Amy Sherman, author, blogger, recipe developer
“My personal recipe style is to teach cooks independence,” says Kristine Kidd, a former editor at Bon Appetit.
Recipe development basics:
- Who is the audience? (don’t use language that your readers won’t know)
- Why am I sharing this recipe?
- How am I sharing this recipe? (consistency and clarity)
Developing a voice:
- Determine style: i.e., accessible, friendly, direct (without using articles like “the” makes a shorter recipe), complete (Julia Child). Use links to other developed recipes online.
- Voice: having a consistent approach (friendly). You can tell who people are by the voice they use on their blogs. It should be clear who is talking.
- Be authentic. Your blog is a place for your voice. Ask someone else to read your posts and see how you are coming across.
- Atribute and credit sources.
- Give more than once “indicator” (saute onions for 10 minutes, or until golden brown). Important to use the word “about” before minutes of how long to cook. New cooks will take you literally!
- Give more than one measurement (four scallions, chopped, about 1/4 cup). Don’t be married to measurements when savory cooking! Don’t try this with baking.
- Use a digital scale to measure ingredients.
“Salt is my friend,” says Dianne Jacob, who advocates exact measurements for salt in recipes. Discussion about using “salt and pepper to taste.” Everyone’s taste is different and could actually ruin your recipe.
- Title: straightforward, tempting, descriptive, whimsical, fun. Make it basic and not cute (Aunt Edna’s Surprise vs. Apple Pie)
- Headnotes: tempt your reader, sensual helpful info, cultural or historical info, a personal story. Tips and techniques. This will lead the reader into your recipe. Helps to explain why you are sharing this recipe (Headnotes are the short paragraphs or essays before the recipe). Helps to describe the dish, if it is something that readers aren’t familiar with.
- Ingredient lists: easy to shop from, in order, easy to cook from.
- Directions: numbered steps, bullets, paragraphs, well-tested, easy to follow.
Discussion: Use semicolons or not? Panel divided. Pro: addresses order of steps, not a complete stop. Con: totally confusing and rambling. Just a use a period, already!
- Yields (servings)
- Nutritional information (source: nutritiondata.com)
- Prep time (again, this varies per cook)
- Shopping resources
- Links (additional sources, similar recipes, videos etc)
- “Recipe Writer’s Handbook”
- “Will Write for Food”
- “The Food Substitutions Bible”
- “Food Lovers Companion”
- “Recipes into Type”
- Food magazine & online (Epicurious, Delish, My Recipes)
- For inspiration, UK & Australian food mags (Delicious, Olive, BBC Food, Donna Hay)
- Maintain an online portfolio of reicpes (blog, website, have business cards, re-write your bio say you are a recipe developer, you’re not saying you are doctor!)
- Join professional organization (IACP, local professional groups, online communities
- Network! (create an elevator pitche, go to events, attend conferences”
“Williams and Sonoma believed I was a recipe developer because I said I was a recipe developer!” says Amy Sherman.
- Do not give recipes away for free! Resist being flattered by someone saying they want to give you exposure on their website.
- Set a minimum fee (determine & charge the “going rate” in your field or region). Bloggers who give recipes away for free are undercutting people who are doing this for free. (i.e., one blogger gets $1,000 per recipe on a corporate website)
- Negotiate (most clients will have at least 10-20 percent more than what they will initially offer you)
- Charge for expenses (a flat fee is much better)
Blogging gives you a huge advantage when writing about seasonal writing since it is immediate (print publishing works 6 months in advance).
Blogging allows for multiple photos (e.g., Pioneer Woman’s 50 pictures of how to make cinnamon toast. Result in 1,000 comments)
Mistakes. Going back and fixing yields. Remember to use all ingridents! Print out recipes and go over it on paper.
No professionals in the food world will look kindly at people who “borrow heavily” from other recipes. Ingredients are not subject copyright, but accompanying copy is. See: Adjusting A Recipe Doesn’t Make it Yours.
What are mistakes you see bloggers making?
Using season to taste at the wrong time.
Dropped steps, steps that aren’t included.
Recipes that don’t work.
Ingredients out of order.
Unexplained steps (e.g., toast and grind spices)
Common sense and cookbooks. Have we dumbed down recipes down too much? Are cooks following like a robot exactly what a recipe says? E.g., a student once asked, “How far back do I have to stand from the bowl to ‘toss in a bowl’?”
Be aware of who your audience is, you need to decide on how far you want to guide them. And then you will attract your audience based on that guideline. “My personal style is to teach them independence and learn,” says Kristine Kidd.
Favorite food and recipe writers?
“I am more inspired by who writes well and the recipe sounds delicious, like Mario Batali,” Kristine Kidd.
“I look at them more for inspiration. I really enjoy Deborah Madison‘s writing. Her recipes are beautifully written,” Dianne Jacob.
Is it necessary to translate your recipes to metric if you have overseas readers?
There are websites with widgets that will convert your recipes to metric. It is hard to list both measurement systems in one recipe.
Should your copy editors know how to cook?
Absolutely, otherwise they may translate your copy into literal language which may not be necessary.
How do you gauge yields, since everyone has different appetites?
If you want to be nutritionally sound, the servings of meat are going way down (4 to 6 ounces is the new norm, down from 8 ounces). Make a decision about what you are trying to offer in your blog. Some dishes can simply be said, working as an appetitizer for 4, serves 2 as a main. Or say, serves 2 with leftovers.
How do you set pricing for your recipes? I was approached recently by a website and said yes for the traffic, but I feel like I should charging for this.
You need to set the guidelines. You could offer 1 or 2 as free, as a charitable donation. You don’t need exposure! You already have exposure. You have a blog. If people want your recipes, they want them because they are good. If someone tells you they don’t have money in their budget, they are lying. Offer the links to your site.
This post was blogged live from the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle.