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The world of food blogging easily leads one from curious reader to devoted follower. It reveals a realm of visual feasts, delightful descriptions and hilarious anecdotes, and connects food lovers from across the globe.

Food bloggers have had to up their game as the standard of photography and writing continues to improve, says Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner, creator of Scrumptious.

Food has always served as a meeting point, and its appreciation is increasingly moving from the tabletop to the desktop. This comes as passionate foodies offer up an interactive slice of life where they share great recipes, helpful advice, and a special sort of fellowship.

The food blogging scene has exploded around the world, as the Web becomes people's second home, and SA is no different. Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner, creator of Scrumptious SA, says the local food blogging industry has grown into a thriving community since she started Scrumptious four years ago, when she had the field almost to herself.

"The past two years or so have seen a mushrooming of food, wine, restaurant and cookery blogs in SA. Some of the more recent cookery blogs are of a very high standard and attract astonishing volumes of traffic, considering that they're written by 'unknowns' in the food industry."

Hobbs Rayner, who works as a freelance journalist, editor and author, estimates there are around 60 active food and cookery blogs in SA, and many more wine and restaurant blogs.

"As the quality of these blogs has improved, so has the level of competition. I've found that I have had to work harder, post more recipes, and be more innovative in the recipes I develop in order to keep up with the 'new kids on the block'," she adds.

Jeanne Horak-Druiff, whose blog Cook Sister made the list of the world's top 50 food blogs, is a South African living in London. She says the industry has undergone astonishing growth since she started Cook Sister "at the dawn of food blogging" in 2004.

"It seems that everybody with an Internet connection and a camera has tried their hand at food blogging, with varying degrees of success."

Posh to pedestrian

You know that when McDonalds starts selling macarons, something is wrong in the universe.

Alida Ryder, creator of Simply Delicious, which won 'Best food and wine blog' in last year's SA Blog Awards, says the Internet has revolutionised the way people approach food, with many turning to search engines rather than cookbooks for help.

"This has opened up the food industry, because in the old days, only professionals and food icons had a space to share their food know-how. "Now everyone can be a food author, which is not always a good thing."

Ryder adds that with food and cooking becoming more accessible, it's getting people back into the kitchen, after many turned to the drive-through, take-away culture of modern life.

"Suddenly, people who would never dream of picking up or buying a recipe book have access to a wealth of recipes and food info on the Internet, and this has made people far more adventurous in their cooking and eating habits," says Horak-Druiff.

"I also think the ease with which online friendships can be forged with people from other countries and cultures is tremendously positive. It encourages people to make and taste food from other cultures, and food is often an easy way into beginning to understand another culture."

But there are some drawbacks too, she adds. "I think the Internet and social media can give certain foods cult-like status, sometimes unnecessarily - think the fetishisation of cupcakes, macarons and whoopie pies. It promotes a kind of sameness at the fashionable edge of food throughout the world. And you know that when McDonalds starts selling macarons, something is wrong in the universe!"

The other major change Horak-Druiff has noticed is the rise of the professional blogger. "When I started out (long before the days of Google AdWords), it seemed totally inconceivable that anybody could make money out of this blogging thing."

Slowly but surely, however, people woke up to the commercial possibilities, and started selling advertising and getting book deals, says Horak-Druiff.

"These days, people look at you aghast if you do not have a brand strategy and a business plan for your blog. Of course, there are still people who blog purely for enjoyment, but the fact that so many people are blogging to make money, or to launch freelance careers has meant the standard of writing and especially photography on food blogs has skyrocketed."




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