When I joined Food52 in 2012 as a remote contributing editor (I live in Michigan)—there were fewer than 10 employees.
And when I first met everyone in person in 2013, not only was it easy to remember everyone’s name, but when we talked about an especially active user, the entire team was immediately fluent: We knew that drbabs had a dream cake just right for fall (or for making ahead for Thanksgiving); that anything from Cristina Sciarra’s recipe collection was probably gold; and if you were having a down day, reading through a few of pierino’s recipe headnotes was sure to improve your mood.
Today, our team is 65 and growing, and now when I come visit, I find myself scrolling through the team page on the airplane to quiz myself on my colleagues’ names.
Amanda and Merrill created Food52 over 7 years ago to create a space for home cooks to connect and share recipes, swap tips, and compare notes. The mission was to create “a cooking site where the users feel like they have a voice,” a site where we could all learn from each other, rather than just be told how and what to cook from the top down. Community is what this site was built on: Food52’s first two cookbooks were filled with your recipes—crowd-sourced from the winners of the first two years of weekly recipe contests. And in those early days, the connection with the community was very organic and easy to maintain—you might say it was baked in.
The team has expanded to where we are now because Food52 is growing—and our focus has expanded, too: a lot of things tie into our mission of “eat thoughtfully, live joyfully.” Now we’re not only talking about recipes, but other topics, too, like home and design and the intersection of food and culture. We’ve created a podcast, an app focused on helping us all find—and share—the meals we’re really cooking every day, and a cookbook imprint with Ten Speed Press.
The growth of the community has progressed in a similar manner, and while its importance to us has never wavered—we still see you, EmilyC, churning out the salads of our dreams; mrslarkin satisfying everyone’s sweet tooth; and ChefJune is regularly coming to the rescue on the Hotline—it’s become harder to keep tabs on a growing user base, which is now over one million strong. And this growth has made it more difficult for you, our community, to maintain and create new connections with each other, too. Based on your comments around the site, your emails to us, and your responses to surveys, we’ve heard that some of you miss the tight-knit feeling of community that we had at the beginning. And we get it—we do too.
Now, I'm here to make a concerted effort to keep community at the front and center of what we do: In the coming months and onward, we want to be more explicit about nurturing our community and to be more strategic about maintaining it. Let’s work on it together.
Here are a few more reasons to get in touch with me at [email protected]:
At the end of the day, we want you to know that there are humans on the other side of this bustling website—and we want you to have the opportunity to interact with them, myself included.
In the new year, there’ll be a lot more ways to get involved, too—stay tuned on that; I’ll be back with updates then. But first, HOLIDAYS! In the coming weeks, look out for a new, magical way to help you figure out your Thanksgiving dinner, the sixth annual Holiday Swap (our own community-wide, non-denominational Secret Santa), and so much more—we look forward to celebrating with you.