Food News

Goodbye to Chowhound, the Internet’s First Food Hub

This 25-year-old corner of the culinary internet is sadly shuttering.

March 10, 2022
Photo by Rocky Luten

Sometime in the mid-2000s, a man invited me to kill his ducks. He had a few males from his latest batch of babies, and they couldn’t live in the middle of the city with his laying females. If I came and helped slaughter, he would split the meat with me. I agreed. But driving home with a lap full of duck, I needed to figure out how to cook and preserve the meat and the innards, so I turned to the only place on the internet at the time that would have just the kind of weird, wonderful recipes I needed: Chowhound. There, people pointed me toward five-hour roast duck, and to someone else with a similar problem wondering what to do with way too many pounds of duck liver.

Before there was Food52, before there was Serious Eats, before any food websites fully embraced that people wanted to know more about food than what newspaper recipes and reviews had been doing for years, there was Chowhound. Since before Y2K, its simple message board interface gathered food nerds and connected them to others in their area and around the world—helping them find a place to buy Burmese tea leaves in Seattle or eat soup dumplings in Cincinnati; guiding them through recipes for duck prosciutto or Uruguayan provoleta.

This week, Chowhound announced an end to its quarter-century of eclectic edibles on the internet. After March 21st, the site will go dark, taking with it the collected ramblings, obsessive genius, and obscure information. Around the country, food fanatics and professionals give a wistful look, trying to remember only the best parts of the site: the friendships forged, the restaurants highlighted, and the recipes posted. When so much of the food world focused on celebrity chefs, Chowhound often turned obscure or under-the-radar spots into stars of their own orbit.

Cooks who needed more intense or more arcane recipes than they could find in their cookbook library would turn to Chowhound. People could gather for an in-depth discussion about squirrel fish, to discuss what “Chicago-fried” chow mein was, and to troubleshoot canelés with other people before there was anywhere else to do it.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Food on the internet is dying fast- most of the sites are becoming more and more commercial, going behind pay walls, filling up with articles and recipes that are little more than advertisements for their "partners" or their own retail efforts, publishing "lifestyle" articles that are of dubious usefulness etc. It was fun while it lasted, but there are always cookbooks.”
— Smaug

But like any niche corner of the internet, the site was not without its issues. Founder Jim Leff came in as an enthusiast, which meant that neither community management nor computer science were his areas of expertise. And as the site got infinitely more popular, the problems magnified. In 2006, he and his cofounder sold the site, and it has since been sold a few more times.

"Chowhound was badly mismanaged by a succession of companies who tossed it around between themselves like a hot potato,” Leff said in a farewell blogpost.

And that fact became increasingly evident from the outside. As time went on, the user interface got harder to navigate, the content less organic from a group of zealots and more strategic and editorial. If you look at the site’s own duck recipes from recent times, it’s all seared duck breasts and fruit sauces. People posted fewer of their mom’s homemade Vietnamese clam recipes and personal wonton fillings; they also took their fervent ramblings on eating every soup dumpling in Queens to their own blogs, Twitter, or Facebook.

It seems that very few of Chowhound's original users stuck around past 2010 or thereabouts. And yet, when the site slips away into the abandoned corner of the internet archives, the world woefully loses one of its greatest collections: of random culinary rants, a ton of (sometimes misguided) cooking advice, and the electronic trail of forgotten tiny restaurants all over the world.

Did you read Chowhound in its heyday? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • nuhanabiha
  • Hunthurst
  • Ali Khan
    Ali Khan
  • Karen Harris
    Karen Harris
  • MacGuffin
Naomi Tomky

Written by: Naomi Tomky

The world's most enthusiastic eater of everything


nuhanabiha February 2, 2023
The disappearance of the boards brings a sense of sadness, as I spent a significant amount of time there and made many memories. Despite leaving the boards years ago, the fact that all my old posts and experiences have vanished is disheartening. While I may have engaged in some trolling, I also gained a lot of knowledge and growth during my time there, making its loss even more poignant.

Hunthurst June 14, 2022
What killed Chowhound was the same thing that mortally wounded Digg, a bad redesign.
MacGuffin June 14, 2022
I'd say it was a slow bleed--don't forget it hung on for quite a while.
Ali K. April 28, 2022
Though I moved on from the boards years ago, the fact that its gone and all my old posts is indeed sad. I spent a lot of time on there and learned a lot, trolled a touch, and it's sad that it has simply gone away.
Karen H. April 20, 2022
Ugh! Not in a good mood. One more favorite entity gone. Our favorite restaurant in Chicago, "Bandera" hasn't reopened, "Fine Cooking" & "Saveur" are either done or online only (not a great site), clothes shopping is awful...not a fan anyway to be honest...Chicago is dying a slow's all so sad.

Chowhound was a great resource for recommendations, suggestions, help and recipes. Even in it's latest iterations. I got some favorite recipes from people there that will continue to be reprised. At least there is that.
MacGuffin March 15, 2022
I became aware of Chowhound when Jim Leff did a promotional in-store at Tekserve (which it outlasted) very shortly after it launched, which is why I'm labeled "Member since The Beginning." I enrolled as soon as I got home and although I’ve never been all THAT active, it was always my go-to over the years when I needed to research something that interested me; I was also gratified that other Hounds have found my own contributions helpful. (If we're being honest, I don't think C|net did it any favors other than keeping it available, which is more than can be said for whoever took over Daily Candy.) I even made a friend with whom I've been in phone contact all these years!
I guess I'd better get started copying those saved recipes.
dinaofdoom March 12, 2022
I was an early user and dropped off after CNET. I found some wonderful places through good recommendations, and equally wonderful recipes. I will miss what it was and what it meant to so many of us.
txchick57 March 11, 2022
The duck anecdote is disgusting. Nobody needed to read that Those are sentient beings, no throwaway foodstuffs
MacGuffin March 15, 2022
Chowhound was established as a non-foodie way of connecting about food; for most people, that includes animal products. In fact, I see quite a few recipes right here on FOOD52 that contain meat, which, incidentally, I haven't eaten since 1987. (FYI that includes seafood, fowl, bone broth, gelatin, et al.) I make it a point, however, not to inflict my eating habits on others. In fact, I don't even CARE what others eat. Just sayin'.
Matt May 19, 2022
You gotta kill to eat.
avidreader March 11, 2022
For those who are looking for an alternative to Chowhound, try Hungry Onion. Many Chowhound users migrated to Hungry Onion, both in the last couple of days as well as over the last few years, so you will run into many familiar names there. The discussions are thoughtful and knowledgeable- its a good place to discuss cooking techniques and dining.
Scott March 11, 2022
I gave them a look early on and didn't see much content there. Every now and again I recall its existence and check in again, and still haven't seen much.
Scott March 11, 2022
... I just checked again. For the "NYC Suburbs, Westchester County, Long Island, upstate NY and Connecticut" category there are only three topics active since the start of 2022. Chowhound (before the CNET revamp) would sometimes have that many *created* each day, with several times that active.
hollyw00d March 30, 2022
Another alternative food site is Food Talk Central,
Scott March 30, 2022
The "NYC and environs" board seems to be nearly 100% NYC. Tough luck for us on LI.
MacGuffin June 14, 2022
I don't know that I can specifically blame Chowhound for it but there's a restaurant in NYC's Chinatown that I've loved since the late '90s. It started out as a serious dive (my favorite incarnation), then upgraded itself with a move to a location a bit north of Canal. Things were still fine--it remained cheap with an almost exclusively Chinese clientele until word got out on social media. Suddenly there were hordes of very entitled, demanding white foodies (disclaimer: I'm white) who completely ruined the vibe with their attitude, e.g. finger-snapping/yelling at wait staff, complaining, etc. I'm sure the owners appreciated the extra business but it had always been packed anyway. THAT clientele had concentrated on eating and shmoozing with their families. Ah, well.
samanthaalison March 11, 2022
I always liked it for restaurant recommendations. Somehow it fills a very different niche than something like Yelp or whatever - I'll miss it. Hungry Onion is decent for that, though is not super lively.
hollyw00d June 14, 2022
You might try or
Smaug March 10, 2022
Food on the internet is dying fast- most of the sites are becoming more and more commercial, going behind pay walls, filling up with articles and recipes that are little more than advertisements for their "partners" or their own retail efforts, publishing "lifestyle" articles that are of dubious usefulness etc. It was fun while it lasted, but there are always cookbooks.
MacGuffin March 15, 2022
Cookbooks don't provide reviews of appliances, restaurants, and such; recipes were the frosting on the cake for me but weren't my reason for becoming a Hound.
Smaug March 15, 2022
For the most part no, though they do sometimes include recommendations for brands of mixers and such. A good cookbook will be pretty much timeless, reviews are more the purview of journalists, print or internet. My local papers, both of which once had fine food sections, don't do much anymore but promote restaurants.
MacGuffin June 14, 2022
My experience has been that cookbooks that give appliance recommendations are often shilling for certain manufacturers. The exceptions are books that are upfront about being written with certain appliances in mind, e.g. the Bread for Life Series volumes that were written for Ankarsrum use and are sold by Pleasant Hill Grains. There was a very popular book called Fit for Life 20-odd years ago that advocated a diet that included a lot of fresh juices. I own both the juicers that they rated as the top two (I'd done my research). When the sequel was released, the authors were shilling for Braun--very mainstream appliances that didn't hold up well (their juicer was a joke). You can put money on CI's books and videos pushing KitchenAid and you can put money on King Arthur's books pushing CI. There's apparently a lot of money to be made in kickbacks--the only expenditure is one's own integrity.
Winifred R. March 10, 2022
I still check there periodically when I wind up with an esoteric ingredient or question. Will miss the ideas and discussions, although knowing that my general cooking knowledge is useful for deciding what to try.
appletonbartokomous March 10, 2022
When sauteing duck liver, I like to substitute fruit juice with a Doritos consomme for a nice southwestern kick.
SoIGather March 11, 2022
Yes, but do you have a recipe for ice cubes?