“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” — Julia Child
The three food bloggers I interviewed have one thing in common: their passion for food and having fun with their blogs.
Good food blogs have extraordinary depth, express food journalism and provide value to their readers. They share quality recipes, restaurant insights and reviews or other useful information that help them create a following and readers who come back to their blogs regularly. Food blogs have grown significantly in the last few years and usually feature mouth-watering pictures that are extremely detailed, since an image does speak a thousand words. Good food blogs also show the personality and style of the bloggers who write for the site, portraying their quirks, which connect with the readers. The three food bloggers I spoke to have created food blogs that represent these elements.
Meesh Zippelli, from Elliot City,Maryland, and Jacki Morisi, from Milton,Massachusetts, are two friends, both whom graduated from Northeastern in 2010 and are now living in Boston. The chic-dressing twentysomethings met the first day of school, sitting next to each other in their calculus class. A week after their graduation, they were in the process of finding jobs when they created Just Add Cheese, a Boston-based food blog, which has been rated one of the best food blogs in Boston by BostInno.
The three goals they wish to accomplish from their blog are to find the best food in Boston, find the best food wherever they go, and cook awesome food in the meantime. They created this blog to serve as their creative outlet, and to satisfy the passion for food they’ve both had since childhood. They also both worked in restaurants while in school and would always go out to eat, especially when they had some extra money while being on co-op.
“It’s a social thing for me, I cook to make people happy,” Zippelli said. “The time you share over a nice meal at a restaurant is culturally significant as far as relationships with people go.”
Just Add Cheese is primarily composed of recommendations on the Boston restaurants Zippelli and Morisi visit. They started the blog with the intentions of including recipes, which they do provide, but it turned out to be mainly restaurants they try out and photograph in Boston, and also wherever they travel. They only do recommendations, versus reviews, because they don’t write about things they don’t like.
“We like to highlight the good stuff around the city, to show people where to eat, what’s good and what’s happening,” Meesh said. They also like to go to a lot of new places or try to uncover hidden gems in addition to the obvious hot spots in the city. They feature a range of food stops, from food trucks, to high end restaurants and anything and everything in between. A major aspect they focus on in their blog is photography. They wanted to make it as photo-driven as possible and find it significant in blogs.
“We got into food photography. Our pictures have progressed over the years compared to the ones we used at the beginning. We use to not care as much about the pictures,” Morisi said. “For me, having pictures are what makes or breaks a blog I look at.”
Zippelli added that there are some restaurants they haven’t written about because the pictures weren’t the best. Having quality pictures and being excited about a meal at a restaurant goes hand in hand with their blog posts, she said.
When it comes to blogs, especially food blogs, having the perfect name is crucial. It helps you stand out and be memorable in the ginormous cyber world. Just Add Cheese was something that stuck out to me when researching Boston food blogs because of how unique the name was. When trying to figure out a name for their food blog name, Just Add Cheese was available and they grabbed it.
“The name is just because we were thinking of what food is our favorite or what we couldn’t live without,” Zippelli said. “Cheese is constant and we’re both Italian. On any Italian dish, you add parmesan cheese at the end. It’s the finishing touch.”
Just Add Cheese has a strong following. They usually have about 300-500 views a day and even more on days they are mentioned by sites such as BostInno or Boston.com or if someone with a lot of followers tweets about them. The highest number of views they have had in one day was more than 1,500.
Being a well-known blog has its perks. Morisi and Zippelli are invited to events and restaurants around the city to try their food, many times for free, in exchange for writing a blog post on that restaurant for some recognition and a recommendation. They’ve also met a lot of people in the food industry such as food bloggers (there are almost 500 in Boston alone), restaurant owners and chefs. Going to food events helps get Just Add Cheese out there even more.
Sheryl Julian, a food editor at the Boston Globe, has a different opinion on freebies and establishes a strict policy when it comes to her staff taking them from the restaurants they review. “If you’re a blogger who goes around taking free food, you’ll never say anything bad about the restaurant,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a ‘free brunch.’”
Julian also went on to talk about writing restaurant reviews and described an experience she had with a “Mom and Pop” restaurant. She said the meal was terrible, even the second time she went. When it came to write a review, she knew it could ruin their business. “I can’t lie but they probably had their house on the line. I’d rather write about them if they were the type of restaurant that had a lot of money and a big mouth behind it. So in that instance, I didn’t go through with the review.”
Morisi and Zippelli offer a few tips for those amateur food bloggers out there (like myself):
- Come up with a good title — one that sticks. “People love Just Add Cheese because it’s not boring and cheese makes everything better,” Zippelli said.
- You have to edit down for blog posts. Morisi said she used to write a blog post on food that would be way too long, and it only takes a few seconds for someone to click away.
- Put attention into the photos.
Emily Muldoon is the mastermind behind her food blog, Emma Clare Eats. She is a junior at Northeastern studying Communicationsand created her blog about two years ago. She got into cooking the summer before and thought that she should be tracking her recipes. Growing up, her family was constantly in the kitchen, and she has always been passionate about food. Six months after the creation of her blog, she started to show her friends and family.
“I posted it on Facebook and my friends from home loved it because we love to cook all the time,” Muldoon said. “I got a lot of good feedback, they wanted to see what I was making,” Emily said. “It was just a great way to stay connected with loved ones at home who I cant see all the time.”
Muldoon’s blog focuses mainly on recipes, and she likes to try new dishes. She’ll come up with ideas, do some research to see what recipes already exist and create her own twist. For instance, she came up with the idea of Nutella® cupcakes and created her own recipe for it. She also loves the freedom of cooking.
“I have some recipe cards that my grandmother gave me before I left for school like those old, retro cards,” she said. “I try not to make recipes that have been done a million times before. I want them to be unique and interesting.”
Muldoon came up with the blog name Emma ClareEats because she thinks it has a nice ring to it. Growing up, her family would call her Emma Clare. “I like having a pen name for it,” she said. “I’m considering going into the catering field later in life and I feel like Emma Clare Catering sounds really good.”
Although Muldoon believes she could be doing more with her blog, and that she gets satisfaction just from her friends and family looking at it, her blog was viewed in October. She also recently realized that pictures of the food she makes have been pinned on Pinterest. Since she has built up a history of recipes, Muldoon hopes that when she focuses more on the blog within the next year, she could make it into a legitimate website and possibly make money out of it. She also has goals to reach out to other food bloggers in the community and get herself out there more.
“I plan on keeping this blog for many years because I’m not going to stop cooking anytime soon,” she said. “So I might as well keep posting things. I hope to see it take off in the next two to three years but for now, I’m just trying to build a history on it.”
Muldoon also offers a few tips for those amateur food bloggers out there:
- Don’t be afraid to pursue other opportunities- there’s a big blogosphere out there.
- Just do what you love.
- You don’t have to make money right off the bat. Stick with your original intention and be true to yourself and it’ll be fun no matter what.