Live Blog: Voice: The New Generation



Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel
210 Peachtree Street Atlanta
United States

Welcome to the BlogHer food ’11 liveblog of the The New Generation panel.

On this panel we have Lauren McMillan, Kamran Siddiqi, Tessa Arias, Elissa Bernstein and Hannah Queen.  They are all part of the Kitchen Generation.

 “We started blogging when in our teens.  3/5 ths of us still are.” - Lauren

LAUREN – “I started blogging 15 years ago on my b’day.  I’d just been diagnosed with Celiac disease.  I wanted to share the pent up excitement that I was going to become healthy again and figuring out what gluten free means to me.”

KAMRAN –“ I’ve been food blogging for 2 years.  I was originally blogging about randomness.”  (Friends told him that he might as well start a blog about food.)  “The community has been supportive.  We don’t push people away.”

TESSA – Food blogging helped her decide to go to Culinary school.

ELISSA started blogging at 16.  It came naturally to her because her whole family cooks.

HANNAH – started at 18.  Started blogging and found out her passion was photography.

LAUREN – We all found a community through blogging.  We all met on Twitter.

KAMRAN – We all met at different times.  Lauren commented on my bagel recipe.  Tessa emailed me about html coding.

LAUREN – It started on twitter. 

KAMRAN – We were all on twitter the same night.

Lauren – it turned into skype.  We all come from different backgrounds and locations and socio-economic backgroundS.  Everything.  Except food.  Food is our passion.  We love to talk about food, photograph, etc.  We only met in person 24 hours ago and we feel like we’ve known each other forever.

ELISSA  – There’s a giant untapped community of teen bloggers.  Some ways being young prevents people from taking you seriously.  Why would I wanted to hear about a 17 year old ? 

Lauren – We were told that the Internet is a scary place. 

KAMRAN– and to stay away from creepers  

Hannah – there’s been a transformation finding food blogging.  It’s finding friends and it’s part of our lives now.  It’s part of our identity.

KAMRAN - It’s about being supportive.  We share as much knowledge as we can.  We share it one email at a time.


<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: How will you transition from teen to adult blog?>>

TESSA – Good question.  I think it’s interesting us starting out lives and growing into adulthood and finding ourselves in our blog.

HANNAH – I’ve gotten career opportunities.  I think it’s a great tool going into adulthood.

<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: What are you going to do about your blog names as you get older?>>

ELISSA – People are going to think I’m 17 forever.  <<Everyone laughs.>> I’m 19 now, people who actually read my blog have gone with me from being a high school senior .  I’ve gone from being more optimistic to realistic.  I don’t feel that terrible about the site being the same…except the math.

KAMRAN – People thought he was older than he is until he added his photo.  He’s changed his tone to more sophisticated and poetic.  “I don’t think the name matters about our site, it matters what the content is.”

TESSA – Says Elissa used her age in a positive way (with name in title).  She says the food blogging world is for everyone.

Lauren – I’ll probably end up changing it at some point.  I don’t want people to think I’m still a teenager when I’m 30.  I’ll probably change it.  As I grow I want it to grow with me.  It’s a huge part of my life and how I communicate.

ELISSA  – Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you don’t have to take yourself seriously.  (She has even posted about getting her driver’s license and says people get a tone of nostalgia reading her blog.)

<<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE:  What’s been the response from parents as to it being your career?>>
HANNAH – Since she’d decided against college her parents were happy that she’d found a career path.  They were supportive.

LAUREN – I didn’t tell my friends for a year and a half.  I thought it was weird and made me different, but then later, it made me different!  Blogs were something where people ranted about things.

KAMRAN  – Until about a year ago my mother didn’t know I did a food blog.  People looked at me first and said, “You bake? You’re a dude!” (After he brought in baked goods they took him more seriously.)  It’s my way of artistically expressing myself and sharing with others. 

<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: When I was your age I was thinking about boys and sex?  How far do you go in terms of sharing?>>

ELISSA – There’s definitely a line.  I have an image.  There are a lot of 9 year olds, grandmothers who read my blog.  

Hannah – There has to be that line so we can keep doing it.

KAMRAN – There is a line there.  I say, “My aunt S” I don’t mention my sister that much.  People think I’m an only child. I don’t mention that my parents are divorced. My blog is my happy place.

LAUREN – I will talk about my health.  Like last year I missed 3 months of school (due to illness), I couldn’t get out of bed.  Sharing it makes it easier.  I know I’m not the only one, people see how I deal with it and it lets them see a different way to deal with it and show how it can work.

KAMRAN- Yeah, we try to keep it real.  We leave out some parts of our lives that we don’t want everyone to know.

HANNAH – You have to find the line for you,  to make blogging work for you.

TESSA – I wrote recently about my decision to go to culinary school.  (She got so many comments it let her know she’s not alone.)

<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE - What are some of the advantages in telling your stories from a young perspective?>>

LAUREN – The hope aspect.  We have our lives ahead of us.  Well, you all do too (laughter)!  Seeing how people compare and dealt with these situations at our age.

Hannah – Having a major part of our lives documented.

ELISSA - I’ve grown a lot. 

KAMRAN - From each post on my site I learn what I should do, shouldn’t do

ELISSA – Her Dad took her to her first networking event because she was too young to drive.  The first half hour no one would talk to her.  Her Dad helped by pushing her to talk to people.  After a while people starting talking to her because she was “short, young and out of place”.

KAMRAN – We learn from negative comments.  Sometimes I press delete without flinching, other times I learn from those that love us and hate us.

<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: What kind of kitchen do you have?>>

ELISSA - Before she left for college her Dad got her a steamer trunk and shipped her baking things to college in Boston.  “The summer before I baked 60 things in season to keep the blog going during the school year. “

KAMRAN– No one in his family bakes.  I travel with my Kitchenade.  Bakes in families kitchen on the weekends.

Lauren – I bake in the kitchen at home.

<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: Are PR contacting you or are you contacting companies?>>

KAMRAN – We (Kitchen Generation) don’t contact companies.  I don’t do anything like write about cookies for (a free product) … it’s not worth our time if it’s not helping the site we’re trying to build.

ELISSA – I didn’t think about it.  It happened organically.

<<about their blogs>> 

KAMRAN – I’m anal about my layout.  (He started with html on Blogger and decided he needed to move to Wordpress and get his own server.)  “I try to keep it simple and sophisticated and I do a lot of blues.  I don’t know why, I just like it.”

LAUREN – I couldn’t do what any of them do.  I don’t write like Kam, I’m not organized like Tessa, Hannah’s photos are amazing and I don’t write like Elissa.  We’re all unique.  When you try to be someone else you lose yourself.  Blogging is just an extension of yourself.

KAMRAN – Blogging is my journal.  If you’re going to lie on your site, you’re basically lying to yourself.

HANNAH – Youre brand is you.  We started so early our brand is just us.

<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: Is there an urge to reedit the past?>>

KAMRAN  – I don’t delete any of my posts.  I did delete some that didn’t belong on there, like here’s a recipe and that’s it.  I want to go back and reedit the photos but not the content.

TESSA  –  It’s super embarrassing to look back, but it wouldn’t be authentic to change the past.

Lauren – I love being able to see how I wrote and spoke at 15.

<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: What’s the demographic for who’s reading you guys?>>

Hannah – it’s all over the place

<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: Where do you see the future of food blogging?>>

ELISSA – I hope it’s not Twitter.  I hope everything goes back to print.  I like seeing my name in a newspaper. 

HANNAH – I don’t think Twitter will overtake blogging.

KAMRAN – They want to read more than “eating dinner”.  (He says that people want to read about how the dinner was made and how it tastes.)

TESSA  – I don’ t think it’s going that way (to magazines) look how many have shut down.

ELISSA – I know I’m a Blogger but I think of myself as a writer.  I like having publications and different ways of getting yourself out there.

<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE:  I works for UN World Food program.  Are you engaged in giving back?  In the UN we’re trying to help so many people around the world.>>

LAUREN – When the earthquake in Haiti happened I made a recipe book that made people feel at home (by using their local recipes).  I raised 6,000 from that. 

KAMRAN – I volunteer in local food pantries.  A lot of people need to eat and they need to eat well.  My grandfather used to take us every Christmas to serve people that came in (to shelters).

LAUREN – Food is a way of giving and sharing.

HANNAH – (She mentioned that there are food programs through blogging and said that there should be more of those.)

<<on funding Kitchen Generation, their blogs and supplies>>

KAMRAN – I started making and selling cakes, cupcakes just so I could put money into the Kitchen Generation and my own site.

ELISSA  – Things I’ve posted were things my parents wanted for dinner that night.

(Discussing how they can’t afford specialty foods and that what they use is accessible.)

TESSA – I got a job in a cooking wear store and that’s how I pay for everything.

They all will used canned goods, but not as the whole dinner.

<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: Do any of you have ads on your sites?>>

Tessa has ads.  Hannah said she’d like to have small ads for Etsy shops.  Tessa says she takes ads because she supports herself.  Elissa says things like vanilla beans, which are a luxury otherwise and being able to come to the BlogHer Food conference are things she gets instead of taking ads.

LAUREN –  What’s great about the online world is that age is somewhat irrelevant.  Blogging allows you to be world citizens.

<<QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE:  What are the goals and dreams for Kitchen Generation?>>

KAMRAN – To find and inspire other teen food bloggers.

LAUREN – Our favorite definition of ‘generation’ is everybody living at one time.  We’re saying anybody can cook.

KAMRAN – Anybody can bake a cake.  If I can do it you can do it.

TESSA  – The goals are surpassed I never thought we’d be up here.

HANNAH – To inspire people to get back in the kitchen.

ELISSA – It’s never too early or too late to get in the kitchen.  It’s a good source of inspiration.  Simple enough for a pre-teen or for people who are in their 70’s or 80’s and want to make a cake for their grandchildren.

<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE:  What inspires you to create for your blog when you don’t want to?>>

KAMRAN – I used to feel guilty if I didn’t post every day.  Now I don’t feel guilty at all.  If they don’t appreciate that I need my time.  It’s quality over quantity.

LAUREN – I don’t have a schedule.  I do it based on my life and how the baking is fitting in.  If I have exams or am tired that means there won’t be a new post. 

ELISSA – It’s hard to not be inspired.  Go to a food blog for ½ an hour. 

KAMRAN  – Go to your cookbooks to be inspired.  (He says he’s constantly inspired by cookbooks and blogs.)

HANNAH – Schedules work for some people.

TESSA  – If she doesn’t have 3 posts backed up, she worries. 

LAUREN – I give my brother an open ended question, what should I bake?

<<<QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE:  She wants to know if 11 is too young for her daughter to start blogging and asks for suggestions for age of food bloggers?>>>

KAMRAN – If you can write you can blog.

TESSA  – As long as child is protected it can be a great

ELISSA  – She says blogging is fun and that it keeps her writing once a week.

HANNAH – The food blogging community is a great place to start.

LAUREN -  As long as it’s HER than wants to do it and if she wants to stop, stop.

<<on writing about food>>

HANNAH  – She’s not sure if she’ll write about food forever.  “If we continue or not, it’s been fantastic.  It’s shown us our career paths.”

ELISSA  – Food helped her decide to change her college major.   “Good food makes me want to write.  It actually pushed me over to a creative fiction major.”

TESSA  – I can’t imagine stopping any time.  I haven’t thought about stopping.