Long Reads

Looking Back at 10 of Our Favorite Bloggers’ First Posts

April 27, 2018

I started as a blogger. These days, more and more food writers, recipe developers, and cookbook authors did. Which makes a lot of sense. Working in food publishing—like any publishing—is a catch-22. If you want a job, you need clips, or published pieces. But to get clips, you need a job. Or you need a blog.

Self-publishing has totally restructured our industry. I think for the better. Even for the best. Many of today’s most important names in food publishing didn’t just start blogging—but stayed blogging. The medium that was meant to be an experiment or journal or foot-in-the-door to somewhere else became the destination. And the people who taught themselves how to write about food are now teaching all of us.

To celebrate this, we scrolled back—like way back—to the very start of some of our favorite blogs, then asked their creators all about it. Answers have been slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Read ’em all or jump right to your favorite, listed chronologically, by clicking below:

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Clotilde Dusoulier: Chocolate & Zucchini
Deb Perelman: Smitten Kitchen
Sarah Britton: My New Roots
Joy Wilson: Joy the Baker
Molly Yeh: my name is yeh
Aaron Hutcherson: The Hungry Hutch
Jenny Park & Teri Lyn Fisher: Spoon Fork Bacon
Nik Sharma: A Brown Table
Stephanie Le: i am a food blog
Jerrelle Guy: Chocolate for Basil

Clotilde Dusoulier: Chocolate & Zucchini


First post: September 30, 2003—E. Dehillerin.
First recipe: October 1, 2003—Chouquettes (Sugar Puffs)

Why did you start blogging?
I needed an outlet for all of the thoughts and ideas I had around food and cooking, and share the joy these topics gave me. I was looking to join a like-minded community of people who thought it was completely normal to discuss the finer points of a cake recipe for hours.

Are you surprised a sugar puff was your first recipe?
I’m glad it was, as it remains a favorite treat in my family, and now I get to share it with my kids. I have worked on and refined the recipe over time.

A couple days later, you posted a recipe for a Swiss chard tart inspired by your dislike of spinach: "one of the rare vegetables I will not eat." Still the case?
I still dislike spinach, and still love Swiss chard. Over time, however, I have stopped buying store-bought pastry for my quiches and savory tarts because I’ve fine-tuned recipes that give me what I want in a matter of minutes—like this easy puff pastry or olive oil tart dough.

How has Chocolate & Zucchini changed?
I was 24 when I started, I’m 38 now, so of course my point of view, my style, my voice have changed. It feels more grown-up and more minimalist now. What I’m happiest about, however, is that I have maintained the authenticity of how I show up on the blog, and connect with my readers.

Deb Perelman: Smitten Kitchen


First post: June 30, 2006—Freedom Ringing
First recipe: July 15, 2006—Thai Vegetable and Smoky Eggplant Salad

You once wrote: "I won’t even pretend I followed either of these recipes to the letter, but the gesture was there." Was this how you always cooked?
That was very much one of the impetuses behind the site. I'm very picky and I'd try a recipe out and either love it and want to tell everyone about it, love it but want to change something, or hate it but want to rescue something about it, or something in-between, like making it more manageable for someone who wasn't trying to get too fancy on a weekday night. I wanted the site to hold all of the above.

How has Smitten Kitchen changed?
I post fewer new recipes a month, but the recipes are more exhaustively tested and researched. I don't stop until I'm completely happy, even if it means it'll take me 13 years to put up an eggplant parmesan recipe (almost ready for its close-up, soon). Overall, I am generally surprised by how much the site is the same, though. That I randomly fell into a format that barely existed back then and never got tired of it. This applies to nothing else in my life—not sweaters or dresses, wall art, or even kitchen scales—somehow I still want to write about pad Thai the way I wrote about smoky baked beans 12 years ago.

How has food blogging changed?
A big thing is that I wasn't looking for what I got out of it; I'd never have dreamed up anything so crazy as to turn it into a full-time job and career. I wanted to write about food and nobody was going to hire me to. I wasn't even sure I knew how to write about food. So, self-publishing was the easiest way to find out.

Sarah Britton: My New Roots


First post: October 1, 2007—New Beginnings
First recipe: October 8, 2007—Apple Cider Cabbage

Why did you start blogging?
I had learned so much during my Holistic Nutrition education that I believed everyone should know. For instance, how to take care of yourself and your loved ones when ill, and more importantly, how to prevent illness in the first place. How to use food as medicine. I was fascinated by how our bodies really work, and how diet and lifestyle can be used to achieve unimaginably good health.

How has My New Roots changed?
Surprisingly, the blog hasn’t changed that much. The essence, or “goal” is still the same. The only thing that has really changed is how I approach presenting the information to my readers, and how much effort I put in now. A blog post takes me around 20 hours, start to finish. The recipe development and testing, styling, photography, research, writing, editing, and all the social media is done by yours truly, and the time really adds up!

Do you remember this cabbage?
I was at a friend’s cottage and we were playing in the kitchen with odd and ends, basically. But it all worked out so beautifully! It feels very adorable looking back, since it was so off-the-cuff. My favorite way to use cabbage now is braising it in vegetable broth just until tender, then searing it in a scorching hot cast iron pan with ghee until blackened.

Your third post is: "Quinoa: Your New Best Friend." Still best friends?
I still love quinoa, and she’s definitely still a best friend of mine! But I’ve branched out a little since then. My favorite grain these days is buckwheat (which is actually a pseudo-grain like quinoa, not a true cereal). It’s also gluten-free and high in protein. I love soaking it overnight and blending it the next morning to make pancakes and waffles or baking it for granola.

Joy Wilson: Joy the Baker


First post: January 13, 2008—Mis-en-place
First recipe: January 14, 2008—Pink Hawaii

How did you pick these first posts?
It's impossible to know at the start of something, what you're actually starting. I had no idea I was building my actual career. I thought I was starting a food journal that zero to three people might read and enjoy. I honestly didn't think too much about it. I just started with my mis-en-place, which is where everything in the kitchen begins for me.

The Pink Hawaii cake feels similar to Drake on Cake. How did that get started?
Almost two years ago, I realized that my love for Drake and my love for cake could be married (mostly because they rhyme). Drake has some iconic phrases that get to the heart of how we feel in the world. Why not put them on cake? It's just a playful project I've given up to the Internet. My favorite part is that now people make their own Drake on Cakes.

How has Joy the Baker changed?
A lot! I've unconsciously and then consciously turned this simple food journal into a brand. The food space has been democratized in the last ten years and I've been able to benefit from that change and add my voice to the fray. In a lot of ways, Joy the Baker is still the same place that offers recipes and step-by-step photography as it was in 2008. The quality has improved as I've grown and as technology has improved. I think I'm most humbled by the fact that I've been able to write three cookbooks and build out a studio space where I can teach people in person. That's been the most rewarding change in the last 10 years.

Molly Yeh: my name is yeh


First post: August 2009—Welcome!!
First recipe: August 2009—Spinach Salad

Most of your earlier posts are journal-y. Did you start the blog with food in mind?
No food in mind! I’ve kept diaries and scrapbooks since the day I could write (they used to be Hello Kitty notebooks filled with, I don’t know, friend drama and odes to Heath Ledger), and my biggest inspiration was Amelia’s Notebook. My blog began as an extension of my diaries.

When did the food switch happen?
At the tail end of my time in New York, when I was learning more about cooking and wanting to do more and more of it, and then when I left New York and moved to my little town, I had lots of time on my hands. My husband was working in the fields for 18 hours a day and I hadn’t met any friends yet. I just had a part time job at the bakery, so outside of that I threw myself into recipe development and it was, and continues to be, the most creatively satisfying thing in the world.

How has my name is yeh changed?
With the rise of social media, a lot of entries that would have been appropriate as blog posts in 2009 are now way more at home on Instagram or Facebook or as a Twitter thread. There are so many new formats for posting that the purpose of a blog post has become much more specific. So whereas in 2009 I might have posted four or five short posts a week, I now post one or two, but they’re longer posts that require more preparation in the way of testing recipes, writing and editing, and photographing.

Favorite part about blogging?
Knowing that even if it wasn’t a paying job, I would still do it.

Aaron Hutcherson: The Hungry Hutch


First post: September 29, 2009—Welcome!
First recipe: October 8, 2009—Chicken Alfredo with Spinach and Mushrooms

Why did you start blogging?
Mostly because I was bored. I had graduated college and started my first real job just a few months prior, and was looking for something to do in my free time. I'd also always had an interest in food, so I thought starting a blog would be a good way for me to begin to explore that.

Are you surprised by the first recipe?
A little. Pasta with Alfredo sauce isn't something that I made frequently back then, nor do I make it much now. Then again, I feel like this speaks to the ethos of my blog: trying new things in the kitchen.

Another chicken-pasta dish you love?
One of my favorite recipes that I've ever shared was for Spicy Peanut Noodles with Chicken. The dish is really all about the sauce: smooth peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sriracha.

How has The Hungry Hutch changed?
In the very beginning, I mostly focused on chronicling my adventures in the kitchen, hoping people would get inspired by what I created and learn from my trials and errors, and less so follow the recipes I shared. Now, I want to share recipes that work. The development I'm most proud of is the improvement in my photography. (I mean...you saw the photo in my first post.)

Favorite part about blogging?
Definitely when someone makes one of my recipes at home and say that they enjoyed it.

Jenny Park & Teri Lyn Fisher: Spoon Fork Bacon


First post: June 8, 2011—Hush Puppies

Why did you start your blog?
Jenny is a professional food stylist and Teri is a professional photographer. We started the blog to share all of the food images we were creating early on in our career to boost our portfolios.

Are you surprised hush puppies were first?
We both still love this recipe. We love fried things, and things with sauces. Ha! I don't think either of us have made these in a while because after doing this for 7ish years we have a ton of recipes on the site now. After talking about them, I will definitely be making again soon!

How has Spoon Fork Bacon changed?
I think we have both gotten a lot better at photography and food styling. Looking at some of our old work makes me cringe, but it also makes me really appreciate what the blog has given us professionally, which is a wonderful platform to practice our art on.

Nik Sharma: A Brown Table


First post: August 6, 2011—Gazpacho

Why did you start blogging?
Early on I had a dream to work in a kitchen and cook for people but I ended up in science and research but the desire to cook for a wider audience kept nagging me. At the time, blogs had just started out and I got inspired by the works of so many different folk, it seemed like a wonderful avenue to cook and share my food with people beyond my family and friends. It was also a great way to get a break from the monotony of academia and be creative.

Why gazpacho first?
My husband loves tomatoes and gazpacho, so one hot summer day, after a rather large haul of tomatoes from a drive to the country, it was either canning or gazpacho. Gazpacho was the right idea, since I had no desire to sit by the hot stove and can.

Do you remember a lot about these early posts?
If anything, not much, since it’s been so long. But I will say this: I do remember failing a lot and learning from those mistakes. It still happens.

How has A Brown Table changed?
I’ve learned so much more through reading and watching others as well as working with them. Writing, cooking, and photography have improved with more practice over the years but I’m particularly proud of my first solo cookbook, Season, as well as writing my recipe based food column for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Stephanie Le: i am a food blog


First post: February 14, 2012—Afternoon Beer

Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging back in 2010 back on another blog, called Momofuku for 2. My husband, Mike had given me the Momofuku cookbook and something about it just struck a chord with me. I loved how complicated the recipes looked and how there was a progression from seemingly easy to increasingly more difficult recipes. I thought, can I cook through this? Mike encouraged me, designed the blog and we were off! In 2012 we decided to start i am a food blog because I missed the journaling aspect of blogging. We both love cooking and eating so it just made sense to start another blog and we've been doing it ever since.

Are you surprised by the Afternoon Beer debut?
I still love mini things and afternoon tea so not much has changed there. We even did an afternoon beer redux a couple of years back because I love the concept so much.

Afternoon Beer—this afternoon—what’s included?
Mini lobster rolls on spit-top brioche buns, tiny mushroom and gruyere grilled cheeses and a roast beef sandwich. Or maybe we'd go the Asian-inspired route and do a mini banh mi and tiny steamed bbq pork buns. The possibilities are endless!

How has i am a food blog changed?
So many ways, both little and big. We've gone through countless redesigns, which is one of my favorite things. Mike's a designer by trade so he's always tweaking the design. Our photo style has grown and changed as well. We're always experimenting with food styling, propping, and lighting. One of the changes that is relatively new is that Mike writes posts now, which is fun because there are two voices on the blog. He tends to be more informative where I'm more of a story-teller so we complement each other nicely.

Jerrelle Guy: Chocolate for Basil


First (trackable!) post: August 24, 2015—Homemade Cheez-Its

Why Cheez-Its first?
These aren’t actually my first post on Chocolate for Basil; I made my first post back in the summer of 2012 on my birthday. I wrote out my thoughts on restaurant tortilla chips. The blog started off as a food journal then morphed into a traveling food journal, and then eventually became a space for mostly just recipe sharing. When I moved to Boston, it was around 2015, I wanted to take the blog to the next level, so I moved my blog from Weebly to Wordpress, but in the transition ended up leaving behind many earlier posts including the tortilla ramble.

Why did you start blogging?
I got into the food world through the photography/design world—I was painting and illustrating my food all throughout college. So I knew early on I loved talking about food in every part of my day because it made me happy, but didn’t know where to start. I starting blogging right after I graduated as a mental and emotional escape from a relationship I was in at the time. I would just write about other people’s food first and why I liked it. Eventually, I worked up the nerve to start making my own things.

How has Chocolate for Basil changed?
I’m proud that I finally got the interface to look the way I envisioned it looking. It took many tweaks because I was doing it by myself and had no idea what I was actually doing. I knew I wanted big bold photos, a gallery on the first page, a vignette of my photo on the side, and a bold title on the top with a little personality. It sounds simple when I write that, but it took me at least a whole year to figure out how. I also love incorporating music lately. I really like setting an ambiance for the food and transforming the reader’s space too, not just with flavors from the food but with good sound. It allows people to see what it’d be like to actually eat with us.

Have you been following a certain food blog since the beginning? Or a really, really long time? Tell us which one in the comments!

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2 Comments

jbee April 30, 2018
I’ve read David Lebovitz religiously since, oh... 2007? Quite some time. Same with Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks. Both are still in my top 10 blogs to this day!
 
KsGal April 29, 2018
David Leite started Leite's Culinaria in 1999 and should have been included in this look back.