Crowdsourcing a cookbook: food52

Eoin Purcell

Cooking Light (Explored) by Flickr user Steve Wampler

Cooking Light (Explored) by Flickr user Steve Wampler

This is a nice idea
You now there must be something funky going on when Techcrunch reports on a new crowdsource cookbook initiative. Even if it is from Amanda Hesser (Wikipedia & Twitter) and Merrill Stubbs (Twitter), two pretty well connected folk. The site is called Food52 and right now it’s just a landing page and a sign up*:

The site and the book will appeal to anyone who ever wanted to write their own cookbook but never had the time. But it won’t be a free-for-all. Hesser and Stubbs will make editorial decisions with give-and-take from the site’s members. To guide the community, every week two themes will be presented which will act as a call for recipes. This week’s themes (they are really assignments) are “Your Best Grilled Pork Recipe” and “Your Best Watermelon Recipe.” Anyone can submit their favorite recipes, along with photos or videos. Then Hesser and Stubbs select the most promising ones, test them, and choose the best two for each theme. They present these back to the Food52 members, who get to vote which one will make it into the cookbook.

“There is a huge tradition of community cookbooks, but none of them are user vetted,” says Hesser. Users can take part in creating the cookbook by submitting their own recipes and helping to edit the submissions through comments, ratings, and votes. (Recipes can be flagged if someone tries to pass one off as their own that is actually from another cookbook). Anybody who submits a recipe selected as one of the two finalist recipes each week will get a free copy of the book along with cookware tailored to their recipe.

The iterative process should bring hardcore foodies and fans of the authors coming back every week. By the end of the 52 weeks, Hesser and Stubbs will not only have the recipes for their cookbook, but also a built-in and built-up audience already sold on the book. It won’t be just a cookbook, it will be an artifact of their participation.

But it’s still in beta
I’m not keen on announcements and PR in advance of a website opening to the general populace. When will people stop doing that, wouldn’t a page of text explaining the site be better, especially when there is so much information already out there? Maybe a picture of the authors, a short bio, some links and scary concept but given that it’s a video site, maybe a video? I mean seriously! Still even a google search reveals some more juicy morsels.

Serious Eats (my current favourite foodie site) for instance offers is links to a tour of the kitchen and videos from food52 on vimeo:

But what really caught our eye today is that Hesser and Stubbs seem to have quietly started uploading to a Vimeo account, which is full of what appear to be test videos—along with a couple great nuggets: an introduction to the Food 52 concept, and a video tour of Amanda Hesser’s envy-inducing kitchen—complete with the now-customary refrigerator-baring.

The entire project has a nice sense of buzz about it in the publishing world too, coming as it does with a book published by super-hip Harper Studio.

All told, I see good things coming from this. Having crowdsourced the content for a book published by Mercier last year, Our Grannies’ Recipes, I can guess at the problems they may encounter. Whereas Ourgranniesrecipes.com was very much a no money, seat of the pants endeavour, I like that food52 seems likely to be well funded and have the opportunity to expand the social and user content features that small investments allow.

Best of luck to them, I watch this space with interest.
Eoin

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