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’s how you can get involved right now:
- Comment on the site. I get it—it’s easy to be a lurker, but community comes from discussion, and we all learn each other’s voices a little better when we’re commenting on articles and recipes. And participate over on the Hotline as well—you might know the answer to a fellow cook’s baking conundrum because the same thing that’s happening to his cake happened to yours last week.
- Sign up for our emails. Once you’ve created an account, you can go to your account settings and tweak your email preferences. We can brighten up your inbox every day! (Or less often; just say the word.)
- Email us! Have a genius tip to share? Tell Kristen about it: [email protected]. Need a cookbook recommendation? Ask Ali: [email protected]. Have a question about a product in the Shop? Our customer care team is on the case: [email protected]. Curious about something else? The editors’ inbox is waiting: [email protected].
- Write an article about the dish you make without a recipe. We don’t always use recipes when we cook, and we know you don’t either. Over the years you’ve shared how you make jam, paella, gratin, and more.
- Be a voice on our app. We’ve already learned so much from you. (See here, here, and here, just as a few examples.)
- And a new thing (!): Participate in the cookbook club! Right now we’re all geeking out about Amanda and Merrill’s recently released cookbook, A New Way to Dinner, so we’re asking you to tell us your best tips and tricks for meal planning. (Read more about how to participate here.) Starting in December, we’ll be choosing a new cookbook, talking about it across social channels, and asking you to share mini-reviews and photos of what you make—we’ll round everything up and share the results at the end of each month.
Here are a few more reasons to get in touch with me at [email protected]:
- You have ideas for celebrating our community and increasing its presence
- You want to share opinions about content you’re loving and want to see more of, or content you think is missing from the site
- None of the aforementioned email addresses seem quite right for what you’re trying to figure out or you just want to introduce yourself
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.