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Publishing Trends | Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs Launch food52

September 25, 2009 • 0 Comments

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Today marks the official launch of food52, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs‘s new food site geared toward serious home cooks. The site’s first project, a crowd-sourced cookbook, will be published by HarperStudio in late 2010. Hesser is an author and the former New York Times food editor and editor of T Living. Stubbs is a freelance food writer and recipe tester, and the two worked together on Hesser’s upcoming New York Times Cookbook. They told PT about their new initiative.

After testing over 1200 recipes for the Times cookbook, Hesser and Stubbs realized that many of the best came from non-professionals. Their site, whose title refers to the 52 weeks in a year, differentiates itself from other cooking sites because it is aimed at sophisticated home cooks. (Many other cooking sites either take a top-down approach, like Epicurious, or are user-generated free-for-alls like AllRecipes.)  “There are a lot of excellent cooking sites,” says Hesser, “but we felt that one thing that’s missing online is a place where enthusiastic home cooks can have a voice, a place where their talents and ideas are recognized.”“We decided to have a site where the recipes are mainly user-generated, but there is also a point of view,” says Stubbs. “There is some quality control—we’ll be writing about food on a regular basis and inviting people to share their thoughts as well. We’ll be going in and looking at recipes, commenting on them, and singling out the recipes that we think are really great.”

Each week, Stubbs and Hesser will announce two new categories for the cookbook and ask users to send in submissions in those categories. They will test the recipes that seem promising and ultimately choose two finalists, as well as some “editors’ picks.” food52 users will then vote on the finalists’ recipes, and the winner will go into the cookbook. Users will also have input on the cookbook’s cover and design. “We hope to be benevolent editors,” says Hesser.

Stubbs and Hesser hope food52 will eventually expand beyond an online/print presence into public events and cooking competitions. The first event, an online NCAA-style cookbook tournament culminating in a public celebration, kicks off this fall.

- Laura Hazard Owen

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