Chefs@Google: Amanda Hesser, "Food52"

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 27.01.2012

>>Female Presenter: Hi everybody. Thanks so much for coming. Amanda Hesser is here today
and she's probably best known as long time food writer and staff writer at the New York
times where she created the two columns Food Diary and Recipe Redux . And she was also
the food editor at the Times magazine where she launched the style magazine, T Living.
She has written several books including Cooking for Mr. Latte, which I loved. [chuckles] And
her two latest books which are her two cookbooks. The Essential New York Times Cookbook and
Food 52 which is based on the website she co-founded, of food 52 dot com. So please
join me in welcoming to Google New York Amanda Hesser.
>>Presenter: So Amanda, thank you so much for being here.
>>Amanda: Thanks for having me.
>>Presenter: We're thrilled to have you. And we're, first of all, sorry that Merrill couldn't
join us. I know she's off doing more important things than coming to Google.
>>Amanda: Mostly just being very pregnant.
>>Presenter: So I'm glad she didn't get caught up in the whole baby Beyonce debacle. She's
still waiting it out and not -- good.
>>Amanda: [laughing] She'll be at the hospital, thankfully
>>Presenter: She'd be actually able to see her baby. That's a good thing. So Amanda can
you talk to us about how you got your start in food writing.
>>Amanda: Well, I started by cooking. I was in college studying finance and economics
and I was, you know, kind of lost and so, started -- I did a study abroad at the London
School of Economics and traveled around and had this sort of classic 'aha moment' that
lots of Americans have the first time they travel in Europe which is like, “oh my God,
the food is so amazing here and it matters so much here”. And I'm really interested
in this. I grew up with really great food and so, it was just that, you know, a great
lightbulb moment that I decided, no I'm not going to go on an interview and wear a suit.
I'm going to instead work
>>Presenter: Where one to Google
>>Amanda: -- exactly. [laughs] Work for free in a restaurant in Boston. So I started by
working in restaurants and bakeries and I drove a bread truck around Boston in the middle
of the night and I also -- and then I moved to Europe after college and I worked -- I
started in Germany and I worked in Switzerland and Italy and France, cooking and baking.
And, you know, I had some, you know, unusual jobs like I mean I worked through the night
as a baker. I lived above the bakery and I worked with you know 25 old men. [laughter]
And that was -- it was actually really fun. And I think what happened was that over time,
I realized that if you're going to be a chef or baker, like, you just know when you have
like great talent. And if you don't. You know if you have the talent to become like a Jean-Georges
of the world or not. And I felt like to work that hard, like, you had to have that talent.
And I don't. [laughs] And I also always found myself, like, as much as I love being in the
kitchen, I liked being on the other side of the door. Like, I liked dining as well. And
I just -- I like the stories behind food. My interest were really in like the narrative
of the day in a restaurant. You know, all the kind of different characters who would
stream in. And that was like the writer in me. Like it took me awhile to kind of figure
out that actually what I really wanted to do was kind of write about it. And so, and
then when I finally did, I just -- I mean, there were no blogs then. Which is letting
you know how old I am. [laughter] But I did -- you know I did have an e-mail account in
France which was one of those Compuserve plus like 12 digit.
Do you remember those.
>>Presenter: This is how old I am. I was in college. I didn't even know what they were.
>>Amanda: France had this crazy thing called Minitel. Do you know Minitel? Oh you know
it. [laughs] [audience member calls out] It was like Minitel and e-mail. That's pretty
much all we had. So I just started writing and sending pitches and I got lucky. My first
story was in the Washington Post and then I got hired. And then I started writing a
book actually which was my first book called The Cook and the Gardener. And I -- right
after I finished that basically I got hired at the New York times which was completely
a stroke of luck. And I was, like, all right I guess I'm a writer now. [laughs]
>>Presenter: So it really just happened from you just deciding to write about something
you were passionate about not really knowing you were a writer.
>>Amanda: Exactly. You know when you want -- you need to express yourself in some way,
writing was the form that sort of made sense then and I got some lucky breaks. So then
spent a lot of years kind of actually improving.
>>Presenter: So now having started in print, I mean, you have such a strong background
in print with the Times and all the books that you've written etcetera. And then making
this move to the web, how did that happen? Or what sort of prompted that?
>>Amanda: Boredom one. I mean, the thing is like because I didn't intend to become a writer,
I don't think like I was necessarily like born to be a writer for the rest of my life.
And you know I do think I had an entrepreneurial side which is why I studied finance and economics.
But it took me awhile to put the two together. So I had been at the New York times for 11
years. It's an amazing company to work for and they -- you know, I had been able to do
a lot of different things while I was there. I was a reporter. I was an editor. I did restaurant
reviewing. I did wine writing. I traveled a ton. I created new things. I wrote books.
But then I sort of felt like I was maxing out on the creative things I could do.
>>Presenter: Once you've acted with Meryl Streep, you're done.
>>Amanda: Yeah, I sort of feel like I had the perfect acting career because I got a
part. I ended up actually in the movie and then I never had to tryout again.
>>Presenter: Find yourself.
>>Amanda: Exactly. But so I -- I just thought like you know I could stay at the New York
times and I could have a very fine career and retire there, right? Ho hum. And or I
could pursue other things. And I actually left the times to do a different start up
that had nothing to do with food. It was kind of a digital time line of your life because
I was feeling we are all living online and I feel like it's very diffuse and I wanted
to find a way to pull it together. I mean, obviously it was a very ambitious idea which,
you know, but it was great because I actually spent a year kind of immersing myself in the
New York startup world. And you know meeting lots of people. You know, I ended up teaming
up with two guys who had just graduated from ITP. And you know we build prototype and then
we realize we couldn't--. It was just too big. So we ended up doing a little Twitter
app called Plodt. Which -- and it was just, you know, a good kind of learning curve that
has worked out to be a nice starting point for Merrill and me to get started on Food
52. I met a lot of people. I had a sense of how to start a company.
>>Presenter: Right. So now when you started Food 52, was the intention just to do another
startup because food is your background that's the natural place to land or.
>>Amanda: We had a problem we wanted to solve and we decided to try to get at that solution
with a very simple proof of concept. The problem we wanted to solve was that like, in the early
days of the Internet, there were a couple of really good recipe databases started, all
recipes dot com, Epicurius and the like. Something called Recipes Are, which is now food dot
com. And, but over the years I mean, you know, what they had done was sort of no longer kind
of useful because they've grown to become these giant recipe databases but with like
sort of no filtering. So it's like this mosh pit of recipes. And we felt like that was
not something that appealed to us as people who really cared about feed.
>>Presenter: You were looking for something online that wasn't.
>>Amanda: It was like too much. But then on the other side was this other interesting
thing that was going on which, of course, was the explosion of food blogs. And the thing
that was interesting to us -- it was not like technology had allowed this mass of people
to express themselves. Of course that is one aspect. But to us it
was that in 2008 I think food blogs were one of the top three blog topics. And that to
us was signified a cultural shift from Americans like being interested and excited about food
-- like, shifting from there to actually knowing so much about food that they wanted to express
themselves and be credited for their knowledge and their talents in the kitchen. And that
was a very like important shift, because to us it meant that there were -- if there were
this many people creating their own food blogs, think of how many people who are equally knowledgeable
and talented who just are not going to take the time and they don't have any place online.
There's no place for them to talk to each other, to get celebrated, and there is no
-- and the rest of the blogs are incredibly diffuse. So there's no kind of like, you know,
hub for people who really cared about food and wanted this curated, filtered experience.
So we thought, "okay, well great." That's a big thing to tackle. Why don't we start
by doing what we know how to do well. Which is create a cookbook. Community cookbooks
are an American tradition. It's a concept that people can instantly understand. So let's
create the first crowd sourced cookbook.
>>Presenter: So the goal was always to go back to print 37 so it was going to be crowd
source out the recipes.
>>Amanda: Print was sort of -- that was part of, but that wasn't our goal. Our goal was
to build a business. We wanted to prove that our theory was right and there was a business
worth building. And so, we felt like if all we did was create a cookbook at the end of
the year. And by the way the idea was to do it in 52 weeks. Which is why we're called
Food 52. And the beauty of that is that you in 52 weeks you cover every season, every
holiday and you get this nice number of recipes. Because we were doing two contests per week.
And so, and I'll get to the contests in a second. But it was -- we knew that we could
get a book contract so we went to Harper Collins. We got a two book deal. We took our advance
and we spent all of it on building our site and getting our company started. So we felt
like, if at the end of the year, we're like there's not a business here we knew at the
very least we could create a great book. And I do think it turned out to be a very good
book and has been reviewed very well. But in -- during the course of that year, we saw,
yes, indeed there was a business here. And what was interesting was that, like, it wasn't
just that we attracted people who knew -- like, knew a lot about food, loved cooking and wanted
a place to kind of convene with others, but that food bloggers saw us as a complimentary
platform for themselves. Like a place where they could draw attention to their work and
bring people back to their own sites.
>>Presenter: So it's fascinating though that you started with a book advance to build an
online platform and then take it back to print. So can you talk to us just a little bit about
why did you feel like you wanted to go back to print with it, ultimately if you solved
the problem of how do you find recipes and you've created this incredible site which
we'll talk about in a few minutes, then why put it back into book format.
>>Amanda: Couple of reasons. One was like a business reason. Nobody is going to give
us money to just build a site. Yes, we could do that, but I knew the issues involved with
trying to raise money to do something like that. Like, it would be better if we bootstrapped
and then raised money later which is what we did. But the other -- the main reason with
the book was just that we felt very strongly -- and of course this is two and a half years
ago. We do actually feel differently now. But at the time, our thinking was, you know,
how often do you get the chance to contribute to creating a physical object? You know? And
I mean, I think a lot of people fantasize about creating their own cookbook, but they
have other jobs. Very few people have 100 plus original recipes in them. And there's
nothing wrong with that. I mean, if you can create ten great recipes, I think that's a
great accomplishment. You know? So if you can sort of collect a bunch of talented people,
it's a way for everybody to have a say. And the way our system works is we have recipe
contests and that's the way we kind of curate the book from an editorial perspective is
we name recipe themes that we know over time will go together to form a great book. We
name the themes. People send in their recipes. We read every recipe. We have a team of testers
who test the most promising ones. And then we post the two finalists. And I will show
you how this works. But then, anyone can vote. So the beauty of this is that this isn't just
a place for people who are creative cooks. It's a place for people who have, you know,
who are really opinionated about food to have a say. Because by voting on a recipe, you
are essentially editing a cookbook that's going to be in Barnes and Noble and Amazon
>>Presenter: And so, what will the second book be?
>>Amanda: The second book? It will be another Food 52 cookbook.
>>Presenter: So another in a year of recipes.
>>Amanda: Yes. So technically we should have started our third book last September. And
we decided instead to create an iPad app which I'll show you as well.
>>Presenter: Okay. Great so what's your favorite recipe from the current book.
>>Amanda: I can't say. It's like choosing between your children.
>>Presenter: I would totally choose between my kids. I only have one. One's got to be
your favorite. One's kind of your favorite.
>>Amanda: There's so many that I like. I'm just going to name one and I'm sure you know.
I'll regret this later. But like fried chick peas. I love it because you take a can of
chick peas and you drain it and you shallow fry it with sliced garlic, lemon zest and
then when it comes -- you know when the chick pea fries, it's skin kind of flips up so it's
got these little crisp wings and it's nice and soft in the center and crisp around the
edges and you season it with salt and smoked paprika.
I mean It's so easy and everyone loves them. Yeah.
>>Presenter: You're making me very hungry. These talks make me very hungry at lunchtime.
That sounds good. And so, what recipe would you recommend for Googlers or New Yorkers
to try in their tiny New York kitchens.
>>Amanda: That's a perfect one.
>>Presenter: Chick peas and a frying pan.
>>Amanda: It's not -- you can shallow fry so you don't have to deep fry.
>>Presenter: So you have some exciting new things coming up with all the apps and all
>>Amanda: I just want to show you what we're up to and all that.
>>Presenter: I'll be of no help..
>>Amanda: All right. So this is great. Come along. So this is our site. And I just want
to give you kind of a quick tour on -- it's very curated. So most of the pictures that
you're seeing here on the home page, we take. But they -- all of the recipes come from our
community. So we launched our site with these contests. And then, we also created our own
content. And over time, we noticed that people were talking to each other in the comments
like answering each other's food questions, their cooking questions, their answers were
thorough, they were generous. We have a very nice community which kind of freaks some people
out. And you know, like, this observation combined with the fact that for, you know,
the decade and and a half that I had been a food writer and editor, like, every relative
every friend they e-mail me they call me when I worked for the New York Times. Readers would
call me at my desk and call me my cake looks like it's going to flop, what do I do, which
always amused me because I always thought if I'm in the trouble in the kitchen, I don't
think like I'm not going to call my local newspaper or my national newspaper and ask
for help. But people did.
>>Presenter: I'm going to start doing that though. I'm going to start calling you.
>>Amanda: See, now we have hot line. So we created Food 52 Hotline and the idea is you
can ask any food or cooking question. You can mark it as urgent. You -- and you can
-- and the crowd answers. And so, the way it works is -- I just want to show you. So
there was a question that I wanted to highlight earlier -- okay, here. Can I substitute honey
for agave syrup? For stir fry. So this is -- somebody we have iPads at Whole Foods Market
stores around the country and somebody on one of those iPads answered that question
and as you can see two people think this is an excellent answer. And the thing is you
crowd source the answers and the crowd curates. So that the person whose question it is can
get a sense of like okay this is probably the best answer. And then, also over time,
you know as these questions come up in Google, you know, somebody who's new to the site who
has the same question can quickly see oh, this is the answer I should pay attention
to. We also have experts -- this is -- what you're looking at is a very rudimentary form
of this service. And we're going to spend the next three to six months actually improving
it vastly because it has proven to work very well. Nobody else is doing it. And the thing
about food and cooking questions is they're different from other Q and A sites because
they have this -- obviously you can Google tons of food questions and get great answers.
But you -- the thing about cooking is that a lot of the answers are about experience.
And these -- this is the voice of experience here. And you, additionally, often you have
a food and cooking question when you're in the grocery store and you went to buy an ingredient
for your recipe and they don't have it and you can't think of a quick substitute. Or
you're at the stove and things are not going well and you need some help. This platform
kind of serves that. So we have an iPhone app. I want to quick show you that. Hopefully
it will show up on this screen. I'm not sure if this is going to be too small. We'll check
it out. Oh, well, it's a little bit dark and small. But the idea is so you can ask questions
from your iPhone. And the other thing that we do is that -- we have a very rudimentary
reputation system which we'll be working on which are these pies. And the fuller the pie
the more trustworthy the person asking or answering the question is. So, that's one
thing. And we -- additionally we have is -- we have experts. So people like Michael Ruhlman,
Dorie Greenspan, Shuna Lydon, who's a great pastry chef in New York City. They answer
questions for us as well. So the idea for this to become a place for people like them
to reach another audience, but it's also a great kind of treat for our audience to have
kind of one of their food heroes answer questions. And also elicit conversation. Because it's
an open forum and it's not moderated lots of sorts of things happen. For instance, at
the holidays, somebody was like 'hey, let's do a Food 52 secret Santa'. So 100 people
in our community exchanged food gifts that they made with each other around the country.
So people they've never met except for on the site, they sent food gifts to each other
and they organized it all through the hot line. So that's kind of fun. And then last
thing I just wanted to show. Well, let me see if I can actually get to our contest page
which would be nice. No, not going to happen.
>>Presenter: And it's even on Chrome so I can't even make it show.
>>Amanda: I know. What is up? I was just on there. Look at the contests. They're great.
[laughter] You know, I don't know what else to say. But okay. So let's move on. Lastly,
I want to show you an iPad. It's kind of like an app. It's kind of like a book. We did it
-- it's built on the Inkling platform and we worked with Open Air Publishing. So after
we finished our second book we thought, well yes we could do a third book and a fourth
book but there was like the time delay between finishing the production of the book and actually
having it come out was so long. It was actually almost 18 months for the first book. Yeah,
it was. And it's going to be 12 months for our next book. And it just feels like we are
a company that lives online and lives very much in the present and this delay of 12 months
just doesn't feel quite right. So we decided to do an experiment. So in August, we decided
well let's do a holiday app and let's crowd source and curate not just recipes but entertaining
tips and survival tips and let's make it a survival guide for the holidays because even
like experienced cooks get freaked out by suddenly 12 family members coming over for
dinner. And all of that. So we used our contests system on our site to go do holiday-themed
contests. And in nine weeks we created this app -- it was in the app store. So it has
75 recipes, 100 minutes of original video. 150 tips that we crowd sourced from our community.
I just thought I'd show you a little bit of it. So here is our drinks chapter. And you
know the thing that's sort of nice about this is you can just obviously, which we don't
have on our site but it would be nice is you can do little pop-ups and we -- oops-- we
have step by step slide show. And we have -- here you can ask the hot line any question
from the app. I mean, you know it's nothing like technically like exciting, but the thing
is interesting to us is you can kind of do these very focused topics around food and
crowd source them and put them together very quickly. And so, we charge $9.99 for this.
And so, we have -- let me just show you a couple of other things. We did a buying guide.
So we, you know, curated all of this. These link through to Amazon. We did menus. Hold
on a second here. Here we go. So the idea is here's like a traditional holiday menu.
All of these recipes again come from our community. And there you go. So we are obviously like
we're not totally mainstream. We have a little bit of higher end approach to food. And I
think that increasingly we're kind of alone in that online which we sort of feel is an
advantage to us.
>>Presenter: It's really beautiful. Thank you. Looks really gorgeous. Are you going
to be doing anything for Android? Will you be moving to Android?
>>Amanda: Probably. Not yet.
>>Presenter: So what's next.
>>Amanda: So we are working on -- what is next? Well, we're going to spend a lot of
time on hot line because we just have seen, I think, mostly through the app that like
people the adoption from the app is really great and we've basically haven't publicized
it at all and people use it a lot. So, you know, and there's just like little things.
If you follow Mario Batali on Twitter, he answers food questions a lot.
>>Presenter: Yeah, all the time
>>Amanda: A lot of chefs do that. Nearly every site now does the Thanksgiving 101 or the
Thanksgiving hot line or whatever. People cook every day of the year. And so, we just
feel like it's a great opportunity for us. Because we basically have built the foundation
for it.
>>Presenter: So just to continue to sort of build all these pieces out that you've already
>>Amanda: Yeah. Yeah. You know because we do -- we tend to like a company do the -- you
know we like -- we experiment a lot and we put things up not unfinished all the time.
And so, like that has been evolving for like a year. And now it's starting to get traction.
It's given us time to sort of see if we were going to make this great, how would we do
>>Presenter: It looks great already. Before we turn it over to questions from the audience
which I'm sure there are a few burning. Well, you can ask your food questions through the
app. You all know that now. So don't ask food questions unless you're also going to tweet
it to your app or e-mail it or whatever. So I have a couple of blanks -- fill-in-the-blanks
for you..
>>Amanda: Okay, great.
>>Presenter: Crowd sourcing is.
>>Amanda: is community building.
>>Presenter: Print is
>>Amanda: wilting.
>>Presenter: Diplomatic answer. [laughter]
>>Presenter: Julia Child is....
>>Amanda: Difficult.
>>Presenter: Food bloggers are
>>Amanda: Energetic.
>>Presenter: My favorite thing about New York is
>>Amanda: The people.
>>Presenter: A food trend I like is
>>Amanda: Growing your own.
>>Presenter: A food trend I hate is
>>Amanda: Oh, like, obsession with hamburgers. [laughter]
>>Presenter: You're the second person that's said something about hamburgers. Andrew Carmellini
also said something about hamburgers, I don't know why. But then he said I love Hamburgers.
So we never got to the bottom of that. We'll have to ask him. If you see him, ask him.
I don't know what the deal is.
>>Amanda: It's more like this obsession over like the minute details of pizza and hamburgers.
>>Presenter: About like what goes in? >>Amanda: Not that it's not interesting. It's
just like every single publication has done like the, you know, we've explored, you know,
the depths of the burger and here's everything you need to know. I'm like, I'm tired.
>>Presenter: I figure I know it. >>Amanda: Yeah [giggles]
>>Presenter: Food trucks are
>>Amanda: Okay. I mean, they're not as good as they are in Asia, but they don't really
have trucks. [laughter]
>>Presenter: Reality chef competitions are.
>>Amanda: Oh, fun. I like them. Fan. I'm only supposed to do one word, right? So kind of
>>Presenter: Oh you can have as many as you want. There's no rules for launching and iterating
this whole process. You can do whatever you want. Most surprising thing to me about Google
>>Amanda: I haven't really -- I mean, about it as a company or your offices? I haven't
seen that much of it, but -- umm -- some surprising thing.
>>Presenter: Well, actually I'll ask you a question. I remember when we came up with
recipe search.
>>Amanda: Well, I was just thinking about that. Yeah, well -- it's not because it's
going to sound like a complaint. But even Google hasn't figured out recipe search.
>>Presenter: But now you have. So there you go. We created a business opportunity for
>>Amanda: So I should thank you.
>>Presenter: You're welcome. [laughter]
>>Presenter: Okay, so how are we doing on time because I want to make sure we have time
for questions. A couple more minutes? So a couple of cooking at home questions because
this is all about home cooks. If I came to your home for dinner and I'm not angling for
an invitation, but I'm free on Friday in case you're wondering what would you make?
>>Amanda: Well, I've become much less ambitious mostly because I was driving my husband crazy
with too many courses. I was getting too stressed out. So I would probably make like -- I like,
like, kind of shaved salads. Like I'm kind of into trying. I like the challenge of something
-- taking something like kale or a sturdier vegetable and making an interesting salad
out of it. I really like slow roasted fish. It's actually like my -- for you, I would
make something more special. It's my lazy out. I don't want to have to worry about the
main course like giving me a hard time. So I like slow roast fish and then I do like
more interesting things around it. But I would make you my mother-in-law's almond cake.
>>Presenter: Oh, I'll come. Tomorrow.
>>Amanda: Okay.
>>Presenter: That sounds good. Almond cake.
>>Amanda: It's really good..
>>Presenter: Is it in the book.
>>Amanda: I actually call it my thank you cake. I've sent it across the country many
times. If there's somebody who has helped me out or I want to thank somebody, I make
it. . Because it gets better with time So you can send it. It's in actually the New
York Times Cookbook and Cooking for Mr. Latte but the better version is in the New York
Times Cookbook.
>>Presenter: You held out for Mr. Latte? Saved an ingredient.
>>Amanda: I improved it. No, we figured out a new technique. Yeah.
>>Presenter: Nice. What is in your fridge right now?
>> Amanda: Meyer lemons. Somebody sends me Meyer Lemons every holiday and then it makes
me really happy. Julia child's creme caramel, which we were doing -- we made because we
were going to do a series for YouTube about like how to tell -- because we figured out
that like all these questions on hot line, like are this perfect resource for like what
do cooks worry about, right? And so, we're going to do a series of videos for YouTube
that answers these questions. Everyone is always asking questions like when is x done?
When is y ready? Like you know how can I tell my pastry dough is ready? How can I tell if
the cake is done? How can I tell when my custard is done? That's like a classic one. It gets
asked once a week on the hot line. So we made her creme caramel. We undercooked it, cooked
it, over cooked it, and made a perfect version and videoed each version.
>>Presenter: How nice? That's a good idea.
>>Amanda: And then we ate it.
>>Presenter: And then it's all in your plate. Who does the dishes?
>>Amanda: My husband actually. Yeah.
>>Presenter: Well trained. What is the one thing you always make at home?
>>Amanda: That I always make at home? I have a couple of favorites. There's like a pancake
recipe. It's called heavenly hots. Which sounds like a late night cable offering.
>>Presenter: It does, a little bit. >>Amanda: But it's -- they're made with sour
cream and they're really super delicate. They basically have just enough flour to bind them
and they have a lot of eggs in them. And they're tiny little things and they puff up like little
soufflés and they taste like they have cream in the middle because they have so much sour
cream, that's essentially the liquid. Those are really good.
>>Presenter: Nice. You can make those for me, too.
>>Amanda: OK. No problem.
>>Presenter: What is one restaurant -- this is sort of off cooking at home but if your
at my home, we do eat out a lot what's the one restaurant that nobody knows about that
they should?
>>Amanda: I feel like, well, there's this chef who I like very much. And I -- I'm going
to butcher the name because it's Basque but Txikito. It's actually on Ninth Avenue at
like 21st. It's right next to Ko, thank you. Yeah, and she used to be at another tapas
place but she's a really good chef. Love her. Yeah.
>>Presenter: Well, now we know about it.
>>Amanda: There you go.
>>Presenter: So I would love to turn it over for questions if anyone has questions.
>>female #1: Hi there. Dying to get your thoughts on if you are kind of like venturing into
the cooking world slowly but trying. What recommendations do you have resources whatever
to kind of like build that experience. I mean, obviously you have to just practice, but you
have any other recommendations for kind of getting better at cooking.
>>Just like for home cooking -- not like professionally. I actually feel like if you find like even
if it's just. I think it's nice to have one cookbook or one recipe source that you kind
of cook a lot from because you kind of develop a relationship with it and I think it's really
important when you start out rather than hopping all over the place because I think then you
get overwhelmed and you get lots of different opinions. If you just start out with one place
where you get comfortable and then -- like something like do you like Heidi Swanson,
Super Natural Cooking? She has a blog, an incredibly popular blog called 101 Cookbooks
and she's a really good cook. Nothing super complicated and she has two good cookbooks
out. So I would think somebody like her would be worth trying out.
>>female #1: Thank you.
>>Amanda: You're welcome.
>>male #1: Thanks for coming today. Question about the contests and I think earlier you
said with your contests you have recipes submitted that are original recipes and you made a comment
earlier about if somebody had ten original recipes that's kind of like an accomplishment.
How do you guys define. How do you determine what is really original and what isn't in
terms of recipes that people document and put out.
>>Amanda: We do define in on the site because it is -- it's a really great question. And
it -- there is -- like, in terms of copyright. The only thing you can copyright in the recipe
are the steps, not the ingredients. So you can't copyright the thing as a whole. And
so, there's like a lot of -- there's a big gray area. To us it's not that gray, because
we feel like every recipe is inspired by one or many, many recipes or other influences.
And that's sort of like -- we -- our goal is to actually celebrate that narrative because
that's the history of cooking, right? So the idea that you're going to just like walk into
your kitchen I'm going to grab a little bit of this, grab a little bit of that and I'm
going to measure and I'm going to write my own recipe. Some people do that. Very few
people do. It's usually that they've been making Marcella Hazan's walnut cake for a
decade and they've decided you know what? I just want do it with pistachios and I'm
going to add some lemon zest. You're building on this foundation that Marcella Hazan and
probably somebody before her built, right? And so, that's great. What we do is like we
have a couple of -- like, the way we built our recipe entry form was very specific to
kind of resolving this issue. Or addressing it, I should say. But also to keep the quality
high. Like, people say to us it's a pain in the neck to up load a recipe to your site.
And we're like, good. Because we have 15,000 recipes have been unloaded to our site which
isn't a huge number but the quality is super high because you have to make a commitment
to do it, right? And that's step one. Because if you're just ripping off somebody's recipe,
you're probably not going to take the effort to copy it again [laughs] onto somebody else's
site. But additionally we ask you tell us about your recipe. Where did it come from?
What influences did you have? Tell us the story of your recipe. So that's one way we
can tell if somebody has done it. But you know like changing like two ingredients. You
kind of know if it's a different thing. Like, basically, like, you can tell it's your own
recipe when you -- like, when your personal voice ends up in the recipe, you know what
I mean? In the instructions you can tell this step is ready when the butter starts to brown
because you've done it. It's from your own personal experience. So I think when you're
adding that personal experience to your recipe, it starts to become yours. Yeah.
>>male #1: Thanksgiving >>Amanda: Yeah
>>female #2: Hello.
>>Amanda: Hi
>>female #2: So I'm in the middle of -- I'm really curious about this. I'm in the middle
of transitioning my recipes when I cook from index cards which is how I was raised. My
mom used to do index cards.
>>Amanda: Wow. Old School
>>female #2: Total old school. This started a couple years ago. But I've transitioned
now from index to notebooks to note pads to computer. Now they're just all over the place.
So my question for you is two fold. When you are cooking, creating recipes, or editing.
Where do you put the information? Do you do it digitally or do you still write it out.
And second, do you know of any sites that are around that can actually foster this process
that you can actually take your information and put it into store for your own personal
>>Amanda: There's this new site and I'm sorry I just haven't had much experience with it,
I've mostly just read about it. Paprika, it's called and it's supposed to address it. A
lot of people like Evernote recipes. I was just thinking you can even take pictures of
those cards and then like index them on or sort them on Evernote but I mean unfortunately
I'm not a great person to ask this because I tend to write recipes for publication. So
I'm usually like writing it into a CMS or, you know, into a word doc that I'm going to
hand into an editor. You know what I mean? So I actually have terribly organized recipes.
When I want to find my recipes, I go to the New York Times archives.
>>Presenter: You call the new food editor. Hey, how do I make this.
>>female #2: Interesting. Thanks.
>>Amanda: Sure.
>>male #2: Hi. You have a very focused recipe collection like you said. It seems very high
end, American-ish. If you expand your recipe base and your crowd are you going to change
or lose your community? Because that is one of the things that makes it special.
>>Amanda: Yeah. I don't think so. I mean, I think we already have one of our very active
community members lives in Kerala, India. He has obviously, you know, very kind of specific
approach -- he cooks only southern Indian food. But that hasn't like. People actually
welcome that. But I think if we were to grow very large, sub communities would form. You
>>male #3: Thanks for coming.
>>Amanda: Thanks for having me.
>>male #3: You talked about how you got started with food in general traveled around Europe.
Sounds like you had the ability to maybe study under certain chefs and do things like that.
And I assume that helped you in your cooking career. Most people probably don't have that
type of opportunity. And how possible is it do you think to be a good chef? To be maybe
a great home cook if you don't have that and you do you know have access to watching TV
shows, access to the sites like Food 52. How important was that in shaping what you've
been able to do.
>>Amanda: You mean like working in actual kitchens.
>>male #3: And traveling.
>>Amanda: I did it in like a very scrappy way. I got a scholarship. I could not have
just dashed off to Europe or whatever. So you know I got a small scholarship. And then,
when you work in restaurants in Europe, you work six days a week. So all I need. I didn't
need any money except for a place to stay and often restaurants will put you up if you're
like a foreigner. I lived in some weird places, but yeah. But anyway. So but, yeah, like,
I mean the thing about going and working at restaurant, it kick starts your education.
I wouldn't say it's the most positive education, because you learn everything by making mistakes
and being yelled at. So like I think -- also like, I mean, now food television didn't exist
then. So had I had access to that, maybe that would have been a great way to do it. I mean,
now they have like Food Network has, Food Network -- I'm sorry not Food Network -- Top
Chef has like Top Chef University -- an app where it's like you can learn to cook. They're
not cheap. They're like 200 bucks a year or something. I actually think. I mean, if you
can work nights in a restaurant. It's just a a great experience. I always think everybody
should work in a restaurant at some point in their life because they're fascinating.
You know, they're like theaters.
>>Presenter: I agree. They're totally like theaters. I worked in two restaurants the
same way. It's amazing experience because it's like watching finely tuned symphony in
the back of the restaurant and then you also realize what you should not do as a customer
because it will piss off the kitchen.
>>Amanda: Everyone should be a waitress so you're not rude to servers anymore. But the
thing is like restaurant cooking, though, there's so much repetition you're not actually.
You're never going to learn a huge amount at any one restaurant. So in some ways you'd
have to supplement it anyhow.
>>male #3: Without having that experience.
>>Amanda: Oh, definitely. I just think that like cooking and eating is all about experience.
When people say they want to become food writers, one of the things I say never eat the same
meal twice. Make that extra effort to go to that new place or to try to cook something
else rather than like you know your old standby because it's really about exploring and experiencing
and that's the only way you kind of become knowledgeable. Yeah.
>>female #3: Hi. I loved your chapter in Cooking for Mr. Latte on dining alone. And I'm wondering
now that you're married and I think have a child, do you still find time to do that and
if so what are your new, I guess, go to spots for dining alone because you can't do that
in every restaurant.
>>Amanda: Oh, I haven't done it in so long. Wow. You say you can't do it in restaurants.
>>female #:3 No, no -- you can. . But I think there's certain restaurants that lend themselves
better to going and just having a nice meal alone.
>>Amanda: Well, the thing I feel about New York is a lot of restaurants have nice bars
you can eat at. That's really nice. I mean, one of my favorite spots, you know, and I
think I even mention -- I mean, I do love Craft -- like their bars as a great bar for
eating at. You know where I would go, Maialino because they have a really nice bar and a
nice menu and you have this view and it's I feel like it's the kind of place where you
wouldn't feel self-conscious.
>>female #3: I love that place so good recommendation.
>>Amanda: Oh, okay I'm sorry. Wish I could give you a secret new spot.
>>female #3: No, that's okay. Thanks [laughter]
>>Amanda: Yeah, thanks for having me.
>>Presenter: You're back.
>>male #1: I actually have kind of a follow up question about go to places. Being a New
Yorker who doesn't have a backyard that I could grow anything, where do you go locally
for meats or where do you shop basically.
>>Amanda: Well, I have this terrible experience last weekend. Which was I live in Brooklyn
Heights and on Cadman Plaza, there is a farmers' market on the weekends. During the week, too,
but I'm never there then. Lie, I showed up last weekend. It's like a family ritual. We
take our kids. They run around; I shop blah, blah, blah. They'd wiped out like half of
the vendors. And it just, I guess, the community can't support it but that's where I would
get. There was a great fish guy vegetables, blah, blah, blah. But grocery shopping in
Brooklyn Heights is not exciting otherwise. I just tend to like, you know, I might go
to Whole Foods. I might go to Union Market. You know, FreshDirect. Food 52, we kind of
rely on FreshDirect like a lot. Yeah, I know those delivery guys well. Yeah.
[laughter] >>Presenter: Any other questions? Great, well
thank you so much. >>male #4: I have a question
>>Oh, sorry.
>>male #4: Yeah, sorry about that. So, you actually make recipes submitted from people
on the Internet. What are some of the recipes that have totally missed the mark, like they
sounded great from the ingredients and the steps when you actually made them they didn't
turn out as good as you thought it would. >>Presenter: Mmmmm, that's a good question.
>>Amanda: It happens all the time. It's very funny because when we were -- I did this book
called the Essential New York Times Cookbook. It was like recipes from the entire New York
Times archive which is 150 years. And there was one recipe actually of mine we were thinking
of putting it in. I was like, ah, you know I haven't made that in a while; let's make
it. And it was so terrible. It's like everybody does it. Every week, we find obviously we
find clunkers. But you know we've read, I mean, thousands of recipes at this point so
we're kind of better at like knowing like pushing aside the clunkers right away. But
for the most part they're -- recipes tend to be clunkers only because people are not
-- especially on our site, only because they're not professional recipe writers and they forget
to put a key detail in. They forget to tell you to add water to a soup or whatever it
is. You know? So it tends to be stuff like that. But we don't change recipes. We won't
improve your recipe. So if it's bad, it's going to stay bad.
>>male #4: A little bit more butter, little bit more salt.
>>Amanda: Yeah, we let the commenters do that. But we ask them to be civil.
>>male #4: Does one recipe stick out in your mind as a real clunker.
>>Amanda: Not a single one. Sorry. Yeah yeah yeah.
>>Presenter: Great. Well thank you so much for your time, Amanda. That was great.
>>Amanda: Thank you so much for having me.