Should Newer Recipe Writers Threaten Established Pros?

Syndicated

Amy Reiley started a wildfire on an IACP blog post recently, when she said hobby food bloggers who don’t test recipes thoroughly and don’t charge enough are sidelining professionals like herself.

Pappardelle & peony

Here’s a sample:

We, the professional journalists, researchers, home economists, recipe developers, food stylists, and photographers are getting aced out of much needed work in our chosen field by stay-at-home moms and accountants with a cooking hobby.

Enraged food writers—mostly bloggers—piled on in the comments, which led to closed comments and a new post trying to explain the old one, which led to more irritated comments. In other words, two excellent reads.

But this argument is nothing new. The old guard always competes with newer, hungrier people with less experience who charge less. Reilly thinks it’s not just the old guard that gets hurt, but readers who try published recipes by the less experienced and get a dud.

I’m not sure. Decades ago, I was a less-experienced recipe writer too. I got my break when a publishing company promoted a young editor to editor of a new food magazine, Sunset Custom Publishing, created for Safeway. I called the editor to congratulate her and pitch stories. She accepted a bunch of features, then said she wanted recipes. I had never written a recipe before. But I said yes.

Did I know what I was doing? That’s a complicated answer. I cooked each dish twice or three times and made small adjustments to improve the flavor. I guess I faked it well enough, or the editor would not have continued to hire me. To develop my recipes, I read several others and arrived at my own version. Sunset’s test kitchen cooks made each one, and they passed muster. I freelanced for that magazine for years, and the editor paid me well. I even had a regular recipe column.

Did I sideline a more experienced recipe writer ? No idea. I wasn’t stopping anyone else from pitching the editor, and others wrote recipes for the magazine as well.

Just who are these newcomer recipe writers Reiley mentions? I’m calling them emerging professionals. They might have been hobby bloggers who posted for pleasure. Now these bloggers have decided that because they’re enjoying the process, and because it’s so much work, they’d like to get paid.

Professional recipe developers, on the other hand, already get paid to write recipes for companies and publications. Companies expect them to come up with clearly written recipes that are not adapted from pre-existing ones. They also expect that the professionals test them so they work every time for a mainstream audience. Companies hire these professionals because they have confidence in the recipes. These recipe writers may also be published cookbook authors, which only adds to their credibility.

Professional recipe writers arrive from many paths. In the past, women with degrees in home economics became recipe developers. Now chefs, journalists and cooking teachers write recipes. Nutritionists and dietitians write recipes. So do owners of food businesses and restaurants, cooking school graduates, and graduates of food studies programs. And bloggers. Lots of bloggers.

I’m wondering about Reiley’s argument. Does quality suffer when the less experienced write recipes? Does that mean they shouldn’t? Or can newbies do a decent job if they work hard and learn their craft? Isn’t that how professional recipe writers got there?

Dianne Jacob is a blogger, author and writing coach specializing in food. She blogs at Will Write for Food and is the author of Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More.

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