Food52 Life

The Whirlwind History of Food52's First 10 Years

by:
December 13, 2019
Photo by James Ransom

Food52 turned 10 this year (ICYMI), which got us to reflecting on the past—how we started, how far we've come, and everything we've done with our community along the way. In our first 10 years, we grew from two employees (see above—hi, A&M!) to 92, collected over 50,000 recipes, moved five times, won quite a few awards, and even baked with Cookie Monster. Below are some of our very favorite moments. If the next decade is this good, we sure have a lot to look forward to.


2004

Amanda meets Merrill.

The two team up for The Essential New York Times Cookbook, the 1,000-plus recipe project that inspires them to launch a startup called Food52.


2009

A&M score a deal for The Food52 Cookbook.

With publisher Bob Miller and Harper Studios (an old imprint of HarperCollins). The recipes will come by way of community contests, which means that Food52 is a go. Go, go, go!

We write our first blog post.

About butter, naturally.

The internet is abuzz about our upcoming launch.

After we post a video tour of Amanda’s kitchen, Serious Eats tells its readers: “They're beta-testing now.” (Check out our new site! And that nifty logo!)

On September 15th, Food52 officially launches.

Drinks on us!

We crown our first contest winners.

“Your Best Layer Cake” gets three entries, including one from Amanda, who comes in third (don't sleep on the recipe, though—her family-famous chocolate dump-it cake). Merrill's sister takes home the gold with her not red velvet cake.

Nora Ephron declares the first Piglet champ.

Congrats, Seven Fires. Over the years, our judges have included chefs and writers like Yotam Ottolenghi, Rachael Ray, Dominque Ansel, and more.

Amanda recommends “the little pot that could.”

And asks readers to share their own favorites. Ten years later, we’re still chatting about what makes good cookware great with our community. (Only now, we have our own little line that could, Five Two.)

Amanda's favorite little pot circa 2009.
Our Five Two saucepan, made with you.
Food52 publishes “Will You Marry Me?”

What?! It’s for Merrill—and she says yes.


2010

Kristen, our resident Genius, writes a behind-the-scenes post.

This "convinced A&M they could trust me with writing (a lot) more and eventually a column," Kristen remembers. "My big break!"

Pierino, a much-loved late community member, shares The Case of the Promiscuous Romesco.

It won our stale bread contest and was one of 169 cheeky recipes he shared on the site.

We graduate to working in our first "real" office.

Full speed ahead to Dogpatch Labs, a coworking space. We claimed four desks, but continued staging photoshoots in Amanda’s bedroom.

Amanda's apartment, aka the first Food52 office. Unclear if that's wine or balsamic between the computers.
Our Hotline is live.

It was originally known as—get this—Foodpickle, and we are still answering your questions about sour milk and then some. To date, there have been over 35,000 posts. (Psst: Did you know our editors go on-call every Thanksgiving?)

MrsLarkin (aka “scone lady”) publishes her first Food52 scone recipe.

They’re butternut-sage and we still think about them every fall.


2011

The very first Genius Recipe publishes.

Can you guess it? Since then, Kristen has published two award-winning cookbooks (Genius Recipes and Genius Desserts) and inspired countless batches of buttery tomato sauce and olive oil cake.

We redesign the site and our community isn’t psyched about it.

Critiques include: “The new site is neither relaxing nor joyful to use” and “This bums me out!” But you stuck with us! And we never forget that.

Food52er enbe writes a Hotline post.

To gauge interest in a Food52-style Secret Santa. This sparks our first ever Holiday Swap—a tradition we still keep up! (You can read all about it in The New York Times.)

Hello, Instagram.

We post our first photo (Kristen pouring, hm, vanilla extract?), snapped by James Ransom , with the caption, “Something Genius is coming.” To date, it has 42 likes and one comment (posted a month and a half ago, reading "wow 2011 🤟🏻").

James Ransom and Kristen Miglore, in their element. James is the photographer behind countless Food52 photos (and all of our cookbooks!).
We move to a new co-working space.

Amanda summarized the space as "a little Being John Malkovich-y." But it had some pretty cool Julia Child wall art and we stayed there for two years.

We publish The Food52 Cookbook.

With 140 winning recipes from exceptional home cooks. That's you!


2012

Oh you know, just another day at the office.
April Fools'.

Amanda and Merrill get into costume and light up a disco ball for an April Fools' Day prank—a Studio 54–themed video. (The next year, we headed even further back in time to 1852—get it?).

We take a victory lap.

We win a James Beard Foundation Award for Publication of the Year and 100% couldn't have done it without you.

A&M write columns about not-picky eaters.

In “Amanda’s Kids’ Lunch,” she shares what she makes for Walker and Addison (say, cream cheese and radish sandwiches for lunch, strawberries on the side). Meanwhile, Merrill’s baby, Clara, conquers finger food (like clementine segments and gouda chunks).

MrsWheelbarrow schools us on how to smoke salami.

One of our O.G. community members, she’s since gone on to publish multiple cookbooks (on pie, not salami).


2013

Our most popular recipe—like, ever—publishes.

Crock-Pot Brown Sugar & Balsamic-Glazed Pork Tenderloin. What are you waiting for?

The Shop opens for business.

Except, it wasn’t called The Shop—it was called Provisions. We offered 260 items across 80 makers and celebrated with a face cake. That November, we think it’s a good idea to sell heritage turkeys, lose one person’s order along the way, and, um, never do that again. (Don’t worry, we found a consolation bird just in time.)

Our debut logo.
We host our first-ever holiday pop-up shop.

Snacks and drinks included, but of course.

We move to a new office on West 30th St.

Thanks to a chockfull Zipcar minivan and plenty of gumption. In this space, our company grew to 40 employees.

Hello from our West 30th St. office, whose kitchen we still have a crush on.

2014

We start selling paper plates—made of porcelain.

From designer Virginia Sin. They now come in white, black, grey, and blush-pink.

Molly Yeh teaches us how to make a funfetti cake—from scratch.

One of our way-back-when contributors, she’s since gone on to publish a cookbook and host her own Food Network show. Go Molly!


2015

Cookie monster and our art director, Alexis Anthony, go way back.
We make—and eat—a lot of cookies.

After baking cookies for all of NYC, we distribute them via food truck and our first large-scale Shop pop-up in Union Square. (Amanda makes Chewy Vanilla Spice Cookies With Chocolate Chunks. Merrill makes Soft Chocolate Almond Cherry Cookies and prevails—she spikes her cookie in the end zone.) That same month, the one and only Cookie Monster visits our offices.

We launch the Burnt Toast podcast.

In the three seasons since, we’ve covered topics like margarine (and its relation to Napoleon III), Twin Peaks’ Kyle MacLachlan making cherry pie, food fights, and toast, burnt and otherwise.

We move into YET ANOTHER new office.

That we’re still in! Though we’ve now stretched out to four other floors in the building.

And our new office gets robbed.

We lost several laptops (but thankfully none of our desk snacks).

We create our first co-branded product.

With potter extraordinaire Jono Pandolfi, a master of earthy dinnerware.

A peek inside Jono's workshop.
We reach 1 million followers on Instagram.

Ahem, quadrupling our following in one year. In the years since, we’ve grown to 2.4 million.


2016

We grow to be 52 employees–strong.

“And no, that's not by design,” Inc. notes in a business profile.

WE HAVE A Lawn party, Food52-STYLE.

We take Brimfield, an antiques market, by storm (or by one cornhole game at a time?).

Our app, (Not) Recipes, is born.

It lives a happy but short life, leaving us in 2018 to go live on a farm upstate.

Community member Kitchen Butterfly publishes her classic Nigerian jollof rice.

It’s still one of our most-searched-for recipes.

We host a party for our annual Piglet cookbook competition.

With—wait for it—cuter-than-puppies piglets! Oink.

Just imagine what this little guy looks like in 2019.

2017

We launch German holiday decor.

It took two full years for A&M to convince our skeptical Shop team—and they sell like hotcakes, in June no less. Also this year: We start selling salami bouquets (flowers, who?) and find out that our community loves cured meat as much as we do.

A&M take the Today show by storm.

They make lots of crispy chicken and spread the word about the Frywall, which we still swear by for splatter-free meals.

We launch our best-selling product.

Of all time: the stackable bodega glasses. And, yes, they’re still available.

We join forces with Bloomingdale’s.

And open our own little Food52 shop in the Bloomie’s flagship space on 59th St in NYC.


2018

Meet Five Two.

Our own line of products for kitchen, home and life. Made by us, made with you. Since launching, we’ve created products like a double-sided cutting board, silicone straws, stoneware mixing bowls...and we’re just getting started.

Our cookbook club turns one.

We throw a potluck to celebrate. (Oh! They grow up so fast.) If you want to join the fun (how could you not?), head right this way.


2019

We hop a train.

We make commuting in NYC less horrible by posting our very first subway ads.

And then a plane.

We partner with Jet Blue, so you can fly joyfully.

Our latest book, Dynamite Chicken, hatches.

The anti chicken cookbook–chicken cookbook.

Photo by Rocky Luten
We set up a pop-up shop at the Oculus in NYC.

It’s full of brand-new Five Two products and good vibes. Check it out from November 23rd through January 5th!

A month-ish after we turn 10, something big happens.

We take on a majority investment from TCG Capital, which gives us more room to grow (and more to look forward to for the next 10 years).


2052

It’s the future and we still can’t get over how nifty butter keepers are.

Because some things never change.

What are your favorite Food52 moments from the last 10 years? Share in the comments below!
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Food52 (we cook 52 weeks a year, get it?) is a food and home brand, here to help you eat thoughtfully and live joyfully.

9 Comments

Liz December 30, 2019
You guys are awesome and amazing! I love your site(s) and the stories that go with the recipes. Thank you!
 
Tommyp December 29, 2019
Hi—
I just found your site this year. It is great to find cooking gear, recipes and guidance all in one. When starting a new dish or occasionally an old favorite I like to read a variety of recipes for a little more depth of style for the dish I’m making. Thanks for having great cooking gear and superb customer service (Merrill!). What a treat. A cast iron spice grinder is next...!
 
debbie J. December 29, 2019
Happy anniversary! I’ve been a reader for a couple of years now. I so enjoy your site and have spent hours perusing it, especially on the weekends. I have a small personal chef business and have used a number of the recipes with much success. I’ve also purchased various items from the store...great values and qualities! I’ve turned my 3 DIL’s onto Food52 lovers, too....best wishes for continued success!
PS...please please please do not go political....many other foodie magazine/websites have lost me because of it 😘
 
Pam H. December 29, 2019
Happy Anniversary! I’m a big fan of Genius Recipes (and both books), and the camaraderie the Piglet inspires every year. It’s interesting to see how you’ve evolved these past 10 years.
 
jenniebgood December 23, 2019
Congrats Food52 - celebrating 10 years of following you!
 
Alexandra V. December 16, 2019
Honestly, community was the reason I have generously contributed to your site in the past. Sadly, it seems monetizing has ruined the original reason your site gained success. No longer is the community a priority, and as I see my recipes sold out to more and more publications without consent or compensation, I feel like in hindsight the small amount of recognition I have received is an insult do to the fact that you are now multi millionaires off the passion of contributions from people like me, who have made your website what it is today. Without us most of which never get recognized or featured for our talents have packed your pockets. So congratulations on being able to sell marketing and products off the backs of your “beloved community”.
 
Joanna S. December 19, 2019
Hi Alexandra, thanks so much for sharing. We're really sorry that you feel that way. It goes without saying that Food52 has changed a lot since we started as a two-person operation in a home kitchen and, just as our offices have had to evolve, so have our brand strategies and coverage approaches. That said, community is still hugely important to us, and we’re always looking for ways to get community members more involved in our growing initiatives. If there’s anything you’d like to see more of, please feel free to email me: joanna [dot] sciarrino [at] food52 [dot] com. We really value your feedback.
 
Olivia B. December 13, 2019
I am very pleased to see the office robbery made the timeline (does that sound bad?), and I still brag on myself inside my head that I managed to install the security camera system a mere week before this happened. I'll also add that half the office ceiling caved in right around this same time... Congrats, F52 on 10 years of milestones — good, bad, and delicious!
 
Amanda H. December 13, 2019
Forgot about the ceiling cave-in! We miss you! Xx