We Want to Make Our Community Stronger

October 28, 2016

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.

Shop the Story

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.

So this is where I (and you!) come in. Maybe you've seen me chiming in on the Hotline, read my articles about Cooking with Scraps, or saw our managing editor Kenzi’s kind profile of me last year.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“As the site has grown, I have enjoyed some of the more recent "professional" content, but for me, my favorite posts still are those submitted by the community and the recipes created by passionate home cooks. I love this community, and hope that newer members discover the same connections to other like-minded home cooks that I have. :) ”
— cookinginvictoria

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.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Lindsay-Jean Hard
    Lindsay-Jean Hard
  • Emma Nelson
    Emma Nelson
  • Caroline Lange
    Caroline Lange
  • Intelatin
  • amysarah
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


Lindsay-Jean H. June 1, 2017
Just in case any of you missed our update on this topic, you can find it here;
Emma N. November 4, 2016
I meant to comment when I first read this post last week...but I am a college senior with a research deadline or something :) I'm researching what the language used in early American cookbooks says about the values of women. Basically, I'm a history student who was bit by the cooking-bug and desperately trying to avoid researching more death and despair. Sometimes I pretend that reading Food52 is research. Other times, when I hear about the beginnings of Food52, I feel like I missed some sort of golden age. But this post made me so excited. I'm glad that people other than me also want more than a "recipe website." So thank you for this post, LJ! And thanks to all the commenters!
Maedl November 4, 2016
Emma. do you know about the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery? If not, see And there are also several groups of culinary historians scattered around the U.S. I belong to one in Washington, DC, and love their meetings, speakers, amd other activities.
Caroline L. November 1, 2016
beaming about this. and so glad you're leading the charge, LJ!
Intelatin October 31, 2016
I have a profile on Food52. I have been present in your eco-system since 2010 and am consistently impressed by the content your team produces. I also engaged to buy the Best Recipes Cookbook. But what I have not been able to do is find community on the site. An enormous portion of the content is simply feels too WASPy for me and it feels like the editors are simply too WASPy for me. Scroll through the team {} and you will see what I mean. As you move forward to round out the community, it may be helpful to add some color to the mix.
Lindsay-Jean H. October 31, 2016
Thank you all for the kind words and thoughtful suggestions (I'm taking notes!). This community is just the best, and I'm excited to get to know more of you in the days and months ahead.
amysarah October 30, 2016
I'm also very glad to see the importance of F52’s community put front and center. And yes, hooray for LJ, who’s been so proactive addressing this (disclaimer: feel a bit guilty for not giving more of a response when queried! Apologies - was spread thin this summer.) Reassuring to see community still recognized as the heart of the site, despite sometimes feeling a little marginalized of late. I think some of that’s growing pains – particularly finding the right balance with the shop’s increased focus and challenges of expanding daily content.

More directly, the community’s fun and welcoming ‘culture’ of early years, where differing opinions/information were easily and respectfully shared, began to feel trampled by a rather nasty/condescending tone that flourished for a while in comments/Hotline. To be fair, this only involved a small group - but a very vocal and seemingly omnipresent one. I admit it was alienating and definitely decreased my interest in participating. Happily, this seems to have died down of late, at least that I’ve noticed. I realize there’s no way to inoculate an open online forum from this kind of thing, but it certainly emphasized to me how much of F52’s character comes from its community.

In other news – count me as an ‘old timer’ really glad to see F52 expanding its scope, of topics and moreover writers with diverse perspectives. I know it’s caused some community dissension and of course kinks are inevitable when finding editorial footing in a broader context…but I’ve long thought this was a much needed direction here. Hopefully, over time it deepens the community too.

And just a couple nuts/bolts items before this turns into an essay: yes pls, more effective search features, as already noted; bring back the ‘just posted’ community recipe thingy; and finally, at long last…the ability to EDIT comments/Hotline posts!!
Nancy October 31, 2016
Amysarah - just to say you were not alone in being discouraged by the wave or phase of snarky comments. I went away for several months, nearly quit, but came back and found the atmosphere better. Yes, there's no way to eliminate, but it was discouraging.
Gibson2011 October 29, 2016
I've always loved knowing that the hotline exists for any food/equipment related questions I have. More recently, I've been enjoying the posts about new cookbooks. It's great having someone keep me up to speed with what's out there since I never have time to casually peruse the cookbooks :(
I also love love love the Holiday Gift Exchange. It's become one of my favorite parts of the holiday.
anne October 29, 2016
You should not have changed your format. I almost never come here anymore. It seems your focus shifted after that to your store and selling you wares. It used to feel like a community, but to me, it no longer feels that way. If feels like just another faceless web site. The columns were also the point of the exercise for me. No longer. Sad really.
Lindsay-Jean H. October 31, 2016
Hi anne - Check your inbox, I'm sending you a direct message, would love to chat more about how we can bring back the sense of community.
AntoniaJames October 29, 2016
It appears that we are proving pierino’s point, in the thread below. ;o)
Shalini October 29, 2016
Hi Lindsay-Jean, thank you for taking charge of this huge community and helping to rally everyone together again! I first joined in 2009, then through a technical glitch reactivated my account in 2011. I miss participating more in this wonderful space and, when my hands aren't as full with a new baby, will do so.
Keep up the good work!
pierino October 29, 2016
Lindsay-Jean, first thanks for the kudo. Having been along for most of the Food52 ride from the beginning I must say that it has been this sense of community that has kept me going. From the early days I've appreciated the encouragement I've received from the other old hands here. One thing that might be helpful is a Forum52 for a general discussion of food related topics. Right now Hotline is almost ad hoc defunct repository for that but it does lead to digressions which stray off topic. I'm always writing about food through whatever outlet will put up with my Trotskyite screeds but the genuine generosity of spirit that pervades Food52 is exceptional. Here's to the next seven years.
pierino October 29, 2016
Sorry I couldn't edit that. But I meant "de facto" not "defunct". Halloween gremlins.
AntoniaJames October 29, 2016
pierino, your Trotskyite screeds are to my mind one of the best things about Food52. You are, always have been, and always will be an inspiration, in so many ways. ;o)
pierino October 29, 2016
Aw, shucks ma'am.
Nancy October 31, 2016
Pierino - agree with the idea for a more general forum.
Etta October 29, 2016
So glad the holiday swap will be back this year! It is one of my favourite things about Food52 - and the entire holiday season. Few experiences restore my faith in humanity like a tin of homemade candies showing up in the post from an almost-total-stranger.

On a different note, as Food52 has grown I've experienced a tension between the community and business sides of this enterprise. Nothing kills the this-is-a-community-space atmosphere like a random Korean Air pop-up ad that comes back every time you click through to a new page.
BrooklynBridget October 30, 2016
Etta, are you really seeing that ad? We do have ads but what you describe is not supposed to happen. If you can send details I would very much appreciate! [email protected]. Thank you!!
Panfusine October 29, 2016
Oct 29 2011, when I had the Food52 Launch?Diwali Party for the first book,
All our guests made it , the power went out thanks to a nasty storm , we brought out candles and it was the BEST ever party we had. Precious memories. 5 years later my adoration and admiration for Food52 only grows by leaps & bounds!
txchick57 October 29, 2016
VCs saying growth isn't happening fast enough? Want that IPO to fast track?
txchick57 October 29, 2016
Kathy L. October 29, 2016
I love the idea of a cookbook club. They are so much fun!
Merrill S. October 28, 2016
Feeling so happy as I read all of these comments, and so lucky to have Lindsay-Jean leading this charge!
AntoniaJames October 28, 2016
Couldn't agree more. L-J is, truly, the best of the best. ;o)
Laura October 28, 2016
I love this! And I love Food52!!!
Maedl October 28, 2016
I think this is just what we need right now. I’ve noticed that the Hotline isn’t as varied as it used to be, which, considering the number of members, surprised me . Most of the questions seem to be about recipes posted on the site and don’t generate much discussion. Thus, I don’t check the site as frequently as I used to and miss the give and take that we once had. Maybe I need to concentrate more on other parts of the site--there’s certainly plenty of material to explore!
Connor B. October 28, 2016
This makes me so, so happy <3
Nancy October 28, 2016
Lindsay-Jean...wonderful reaching out. I feel like a (relative) newbie, or at least a sophomore when I see how much others have contributed from the beginning. Yes, I get a sense of who other members are from their comments on articles, their recipes, their answers (and crotchets) on the Hotline. And yes I've been made welcome by responses from others.
Not a criticism but (like Antoina James') a suggestion, only for more fun and interaction: perhaps set up a section or corral in a section articles that already ask for members' input. Not of the semi-urgent hotline variety (h2 make this recipe, what do I do about a missing ingredient, uneven oven etc), but more of the ongoing enjoyment and development of the art and craft of cooking. Most of the editors ask for community response, so do member articles, so it might be unwiedly. Still, a thought.
And thanks for bringing this issue front & center.