed off if I invested $30 and 2 hours to cook a recipe that didn’t work). Let the market dictate the price and you personally dictate how much YOU are worth. 

$500 per recipe is just about average. I’d suggest you ask around some IACP members (that are non-self proclaimed bloggers) what the market rate is. I’ve heard as low as $250 to as high as $3,000. Most food magazines don’t pay more than $500 per recipe, and that’s the truth.

Where bloggers make the money is not actually in recipe development, it’s in the social media end. When a blogger creates a recipe, he or she blogs about it, tweets, FB and Pins. They have a dedicated and loyal audience that companies are trying to target and influence. Sometimes it works (when it’s a great recipe and the blogger is top notch) sometimes it doesn’t(when the recipe sucks)

Think of it this way- good bloggers with good recipes rise up to the top (oh, hello capitalism, democracy, search algorithms). Give it time to let the market shake out the rest (as in any new industry). Good bloggers with good recipes get more traffic. More traffic = higher search results. Good bloggers will get more attention in social media = great stats. The better you are as a blogger and recipe developer, the more money you can command.

So, if you’re having trouble making money, don’t blame the bloggers, who have adapted to the current technology and communications channels - blame yourself for not keeping up (or find better clients who value your personal skills)

Posted by: Jaden05.15.2012
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Jaden. The problem I have is not with the bloggers, and I don’t certainly don’t grudge them making the money. It is with the manufacturers, who should know better, and should hire a food professional that’s way past the amateur blogging stage. They are selling food products to the public, for Gd’s sake: This is no joke!

Posted by: Levana Kirschenbaum05.15.2012
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Levana- good companies hire good PR agencies who advise them on which celebrity chef, recipe developers and food bloggers to hire.

Consumer feedback is easier and more instantaneous than before. Trust me when I say that good companies and brands pay attention (you wouldn’t want to develop recipes for a horrible brand anyways, right?)

Posted by: Jaden05.15.2012
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I have two comments about this discussion.

1) One need only look at the comments section of any recipe on Epicurious.com (Bon Appétit, Gourmet) to know that even the most reputable of recipe sources can publish recipes that need testing and tweaking.

2) We food bloggers are the ones who a) buy cookbooks b) pay for magazine subscriptions c) buy unfamiliar ingredients at the grocery store d) watch the food network e) actually try cooking recipes available on brand websites f) try new restaurants g) are often brand evangelists for free—In other words, we pay the salaries of recipe developers a lot more than we subtract from them.

Posted by: Amy Wilson05.15.2012
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I wanted to jump in because there is clearly a lot of sentiment flying around based on all of our personal experiences, both with food and the ways in which we observe, write about, and make money from this profession. I don’t care who you are or what your background is, if you’ve found a way to make money off of your passion, to do it ethically and in a way that allows you to bring quality content to consumers, congratulations to you. It’s getting harder and harder in this business to do and those that do (whether blogger, journalist, or otherwise) will indeed thrive. So keep it up.

I do lament the fact that the conversation around this issue has become about “me vs you” rather than “us.” I’ve worked in the food business for what seems like a very short time as far as careers go (almost 5 years), but during that time I’ve always felt it was about a community, whether it’s the people we’re eating with, the consumers we’re serving, or our colleagues in the field. More and more, I’m finding that there’s a wall that’s being put up between all that’s come before (i.e. “traditional”) and all that is new (i.e. “blogging”) in the food world. And I hate to see it, both because it doesn’t allow us to come together to actually figure out a way forward and it also completely sidesteps the following fact: all that’s new about the food world, blogging, social media, etc was built off of our understanding and appreciation for what’s come before. And all that’s come before will reinvent because of what we now have and know. They cannot exist outside of each other…things will change, but it will always be about food.

The online world has always had the potential to throw content businesses into a state of disruption (which can at times be a good thing). And in food, this is especially prevalent as we can see from the above. But, I do think that there’s a large piece that’s missing from this conversation, that being that even taking the blogging and online food media out of the equation, consumers have at their fingertips the ability to share as much as they want when it comes to recipes (look at AllRecipes.com if you need proof). So it is disingenuous to point to bloggers and say they’re doing it wrong and ruining it for the rest of us. I can say with some certainty that they are doing what all of us have done at some point in our career: experimenting. And in this world, we need to do it, no matter where we come from.

As the food web continues to grow, the voices online will as well, with everyone from the top of the food chain down participating in this. The dialogue will only get louder, so I implore all those involved to make it a productive one. There’s much we can bring to the table from each side of this discussion, both online and off, and doing so can lead to some really valuable partnerships if we do so collaboratively.

Posted by: Adam Salomone05.15.2012
Judith Klinger's avatar

Bravo Adam. Well said.
Change is everywhere, in every field. Ask publishers, ask music industry professionals, ask M.I.T.college professors who are now offering classes online.
We can bury our head in the sand, and wish for the world to go back to the way it was, but wishing only works on Oprah’s show.  Constructive dialogue, among respectful colleagues, is always going to be more productive than divisive wall building.

Posted by: Judith Klinger05.16.2012
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Thanks to all of you who turned this piece into a constructive dialog. It is certainly what I hoped for when I agreed to contribute. I am sorry that some of you read it as an angry rant. I think the trend is extremely disturbing but it was written much more with concern than anger.

I can see that some of your hackles were raised by the phrase “too much time on their hands” in reference to bloggers. But I, for one, have met a lot of what I’d like to call online diarists who fit that description—and I’ll bet you have, too. I do want to point out that I did not ever blame the bloggers for this situation. If you’re writing for fun and get offered money for it, I certainly don’t blame you for taking the money and running with it!

I also acknowledge that there are exceptions to the rule. A stay-at-home mom who cooks for seven every night of the week absolutely eventually qualifies as an expert on saving money on meals.

However, this trend is detrimental to our industry. I agree with many of your points as well, Adam. And Judith, I think you hit the nail on the head. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. My point was not making bloggers a them vs us but to say that there is a trend in marketing that is allowing for a non-professional force to take over the job for which most of us have spent a good chunk of our lives training and working. I have always worked within a network of professionals to whom I would refer a job for which someone else was better qualified. And in turn, they would refer me for work to which I was better suited. In the end, it is for the betterment of our profession and to help ensure that we provided the best quality work we can to the end user. To me, that’s what ultimately matters.

Posted by: Amy Reiley05.16.2012
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Before I respond, let me note that (1) I was in the same session;, and (2) I am a food writer (both author and blogger).

I realize that this is an opinion piece; nevertheless, it is always important to make clear what is fact and what is opinion. A position must be supported with reasoning and evidence. It’s one thing to claim that bloggers are “faking it” (the title and cornerstone of the piece), that they are:  not testing their recipes, responsible for the demise of “quality” publications, taking jobs away from “real” food professionals, and devoid of professional ethics (an accusation of plagiarism was made). When shaping an argument, however, you must explain why your position is reasonable and logical.

I read on, waiting for substantiation. Had I missed something in the session? Fallen asleep mid-presentation? 
I felt none of the animosity described (“At one point I wondered if they [bloggers] were about to be lynched.”  What?!) Then, later in the paragraph, comes this statement regarding how bloggers develop recipes for manufacturers:

“I agreed, wondering how, depending on the ingredients, you could possibly develop and test a recipe and still make enough money for the hours of work to be worthwhile for much less. …And then I got my answer. The recipes aren’t tested.”

Further, in paragraph 8, “The bloggers are, essentially, faking it.”

And the evidence for these conclusions? A shred? A morsel? A tidbit?

I cannot think of a single utterance from any of the panelists at any point in the session that could have led to these statements. They are based on groundless supposition, rich in stereotype but entirely absent of facts, specifics or sources.  Moreover, the supposition is presented as fact. As the Society of Professional Journalists emphasize in one of their tenets on journalistic ethics, “deliberate distortion is never permissible.” Hence, I agree with your final point: we all deserve more.

A final addendum: I cannot help but note (with much mirth) the derogatory statements about bloggers being home cooks—the “stay-at-home moms,” the “hobby cooks,” the ones with “too much time on their hands.” Ah, yes.  And let’s not forget the foremothers of this deceit: Irma Bombauer, Elizabeth David, MFK Fisher, and Laurie Colwin to name but a few. Oh, those silly home cooks with their home cookery, thinking they had something worth sharing with other home cooks. The conceit! Perhaps they were faking it too?

Posted by: Camilla Saulsbury05.16.2012
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Camilla—One of the bloggers speaking at the seminar explained how she develops her recipes and confirmed that they are not tested. I’m not sure how you missed that tidbit but it raised more than a few eyebrows on my side of the room. So, no, I was not trying to present to my fellow members “unethical journalism,” i was conveying what I learned in the seminar.

Posted by: Amy Reiley05.16.2012
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I just re-read the piece now (Wed. at 8:50 am PST) and it seems as if the author has edited the piece to take out some of her inflammatory language about stay-at-home moms and “hobbyist” bloggers.  So, be aware that some of the earlier discussion on the piece may not make sense if you read it for the first time right now.  Also, I think it would behoove a “professional” to make some sort of note that the piece has been edited after posting.

Posted by: Jeanne Sauvage05.16.2012
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As a Culinary Professional and as a food blogger, I find the article offensive.  I have seen more innovation from food bloggers that cook because their passion for cooking drives them than I have seen in many of the restaurants that I’ve dined in.  And I know in my case, I make sure a recipe works before I post it, because I want my readers to be successful and say that was an incredible dish.  Bloggers that post for failure are not the norm. 
As for those that use to make their living from food writing, those days are over, there is more talent in those “stay at home moms” than you’ll find between the pages of most publications.  The fact that they left careers to be stay at home moms is only a credit to them, you make it sound like their a bunch of untalented hacks…..shame on you….and “dumbing down”.....really Amy, I don’t know what blogs you read.
As for companies hiring bloggers, well it’s there money to spend, not yours.  If they fail because they didn’t hire the right blogger (and not everyone is right for every project), that’s their fault and perhaps the second time around they may go back to the old way of doing business, but as a chef to be perfectly honest with you, I could care less who shared the recipe or tested it, the important factors are does it work, does it impress me and is it delicious.  I don’t think that many real people looking for real food care who made it originally.
Let’s see what the IACP thinks about this after they see the backlash its created.

Posted by: Chef Dennis05.16.2012
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Jeanne, I am the author of the article and I can assure you that nothing has been edited since the original publication.

Posted by: Amy Reiley05.16.2012
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Amy, in your response to my post:

No, I do not recall the utterance from the session. I ask that you please provide the specifics here, most importantly, the context of the statement? I am not sure how one can make and photograph a recipe for a blog post without “testing it”? Unless the food is made out of play-doh (and I say “bravo” if so!) I do not follow your logic.

And supposing that this utterance is as straightforward as your suggest—that one food blogger made an utterance about not testing recipes—some monumental leaping followed, notably that this single statement is indicative of ALL food bloggers, that food bloggers are “fakers”  not professional, do not create their own recipes, and your statement that “I also can’t help but question to what extent do the companies check to ensure the resulting recipes aren’t plagiarized from professional sources
Both of the bloggers on the panel (Katie Goodman and Susan Russo) have extraordinary blogs (For the record, I do not know them, had never visited their blogs before the session, but I follow both now). Clearly both are EXTREMELY talented women. Writers. Photographers. Recipe Developers. Freelance Writers. Authors . I would encourage everyone to take a look at their blogs (foodblogga and goodlifeeats) and bios to move this discussion out of the abstract.  I would love it if either or both of them would weigh in at some point, too. I had some trepidation going into the session, but ended up getting a lot out of it.

I stand by my statement that “deliberate distortion is never permissible.” I had many concerns with the piece (as noted in my original response) beyond the “not testing” issue.

Posted by: Camilla Saulsbury05.16.2012
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Amy, in your response to my post:
No, I do not recall the utterance from the session. I ask that you please provide the specifics here, most importantly, the context of the statement? I am not sure how one can make and photograph a recipe for a blog post without “testing it”? Unless the food is made out of play-doh (and I say “bravo” if so!) I do not follow your logic.
And supposing that this utterance is as straightforward as your suggest—that one food blogger made an utterance about not testing recipes—some monumental leaping followed, notably that this single statement is indicative of ALL food bloggers, that food bloggers are “fakers”  not professional, do not create their own recipes, and your statement that “I also can’t help but question to what extent do the companies check to ensure the resulting recipes aren’t plagiarized from professional sources
Both of the bloggers on the panel (Katie Goodman and Susan Russo) have extraordinary blogs (For the record, I do not know them, had never visited their blogs before the session, but I follow both now). Clearly both are EXTREMELY talented women. Writers. Photographers. Recipe Developers. Freelance Writers. Authors . I would encourage everyone to take a look at their blogs (foodblogga and goodlifeeats) and bios to move this discussion out of the abstract.  I would love it if either or both of them would weigh in at some point, too. I had some trepidation going into the session, but ended up getting a lot out of it.
I stand by my statement that “deliberate distortion is never permissible.” I had many concerns with the piece (as noted in my original response) beyond the “not testing” issue.

Posted by: Camilla Saulsbury05.16.2012
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Amy: you have taken out the more inflammatory language about stay at home moms and hobbyists.

Posted by: Jeanne Sauvage05.16.2012
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Camilla, I appreciate your quick and thoughtful response. I think at some point you and I will have to agree to disagree. However, to address your question: one of the two ladies, and I’m sorry I can’t tell you which one, explained that it sometimes takes her two or three tries to get a recipe “right” and that she needs to receive enough financial compensation to cover that food cost. She does not, however, proceed to test the recipe once it is “right.” You can call me old fashioned if you like but I want a finished recipe that has been road tested several times, preferably in more than one oven (or stove top, crock-pot or whatever cooking method).

I’ve met many bloggers to whom the process of testing is, in fact, quite foreign. It is, in my estimation, one of those skills developed as a professional that your average hobby food writer inexperienced in writing recipes has yet to learn. And where would they learn it? I’m not placing blame, I’m just standing up for the professional!

Ultimately, here’s where I stand: What would fans say if a volunteer, assistant Little League coach was hired by their favorite Major League team?

I just want to see a demand for the same level of professionalism in our realm. And, frankly, I think its more important to have the best, brightest, experienced and skilled people generating my recipes than coaching the sports team I like to watch. After all, the work of the person or people who created and tested the recipe I’m trying are impacting my life far more directly.

Posted by: Amy Reiley05.16.2012
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Amy, in your response to my post:
No, I do not recall the utterance from the session. I ask that you please provide the specifics here, most importantly, the context of the statement? I am not sure how one can make and photograph a recipe for a blog post without “testing it”? Unless the food is made out of play-doh (and I say “bravo” if so!) I do not follow your logic.

And supposing that this utterance is as straightforward as your suggest—that one food blogger made an utterance about not testing recipes—some monumental leaping followed, notably that this single statement is indicative of ALL food bloggers, that food bloggers are “fakers”  not professional, do not create their own recipes, and your statement that “I also can’t help but question to what extent do the companies check to ensure the resulting recipes aren’t plagiarized from professional sources
Both of the bloggers on the panel (Katie Goodman and Susan Russo) have extraordinary blogs (For the record, I do not know them, had never visited their blogs before the session, but I follow both now). Both are EXTREMELY talented women. Writers. Photographers. Recipe Developers. Freelance Writers. Authors . I would encourage everyone to take a look at their blogs (foodblogga and goodlifeeats) and bios to move this discussion out of the abstract.  I would love it if either or both of them would weigh in at some point, too. I had some trepidation going into the session, but ended up getting a lot out of it.

I stand by my statement that “deliberate distortion is never permissible.” I had many concerns with the piece (as noted in my original response) beyond the “not testing” issue.

Posted by: Camilla Saulsbury05.16.2012
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Amy, in your response to my post:
No, I do not recall the utterance from the session. I ask that you please provide the specifics here, most importantly, the context of the statement? I am not sure how one can make and photograph a recipe for a blog post without “testing it”? Unless the food is made out of play-doh (and I say “bravo” if so!) I do not follow your logic.
And supposing that this utterance is as straightforward as your suggest—that one food blogger made an utterance about not testing recipes—some monumental leaping followed, notably that this single statement is indicative of ALL food bloggers, that food bloggers are “fakers”  not professional, do not create their own recipes, and your statement that “I also can’t help but question to what extent do the companies check to ensure the resulting recipes aren’t plagiarized from professional sources
Both of the bloggers on the panel (Katie Goodman and Susan Russo) have extraordinary blogs (For the record, I do not know them, had never visited their blogs before the session, but I follow both now). Both are EXTREMELY talented women. Writers. Photographers. Recipe Developers. Freelance Writers. Authors . I would encourage everyone to take a look at their blogs (foodblogga and goodlifeeats) and bios to move this discussion out of the abstract.  I would love it if either or both of them would weigh in at some point, too. I had some trepidation going into the session, but ended up getting a lot out of it.
I stand by my statement that “deliberate distortion is never permissible.” I had many concerns with the piece (as noted in my original response) beyond the “not testing” issue.

Posted by: Camilla Saulsbury05.16.2012
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Jeanne, why would I lie to you?

I don’t even have access to edit the piece if I wanted. You can check with the moderator. So, no, I did not take out “inflammatory language” about bloggers.

I did request that the editor change their introduction to exclude the phrase “raised the ire” as the piece was not written with anger as the tone. However, as you can see, that has yet to be changed.

Beyond that, I have not, nor considered changing a thing about this piece and I do not appreciate your accusations that I have unethically made changes and that I have lied to you about it.

Posted by: Amy Reiley05.16.2012
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All industries have good and bad representatives. There are inferior editors, publishers, photographers, journalists and food bloggers just as there are good and bad teachers, doctors, etc.

Are you really surprised that some mega-corporations have little care for how or whether their recipes are tested? They may be the biggest but “the brightest?” Personally, I have been through many a cookbook with recipes that were clearly untested.

We would all do well to remember that there is a large segment of the population who doesn’t care about food quality and there are plenty of giant corporations ready and able to dish up a big helping of garbage to them. Clearly, there will be a cadre of writers, photographers, editors and indeed bloggers ready to support the promotion of food-like substances and therefore introduce numerous ethical issues into culinary journalism and promotion. Perhaps this should be the focus of your article.

Your indictment of food bloggers based on your experience with one panel appears to be a greater reflection of your own insecurity in the current job market. While this is understandable given the economic climate, this “blog post” does seem unwarranted and unfair to the numerous highly trained professionals who have their own food blogs as well as the many admirable and self-trained citizens of the world who care enough about food to spend countless hours studying, preparing, researching and photographing it simply for the love of food in its own right.

If anything, culinary experts should be thankful to food bloggers invigorating the food industry and for getting people excited about cooking and eating real food in the face of the increasingly corporate controlled food supply.

My question is where is the professional “editor” of this IACP blog that allowed this poorly thought out piece to be posted in the first place?

Posted by: Nancy05.16.2012
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There is one point to this article that really disturbs me. You write about “food professionals” and “bloggers” as if they are mutually exclusive.

One thing I have always loved about the food community, the food industry, is that there is more than one way to become a professional. Unlike, say, becoming a stock broker, which requires a very specific educational path, and you are excluded for the most part unless you have followed that path.

There are as many food “professionals” that started as dishwashers at the age of 14 as there are that went to Le Cordon Bleu.

My path to being a food writer is different than yours. Does that mean I take any less pride in the work I’ve done? Hell no. And why should it?

Think of me as that dishwasher that worked her way up.

I’d like to add that just because you met one food blogger that doesn’t extensively test her recipes doesn’t mean we’re all that way. Definitely you’ve painted with a broad brush, and unkindly too.

You may not have meant it to be this way, but your opinion piece comes off as angry at the changes happening in the industry, and somewhat tantrum-like that you aren’t getting the respect you deserve as a narrowly self-defined “professional”.

Posted by: Amber Bracegirdle05.16.2012
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This is interesting to me because first I was a writer, then I became a professional pastry chef, freelanced in feature writing, then went on to write cookbooks and then launched my website in 1997 wherein I present features and my original (and tested smile recipes and in 15 years, I surely tested a ton of housewares (mixers, bread machines, yoga wear for dancing bakers who want to shed pounds -i.e. you name it). So I am between all the culinary worlds. I wince at being called a blogger because I worked hard to become a professional writer/author and also - spent years becoming a real chef. (And in that time, I was also working, from home, raising three boys as a single person which makes me….a stay-at-home mom with time on her hands with a flair for cuisine?)
I get rankled being termed a ‘blogger’ when I am a wordsmith and author. I find that more noble that blogger and yet - depending on who’s defining me (by virtue of the fact I have a website and blogs) I might be called (wince) a blogger (which old-fashioned, purist me puts me in a pool I don’t feel part of). Here’s the thing - there will always be amateurs (inspired or otherwise) in ‘food’. And there will be pros (inspired or otherwise). Food is not a protected art/science like brain surgery or nuclear research. It is accessible - as is music, self-published poetry and novels, photography and art. It’s just that given companies’ wish for reviews and ink - and their 15 minutes and the internet’s thinning of the lines of pros and amateurs, we are all in the same pool. It was hard before and perhaps it’s a bit harder now. But that’s life. I do think cream rises to the top and good is good - whether it is the next Julia Child or JK Rowling. So I encourage colleagues to widen their visions and reach and know inside - who they are and what their mission is. Don’t get jealous - stay centered! Bon appetit.

Posted by: marcy goldman05.16.2012
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Wow….

I’m offended on so many levels.  You awfully cynical doing you think? Take a look at this articles feedback… Not seeing to many people agreeing with you.

Love always,
A Stay At Home Mom Food Blogger with to much time on her hands.

Posted by: Carrie05.16.2012
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I will only add this: I learned many years ago, that you are considered an amateur until someone pays you for your work (whether it be writing, photography, or any profession). At which time, you become a professional. You were an amateur, too, at one time, until you got your first check. I will also say that, some of the worst recipes I’ve made in the last several years, have come from cookbooks written by so-called professionals, and some of the best from cookbooks written by bloggers.

I am a blogger, a recipe developer, and a professional maker of fine micro-batch jams. I get paid for what I produce, and that makes me as much of a culinary professional as you. I left my original profession of 30 years to do something that I am passionate about. I find your condescension and yes, snobbery, offensive. Stop whining and looking for excuses, and wake up to the real world. These days, it’s not about word of mouth, it’s about social media and followings, as much as it is about how good your recipes and output are. If you have a niche and if you’re as good as you seem to think you are, then you’ll be competitive. You can’t go back in time, so instead of complaining and being dismissive, try keeping up.

Posted by: Renee Joslyn05.16.2012
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Hi Amy,

While I appreciate you calling for more thorough recipe testing and your so-called concern for the public on whom untested recipes might be unleashed, I can’t seem to get past the following statement because I find it incredibly offensive:

“we, the professional journalists, researchers, home economists, recipe developers, food stylists, and photographers are getting aced out of much needed work in our chosen field by stay-at-home moms and accountants with a cooking hobby.”

Are you serious?

Any person- man, woman, with or without children, not technically “working”, working in the home, working outside the home, hobbyist cook or professional cook- can start a food blog. And if one of said people works their ass off to the point that their talents are recognized and they happen to land a job instead of one of the “we” you refer to above, than I believe they should be celebrated, not denigrated, as you’ve chosen to do here.

A dear friend who is an off the charts incredible home cook but who has none of the credentials that you list above- she is, gasp, “just” a blogger-  had a piece published on the front page of the New York Times Dining Section today. Why is that? It’s because she is talented and has worked her ass off to make a name for herself.  I can think of many other bloggers who are fantastic writers, photographers, and recipe developers who’ve landed gigs as cookbook authors, food writers, and food photographers because of the talents they’ve honed through blogging.

I assure you they all have a strong work ethic….and are far from “hobbyists” with “too much time on their hands”. Publishing a high quality food blog is a ton of work, I assure you.

I ask that you please do us all a favor and do more research about bloggers before publishing a statement like the above again. 

 

Posted by: Winnie05.16.2012
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Clearly you’re worried about the “professional” food writing job market. As you should be. It’s extremely tough to get a full-time job in the field these days. Which means there are plenty of qualified food writers with no full-time or even part-time gigs. People who are taking to blogging. People who have had blogs for 5+ years and contribute to them on a daily basis. Just because they don’t have a full-time job does not mean they aren’t qualified.

Not to mention, are you really discrediting marketing departments so much that you think they don’t review the blog and its content before hiring the writer for a paying gig? Of course, they prefer blogs with large followings. But why do you think those blogs have large followings? It’s certainly not because they write bad content and recipes that fail in the kitchen. These bloggers have huge audiences of people who trust them and read their content on a daily basis. An engaged audience who is interacting with the blogger and the brand. That’s what the public wants. And that’s what they’ll get.

What exactly do you think separates “professional writers” from bloggers? If we’re writing good, quality content and have an audience waiting to hear what you’ll say next,  isn’t that what matters? Perhaps blogging wasn’t around when you worked your way to “professional” status. But beginning with a blog is how many start their careers these days. And kudo to all the amazing food bloggers out there who are advancing in their careers!

Posted by: Susan05.16.2012
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I am the author of a small food blog but not professionally trained in culinary arts. I am that novice “stay-at-home father” that you write about so passionately.
Ms. Reiley, I think what might help your argument is to define the difference between “professionals” and “hobbyists” because if the corporations such as Folgers Coffee or Sara Lee pays a food blogger (with no formal culinary training) to develop recipes using their products, are they still amateurs? If I am Dannon Yogurt, I’m not going to hire any idiot that set up a free website last Saturday afternoon on a whim. I do agree that it’s utterly foolish not to test the recipes these home cooks produce, but each business must find what works best for them.
Conversely, I’ve seen numerous challengers compete on Iron Chef America that have had no formal culinary training and went to “the school of hard knocks”. Should we still call them professionals?
The other issue you fail to discuss is the prospective each food blogger contributes. I clearly state on my website that I am not a professional, yet I attempt dishes with difficult preparation, uncommon cooking methods, or items that are taken for granted (and can easily be bought at any local supermarket) in an endeavor to learn something with my audience. If anything, I’m trying to prove the point that the crap pushed at consumers by corporations is prepared better at home and any schmuck can replicate it. Most bloggers share similar points of view and see it more as an educational experience. Are we “dumbing down” the culinary profession or are we making our audiences smarter by learning from our experiences? I’m not proficient enough to develop my own recipes yet, so if anything, I’m paying professional publishers to test their recipes for them by buying their cookbooks or watching their television shows. If I ever get to that point, I wouldn’t publish anything I wouldn’t be proud of or publish my mistakes with notes to my audience how to avoid my failures.
Ultimately, and with all decisions at the corporate level in this day and age, it comes down to a business decision. Each professional chef has developed their own styles and preferences of preparing food so professional publications must appeal to the home cook because it’s a much wider audience. Recipes contained in Gourmet Magazine might sound daunting (in the name itself) to a mom who’s worked a full eight hour day and must feed 2 screaming kids and a hungry husband dinner. I’m not a fan of Rachel Ray’s food, but I can see the appeal because she’s relatable. Am I correct to assume that your concern lies solely with those corporations that outsource recipe development to people with no formal training and then fail to test the recipe production? Then please direct your concern towards food journalists and food manufacturers and leave us passionate home cooks and food bloggers alone.

Posted by: DB05.16.2012
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While I appreciate your intent in writing this piece as a call for more thorough recipe testing before publication, I can’t seem to get past the following statement because I find it so offensive:

“we, the professional journalists, researchers, home economists, recipe developers, food stylists, and photographers are getting aced out of much needed work in our chosen field by stay-at-home moms and accountants with a cooking hobby.”

Are you serious?

Any person- man, woman, with or without children, not technically “working”, working in the home, working outside the home, hobbyist cook or professional cook- can start a food blog. And if one of said people works hard and gets to the point that their talents are recognized and they happen to land a job instead of one of the “we” you refer to above, than I believe they should be celebrated, not denigrated, as you’ve chosen to do here.

A dear friend who is an off the charts incredible home cook but who has none of the credentials that you list above- she is, gasp, “just” a blogger!- had a piece published on the front page of the New York Times Dining Section today. Why is that? It’s because she is talented and has worked her ass off to make a name for herself. And I can think of many other bloggers who are fantastic writers, photographers, and recipe developers who’ve landed gigs as cookbook authors, food writers, and food photographers because of the talents they’ve honed through blogging. I can also think of many bloggers who who haven’t necessary landed these types of jobs but who are indeed working with brands and/or are finding ways to fashion a paying career for themselves by way of their blogs. I assure you that in every case the bloggers all have a strong work ethic….they are far from “hobbyists” with “too much time on their hands”.

Publishing a high quality food blog is a ton of work, I assure you. As a stay at home mom with a cooking hobby who also happens to be a blogger, I know this first hand.

Please do us all a favor and do some further research on bloggers before publishing a statement like this again.

Posted by: Winnie05.16.2012
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Amy I find your view on stay at homes so offensive. I have been home with my children for 23 years. It started by choice then became necessary due to one of my children having medical issues. Regardless of why us mothers make the decision to stay home let me make one thing clear, we do not appreciate people demeaning our jobs. What we do is difficult and worthwhile. Having someone like you devalue it is uncalled for.

I am a blogger and take pride in that. I enjoy having an outlet for my passion. I own that. Unlike you who claims you do not consider yourself a blogger but felt free to plug your blog in the article. How’s that for irony?

Also I recently tried a recipe from a very famous culinary professional. After multiple tries at her recipe it has become clear the recipe was not tested and should not have published. This happens often. For me trying it 4 times with it failing every time I feel like writing her to ask for my money back. I am now going to rework it until it is right. I will test it myself at least 3 or 4 times minimum before it goes on my site. No one is paying me to do this. I just have integrity and would never publish work that is substandard. So while some bloggers do publish without testing, the same can be said for some professionals as well.

I wish before you published this you had interviewed other professionals to get their views. Perhaps interviewed other bloggers you do not count yourself among. If we want our recipes fact checked should that not apply to articles about recipes as well?

Posted by: Kim Beaulieu05.16.2012
Molly Watson's avatar

I can confirm the article has not been edited since originally posted, except to add the editor’s note at the end. The writer does not, in fact, even have access to be able to edit it.

Posted by: Molly Watson05.16.2012
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I dont know how or why I followed you on twitter, or why I clicked over - but I thought I’d comment as a reader who is not a food blogger but reads them. I never would have subscribed to Gourmet but frequently find new, accessible yummy recipes from blogs that I trust (and that I believe test their recipes). Frankly, I see this more as a problem of the larger industry to adapt and evolve to the upcoming generations. Furthermore, your tone comes off as petulant and condescending.

I’m happy to find bloggers with ‘too much time on their hands’ who are able to make a living, part-time or full-time, by sharing recipes with me. Companies would be stupid not to recognize this trend and shift their marketing dollars accordingly.

Posted by: Stephanie05.16.2012
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Food writing isn’t a “profession.”  Neither is journalism.  You don’t need a degree or any credentials to do either.  You just need talent and practice—the same things you need to become a good blogger.  You seriously expect us to agree that “food stylist” is a *profession”?  Oy.

Amy’s furiously trying to spoon water out of a flooded boat, methinks.

Posted by: Blargo05.16.2012
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The day when one could paint all bloggers as amateurish with one brushstroke has long disappeared.  What started as a highly personal medium is now widely embraces by an entire spectrum ranging from infrequent hobbyists to full-time professionals.

As just an everyday guy who draws from a fair number of food bloggers for my own cooking habits, I have little idea about the full scope of experience or credentials of the bloggers I follow.  It’s their recipes that matter.  If they work, they continue to get my attention.  If they don’t, I’m out of there. 

What traditional media often laments (and this posts seems to be in similar spirit) as they once held readers/viewers hostage and we had nowhere else to turn.  That’s obviously no longer the case.  So rely less on your credentials and more on your quality, curation, and contribution to those whose attention you want.  All the other worrying and protectionist attitude are unlikely to pay dividends.

Posted by: Jeffrey 05.16.2012
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Seriously IACP? If you’re not publishing any of the comments, why even bother having this form open? All you’re doing is wasting our time.

Posted by: Joanne05.16.2012
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As one of the blogger panelists on the session in question, I would like to clear up any misunderstanding that may have come as a result of this post.

While it may have said that a recipe is made 2, 3 or more times before it feels right, the assumption that recipes are not “tested” is incorrect. Recipes in my kitchen are prepared additional times as I see fit until I am satisfied that it can be replicated with no problems.

Though I cannot speak for how my fellow food bloggers work in their kitchens, I can in good conscience say that due diligence is done on my part when developing recipes for my blog – whether they are for my personal use or a brand contract.

Additionally, the “stay at home mom,” “hobbyist,” and “too much time on their hands” comments are uncalled for. Most bloggers don’t have enough time on their hands. Many juggle full time jobs and/or families in addition to the work they do as a blogger. And while cooking may be a passion and hobby for many of us that does not mean a person can’t make a job out of doing something they love.

I am disappointed that this article was published before any of the statements that lead to the author’s opinion of food bloggers and how they test their recipes were substantiated. Assumptions don’t make facts.

Posted by: Katie05.16.2012
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Jeanne,

Amy is right,  the inflammatory / arrogant / offensive language is still there.

As for the article. Whenever I read one of these pieces I have the same thought - Amy, if your job can so easily be threatened by “hobbyists with too much time on their hands” what does that tell you about your job? 

Posted by: @CCUinMTL05.16.2012
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I am writing to add my voice to this discussion, both as the moderator of the IACP panel in question and as an active advocate for food bloggers. While there are many inconsistencies in your post that I could address, in an effort to streamline a bit, I’ll jump right to the salient points.

The reason I proposed an IACP session focused on how and why brands can and should work with food bloggers is due to the misconceptions I discovered at last year’s IACP conference, many of which you’ve reiterated here. While it’s natural (though perhaps a bit lazy) to want to lump food bloggers into categories that already exist and feel comfortable to us (journalists, food writers, recipe developers, etc.), that doesn’t create an accurate picture.

Food bloggers are interesting to brands in large part because of the engaged communities they have carefully worked to build, stemming from their fluency with (and willingness to embrace) social media. While the work of a food blogger usually includes creating recipes, I personally have never approached a food blogger solely for recipe development. Rather, I partner with bloggers to have them create posts (and yes, recipes) that share their experience with a particular product or ingredient, just as they do on a regular basis on their blogs. The recipe is only one part of that journey. Imagine a prominent blogger recounting her first culinary adventure with goji berries, or another blogger who found a way to introduce her kids to endive by turning the leaves into the base for ham and cheese nachos. These are stories, connections—much more than you would expect from a recipe developer. And let’s not forget that in many cases the accompanying photographs are mouth-watering as well.

As for the issue of testing recipes, I feel that there is an apples-to-oranges comparison taking place. It is probably rare that a blogger seeks outside counsel to test a recipe before publishing it. However, bloggers who are interested in growing as professionals will take the necessary steps to ensure their recipes are quality products by testing those recipes in-house until they are satisfied. This is certainly the case with the bloggers on the IACP panel, and I for one feel comfortable with this paradigm when advocating that brands work with bloggers.

On a related note, to bluntly state that “the recipes aren’t tested (by bloggers)” is not only misleading, it totally misses the point. You arrived at this conclusion in your attempt to answer the following : “I (wondered) how, depending on the ingredients, you could possibly develop and test a recipe and still make enough money for the hours of work to be worthwhile for much less. …”

What should have occurred to you is that food bloggers, by and large, are woefully underpaid for the time, resources, labor and, yes, expertise they put into their blogs. As your cohort remarked, after hearing that some bloggers might earn $500 per sponsored post: “That’s not exactly a lot.” My sense is that if bloggers were valued more and compensated fairly across the board, rather than threaten your professional opportunities, their success would be reflected in your own. A rising tide floats all boats after all.

Finally, I’m wondering why you didn’t take the time to express your concerns during the panel itself. We had assembled a group of bright, engaging professionals who work with a multitude of food industry veterans every day, including, increasingly, food bloggers. You had the best “think tank” available to you, and you (from what I can recall) remained silent. We could have not only sifted through these issues and intelligently addressed any misgivings, but more importantly, we could have guided you on the journey that brought you to our panel in the first place: monetizing your well-established online magazine.

Posted by: Casey Benedict05.16.2012
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Dumbing down. Yes. Perfect phrase. There is a dumbing down in so many arenas. But journalism seems to be particularly hard hit. And food journalism worst of all. But, then, perhaps I feel this way because I am most familiar with this area.

Here is what I see. Struggling publications have laid off experienced, higher-paid journalists in favor of hiring or promoting fresh-out-of-J-school, cheap-as-dirt journalists. And not necessarily journalists with relevant food experience, either. One editor I am aware of was, before her promotion to editor of the Dining section, a TV reviewer. Not great credentials. And it showed.

And experienced freelance journalists can barely make a living any more, what with freelance budgets slashed or eliminated all together. Yes, the economy, coupled with the Internet, didn’t help. But the death knell was certainly the horde of ego-stroked bloggers scrambling to write for free.

Not that bloggers all sell their souls for free. Some do it for, say,  a box of pancake mix. Adhering to absolutely no journalistic ethics, corporations love them because they are the easiest and cheapest shills, around.

And what has this dumbing down wrought? The quality of writing has plummeted. Ethics are out the window. And, hand-in-hand with this, pay has all but shriveled up and disappeared. Meaning that your average unskilled worker may well get paid better than your average writer. Considerably.

Yes, there are exceptions. There is one food blogger, for example, whose writing I adore. One.

Writing and journalism are no longer the exalted home of higher calling. And they have fallen from their perch ... fallen? No, been pushed, by the greedy pens of second-rate bloggers. And we are all less for it.

Posted by: Dispirited Writer05.16.2012
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I was not at that session, but what Ms. Reiley reports does not fall far from my experience as an instructor, writer, and a consumer of “recipes” floating around out there.  There may be many with their lingerie in a loop, but they’ll just have to ride it out.  This is what you get in a cut-throat, for-profit driven world where the trained, skilled, and knowledgeable usually shrink from the public fanfare created by the mountebanks, wannabes and poseurs.  It’s the food and the consumers who lose ... and lose big.

Posted by: Sharon Peters05.17.2012
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Levana, this is one of the most asinine statements I’ve ever read, “... manufacturers, who should know better, and should hire a food professional that’s way past the amateur blogging stage.”

I am an amateur blogger who has been a chef for 25 years.  Now it’s my turn to turn the whole “food professional” notion on you.  Five years as a chef working in high volume restaurants is worth 50 years as a “recipe tester” and quite honestly no one deserves the title “food professional” who hasn’t spent a significant amount of time working in a restaurant.  You know what?  You don’t have to be a professional to make a significant contribution to a field.  Einstein was a patent clerk with a hobby in physics.

Posted by: Stuart Reb Donald05.17.2012
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When our professions get decimated by a shifting business model, we find ways to reinvent ourselves and we constructively move forward. Professionalism stands for not only an investment or accumulation of skills and experiences (whether they include formal training or not), but it also applies to the way in which we conduct our own selves.  Perhaps more importantly, professionalism is reflected through our everyday actions and by our words.

As a “part-time accountant” and “recreational” food blogger (who tests all of our recipes and has invested in a fair amount of time into training), reading your article left a particularly bitter aftertaste in my mouth.  There are a lot of dark and dirty secrets in many professions, many of which lie quietly under the rocks. Lack of formal “testing” instances can be found across many professional instances as well, and the duty of care is placed upon the individual or party who claims responsibility for (or credit of) the work.

I have always found that a good product (or person) will rise to the top in a competitive landscape (whether they are credentialed or not).  It would seem to me that the professional food writing industry was already in a somewhat fragile state, especially if all it takes to bring the entire industry down is a few “stay at home” food bloggers…. 

Perhaps it is time to consider a new brand positioning strategy and “may the odds be ever in your favor”.

Posted by: Johanna05.17.2012
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As a professional marketer with a food hobby who’s transitioned to a food professional with a marketing hobby, I believe I have a unique perspective on this situation. While I did find the tone of this piece offensive, I think Amy raises some excellent points. The most serious of which is the falling price of recipe development.

There isn’t any one party to blame here. Young bloggers with some early success can’t be blamed for jumping at the chance to get paid for their work (regardless of how small the amount). Marketers on the other hand are obviously trying to cut costs which makes a lot of short-term business sense. The trouble is that when an amateur takes on a project for recognition (or some small amount of money), they are not only doing themselves a disservice, they’re doing the whole ecosystem a disservice. Once a company has a taste of recipes developed for $20, they’re going to be hesitant to pay more for recipes even if that person is more qualified. Secondly for $20 it’s just not feasible to properly test a recipe. Lastly the consumer suffers because a $20 recipe is going to be…well…. a $20 recipe.

As for blogging, and the quality of content out there it’s not that the quality of work is degrading, it’s a dilution issue. While in the past, credentials and editors acted as gatekeepers to what got published, blogging has enabled anyone to produce and publish content.  This provides an opportunity for some amazing creative minds to have their work seen, but it also opens up the door for amateurs to flood the space. The new challenge is going to be to filter this flood of content. Sites like Tastespotting and Pinterest filter the good photographers from the bad, but they don’t necessarily filter the good recipes from the bad. Eventually someone will figure this part out and in the end, there will be a lot more good content available than when only a few gatekeepers who held the keys.

On a personal note,  I started blogging because I really hate the direction that many cookbooks have gone these days. They’re written for people without a lot of time, and so they tell you what to do, but they don’t tell why you do it. They’re like a set of instructions for on Ikea desk. They teach you how to put together that particular desk, but they don’t teach you how to BUILD a desk.

As a self-taught cook who generally doesn’t use recipes, my goal is to teach people how to cook. That way people can make adjustments to seasonings and ingredients to suit their tastes and to what’s available locally in that season. That’s why my blog is less about sharing exact recipes and more about sharing techniques as well as my inspiration for creating a dish so that home-cooks can use it as a template to create a recipe that works for them.

Posted by: Marc @ NoRecipes05.17.2012
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Hi there! I found this article interesting and I’m happy to see so much discussion.

I am a food blogger based in Vancouver and I write about my journey with food. I have a degree (which doesn’t really matter), but no “professional” food background and have managed to make blogging my full time business. It also took me years of work and endless nights of writing extensive articles every single day for 2 years (usually averaging 10 pages) to make it happen. I too work with the marketing companies, but I am transparent with my audience and tell them when I do so in my posts. Also as a blogger, I hate that many companies want everything from us for free… just cause I write a blog, doesn’t mean I’m not credible and will write for free food/swag.

I’ve been on press trips with journalists before and have felt as welcome as I have felt unwelcome. It bothers me when we get thrown in the same category because there are “good” food bloggers and “bad” food bloggers just like there are good/bad journalists and good/bad chefs. I think people can decide for themselves what they want to buy into. If people want to buy the fake LV bags who am I to stop them? It’s not my money.

I know lots of cooks who open restaurants and write recipe books. Some fail and some are incredibly successful. I also know chefs, bloggers and journalists doing the same thing. Eg: Rachael Ray is not a chef and has never claimed to be, yet she is incredibly successful at what she does. Whether or not she is respected by chefs or the industry, she has an audience and caters to them well. Stuff like this is going to keep coming up.

Also who cares if the recipe was done 1 time or 100 times? Good is good and if the recipe sucks then ppl will try it and won’t buy into the writer/bloggers other recipes. Or if they do, then maybe they just have bad taste? The blogger/writer will end up getting ‘that’ audience or just ruining it for themselves.

Personally I just think it should be customary to write disclosures and stay honest to your audience. When I get anything free I say so and when it’s a press trip I also say so. Not everyone does this in the blogging world and certainly not in the print world… but people can read what they want to read and buy what they want to buy at the end of the day.

Also if a marketing company decides to work with a “bad blogger” then maybe that person has the type of audience they want. Then so be it… you don’t want to work with that company anyway. “Bad” blogs or bad online magazines or bad magazines will exists and continue to exist… just like fast food chains. I will add there are good and healthy ones nowadays too. Bad ones are there for a reason and have their market whether or not we like them.

Posted by: Mijune Pak05.17.2012
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A couple of days have passed and my initial anger about this piece, which I felt was a slam against bloggers, home/hobbyist cooks, and stay at home moms all at once, has subsided. Because I am all of the above, I was indeed very offended when I first read your essay. But I’ve put that aside now in order to discuss what I believe was your original intent in writing this.

At issue here is the fact that you are upset that people you believe to be amateurs are being hired to do work- in this case recipe development- that you strongly believe should be done by professionals. Rates for said work are therefore going down, and the public is getting inferior recipes. I believe others have spoken eloquently about the economy and the marketplace in their comments, so I would instead like to press you further to define what you believe constitutes as amateur and what constitutes a professional. But let’s move the discussion away from the context of the IACP panel you attended because I think you could have said what you wanted to say without mentioning that experience in the essay.

IACP is the International Association of Culinary Professionals, correct? And you have been to culinary school and you have done your time and worked hard so that now you are an expert in your chosen culinary field…correct? So as you see it, you fit right in at IACP because you are a culinary professional, and IACP posted this essay on their blog because they were hoping other culinary professionals would weigh in on your thoughts.

But may I ask you-and the powers that be at IACP, as well- this: aren’t there many roads one may take to becoming a culinary professional?

Do you have to go to culinary school to become a culinary professional? No, of course not. I offer up the example of my father Barry Wine. He was a lawyer who taught himself how to cook and went on to run (with my mom, who also had no background in the culinary field) one of the most successful restaurants New York City has ever seen. That restaurant was The Quilted Giraffe if you are interested. I can think of many other individuals with similar stories.

And what about food writers? I know of many successful food writers with no formal background in either writing or in the culinary arts. I am sure you do, too.

And now, let’s circle back around to bloggers, because they are the ones who seem to have been most upset by this article. I would like to hear where you think they fit in at IACP? Do they fit in? Or are they all amateurs in your eyes…and not worthy of the title “Professional”?

At what point is a blogger with no formal training in any of the fields you mentioned- journalism, research, home economics, recipe development, food styling, photography- allowed to say that he/she is a culinary professional? I’ll use myself as an example. I did not go to culinary school but I have been cooking my whole life. I went to medical school, actually, but now I am a food blogger. I’ve published hundreds of recipes on my blog and I have had 5 recipes published in cookbooks. I’ve taught myself how to take photos of food that are praised by my readers as being beautiful. I’ve also developed recipes for brands not unlike the examples used in this essay, and I am working on writing my first book. I wonder if you consider me a culinary professional? If not, I probably shouldn’t join this organization, and I should also reconsider going to next year’s conference.

Ps. I wanted to mention once more that I am indeed a stay at home mom. But what does that have to do with any of this?

I look forward to your thoughts.

Posted by: Winnie05.18.2012
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I completely agree with Winnie’s comments above that we need to discuss as members what constitutes a “professional” and an “amateur”—additional blog posts, discussions, regional meetings, future conference sessions, ad, who knows, maybe the theme of a future conference.

In the meantime, I would hope that the IACP would evaluate all potential posts according to the IACP code of ethics before publishing on the organization site. Specifically, whether the author of any such piece (opinion pieces or otherwise) adhered to the following (which was not the case for this piece)

“• Concentrate my time, energy, and resources on the improvement of my own product and services and never denigrate competition in the pursuit of my own success.
• Respect my students and my colleagues, and strive always to ensure that professional comment and criticism of their work is both constructive and appropriate.
• Maintain the highest standards of accuracy and honesty in my dealings with colleagues and clients.”

As example of the last tent Ms. Reilly should have given an accurate accurate account of what was said in the session, such as “Katie Goodman, one of the bloggers on the panel, mentioned she tests recipes 2 or 3 times before getting it right. According to my methodology, this is equivalent to not testing at all, or “faking it”  as opposed to stating one’s interpretation alone “The recipes aren’t tested.” and later “The bloggers are, essentially, faking it.”

Which leads me to one more tenet that should have been addressed before this was published:

“• Refrain from any act or omission, and not permit to suffer any act or omission, which would discredit or bring dishonor to IACP or any of its members.”

 

Posted by: Camilla 05.18.2012
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I just want to chime in to shine a light on one thing:

Lazy bloggers with crappy recipes, poor writing, and basically no skill to show for themselves? DON’T have followers.

Brands want to work with bloggers who have proven to be successful, who have followings. You don’t develop a following simply by starting a blog - you have to be offering something of value. Something readers want.

In other words, people won’t read (or eat) just anything. Bloggers have to work for the readership that is then attractive to brands.

And I’d trust a recipe from a blogger with an engaged community WELL before I’d trust a recipe from a brand site OR magazine without reader feedback.

Posted by: kristy05.18.2012
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I can’t wait to respond to this article. I’ll do so on my blog—I feel it’s an important conversation to join in and one that I involve my cooking students in. I need to simmer down a bit before I write out my thoughts.

I have strong opinions about folks saying others are “faking it,” whether “it” turns out to be art, food, etc.

Posted by: Julie @ Willow Bird Baking05.18.2012
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Basically, it’s going to boil down to: Just because you really wish your field could be an exclusive club folks need to be initiated into doesn’t mean the rest of the world will permit a stranglehold on information, innovation, and passion. Food blogging represents a democratization of food that, yes, lets in some “riff raff,” but also lets in folks that don’t meet your arbitrary “standards” who are flooding the community with beautiful ideas.

If you love food, stop trying to restrict access to it and the right to talk about it. Stop acting like someone sharing a recipe they’ve made in their kitchen is offensive because they don’t have the means to employ 5 recipe testers. Stop acting like you some sort of embargo on the transmission of IDEAS or TECHNIQUES because you work in an office instead of your living room. Stop acting like it’s a crime for people to share thoughts in a medium EVERYONE understands is for the sharing of thoughts. Blogs are personal productions for a reason.

Maybe you’re just upset about the fact that businesses want to partner with us, but the fact is, people enjoy hearing from real people. And getting rid of commercial crap and artificial barriers in the world of food—in a transparent way that lets readers decide if those barriers were important for them personally? That’s a GOOD thing.

Posted by: Julie @ Willow Bird Baking05.18.2012
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In regards to recipe testing, how much is necessary and by whom, it may be worth pondering this article: http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2012/may/08/the-great-recipe-swindle
Also read the comments to the post on the IACP Test Kitchen Professionals Facebook page dated May 9.

Posted by: Rosemary Mark05.18.2012
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I wanted to thank those who are coming back to the table after seeing this post and responding thoughtfully after the wave of negative sentiment and emotion. I’ve seen a few posts now (you know who you are) where members have let the initial anger surrounding the post subside and have come back to post their own pieces of this dialogue. I believe it can lead to a robust and productive back and forth if we can get past the issues that lie on the surface of this and really dig deeper into it as it relates to the food and content industries. I deeply believe that was the original intent of all of this, even if it did incite negative emotions initially.

And Camilla, to your point, new guidelines are being put in place so that anything that goes up on the blog will adhere to standards that we all hold ourselves to in our professional work.

This has all brought my to light as it relates to IACP, our professional lives and our industry and I would hope that it’ll open the doors to some new ways of thinking and working together.

Posted by: Adam Salomone05.19.2012
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I’ve read and digested all the arguments and their components. My burning question is - how different folks go about recipe development through to final product. I’m keen to know and understand individuals’ processes, where does the recipe start and what stages does it goes through? Was/is there an accepted industry standard and what is the benchmark?

Posted by: Jane McKay05.23.2012
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After reading this article and the comments, including the corrections of the author’s very deliberate misrepresentations
of the panelists, bloggers, food business and her precious “professionals”;
I’ve worked with “professionally trained” graduates from top cooking schools who throw out roast drippings in favor of ?S**co ersatz gravy because they’ve been taught professionally produced food should be consistent(ly bad) rather than variably good.  They’ve been taught to use chemical “soup base” and factory produced soups because, they told me, culinary schools teach that freshly made soups are too expensive and time consuming. They don’t know what to do with fresh foods and real stock when they have it.
And this dumbing down shows in the quality of professionally produced food and recipes.

Thanks for your opinion, Amy. But I’ll get my recipes from real professionals with less training and more taste- not to mention more talent.
PS
captcha is area51- ironic, considering your alien ideas.

Posted by: Sheild05.28.2012
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I was on your side, Amy, until you implied that you think The Pioneer Woman can actually cook or write a recipe. Have you ever actually read her website or cookbook? Everything is copied from old church cookbooks and family members with zero attribution or creativity. You lost all respect from me as you obviously don’t know a thing about food.

Posted by: Millie5405.28.2012
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This article is extremely offensive.

Here you criticize “stay at home moms” and have the gall to criticize “accountants with cooking as a hobby”...hmm.  Seeing as how I belong to the latter group, yes I am offended.  It would appear that you seem to believe that any of us who have a day job outside of the food industry are “not allowed” to belong to the foodie community.

I learned how to cook when I was 11 years old and was taught by 2 parents who grew up in a third world country and who also experienced periods of hunger in their childhoods.  By day I am an accountant, but I have an appreciation for cooking that is not surpassed by much else.

I find it incredibly alarming and also disappointing that a food professional such as yourself would insult the very people who you aim to “serve” through your work by resorting to name calling, rude phrases, and frankly, childish finger pointing.

The food industry has failed to adapt to a changing economy and an ever changing technological landscape.  Recipes created by “non-professionals” may not be thoroughly tested, but it costs me a hell of a lot less to try a recipe off of someone’s blog than it does to buy a $50 hardcover cookbook only to try a recipe and determine that it does not meet my personal tastes.

Furthermore, people are free to make modifications to professional published recipes.  Unless you or others of your supposedly “professional” community are willing to barge into people’s home kitchens and arrest them for daring to modify recipes that are supposedly (key word being supposedly) perfect, then criticizing bloggers for making modifications is crossing the line.

I also find your criticism of stay at home moms incredibly offensive despite not being a stay at home mom myself.  My mother was a stay at home mom.  Stay at home moms are responsible for preparing upwards of 3 meals a day for multiple people in their households, some of whom may be picky eaters, or some of whom may suffer from food allergies.  To be able to successfully prepare meals for multiple family members with varying needs on a tight monetary budget AND have every single family member clean their plates is a job that not every food professional or even 5 star chef can accomplish, each and every day.

I think you are due for some serious introspection into your own attitudes about the current state of affairs as far as the food and foodie communities as well as the current economy.  Us, “unprofessional” real people who dare to have day jobs outside of the culinary world are cooking on budgets and time tables.  Also, while I understand the need to test and test and re-test recipes before professional publication, a food blog is just a food blog.  Most of us who utilize recipes on a food blog are fully aware that they have not been tested in a professional kitchen.  But then again, if we wanted a professional tested recipe, we would have paid for a subscription or bought a hardcover cookbook then, wouldn’t we?

When I was taught how to cook as a child, I was taught that the important thing about cooking was NOT perfection.  The important thing about cooking is whether the people you are feeding are satisfied with their meal.  Did they like the food?  Did everyone get enough to eat?

Just a small newsflash, but most adults must cook if they cannot afford to eat out at a restaurant for every meal of every day.  To say that we are unprofessionals who have too much time on our hands simply because we are accountants, doctors, lawyers, stay at home moms, or tech workers is a huge insult to the fact that many of us learned to cook via our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents, and family friends.  We may not be culinary professionals but we still have to cook, each and every day, on a budget, without hours upon hours to spend (waste) in the kitchen because we have other responsibilities.

It might behoove members of your supposedly professional culinary world to do something that every other worker in every other industry all over the world has been forced to do in this economy.  Adapt.  And I say supposedly professional because even though you wrote an opinion piece, you did not do so utilizing professional terminology or tone and instead resorted to name calling, and finger pointing, which if I am not mistaken is akin to childish behavior not befitting a professional writer (culinary or not).

Posted by: Sonya05.30.2012
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Give me a break- if you can’t afford to make a recipe 3 times with $500 to test out your recipe then you probably aren’t making the recipes most of the blog readers are interested in.  As a working mother my goal for a nightly meal is to pay less than $10 or $15 and take less than 45 minutes to make.  So, if you figure $45 of your $500 as meal expenses and 3 hours for your time you would be earning $151.67 per hour.  Many bloggers and readers seam to live in rural areas where not every fancy ingredient is available, these bloggers are using products available to me.  Also, usually the bloggers receiving support from large brands have excellent photos on their blog, which is how they got their readers, which also means they made the recipes.

Posted by: Angel05.31.2012

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