This episode is sponsored by Clariti.
Welcome to episode 381 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Katie Webster from Healthy Seasonal Recipes about the process of developing rock-solid recipes for your readers.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Arsen Rabinovich from TopHatRank about how content ranks with the Google Algorithm. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Developing Foolproof Recipes
As food bloggers and business owners, the “product” we’re creating for our readers or “customers” are our recipes, so it’s important for them to be as comprehensive as possible.
Katie Webster from Healthy Seasonal Recipes has a unique and reliable process for testing the recipes she publishes on her site, and she’s here today to talk you through the whole thing!
You’ll hear about how she starts the process, why she develops a hypothesis draft, and how she ultimately decides that a recipe is at its final stage.
This episode is a must-listen for any and all recipe developers!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- What she did as a personal chef
- What her personal chef business taught her about freelancing
- How to know a recipe is done
- Her process for developing recipes
- The difference between prep time and active time
- At what point Katie finalized a recipe
- Why she doesn’t shoot photos or video when she’s testing recipes
- Why recipe testing starts at the grocery store
- How she keeps track of recipe ideas
- How she works with recipe testers
- Her advice for those in the early stages of recipe development
- Healthy Seasonal Recipes
- Katie’s cookbook
- 374: From Blogger to Cookbook Author – How Adrianna Adarme Sold 110,000 Copies of Her Cookbook
- 375: From Blogger to Cookbook Author (Part Two) – Preserving Family Recipes Through Cookbooks with Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack
- The Recipe Writer’s Handbook
- Follow Katie on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest
- Join the Food Blogger Pro Podcast Facebook Group
About This Week’s Sponsor
We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti!
With Clariti, you can easily organize your blog content for maximum growth. Create campaigns to add alt text to your posts, fix broken images, remove any broken links, and more, all within the Clariti app.
Sign up for the Clariti waitlist today to receive:
- Access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing
- 50% off your first month
- Optimization ideas for your site content
- An invitation to join their exclusive Slack community
- And more!
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Clariti, C-L-A-R-I-T-I. Here’s the question, are you manually keeping track of your blog posts on a spreadsheet or project management tool? Maybe it’s like Air Table or Asana, or maybe you’re not even keeping track of anything at all. When it comes to optimizing and organizing your content. How do you know what to change and how do you know what you’re doing is actually moving the needle? With Clariti, all of that stuff is easier. It’s easier to keep track of things. It’s easier to know if the changes you’re making are having an impact. And that’s why we built it. We realized that we were using spreadsheets and cobbling together a system, and we wanted to create something that did that for you. And Clariti brings together WordPress data, Google data, like Google Search Console and Google Analytics.
And it brings all of that information into one place to allow you to make decisions and also inform you about the decisions that you’ve made and if they’re having an impact, I could talk on and on about the features, but the best way to understand it is to get in and to work with the tool yourself. And the good news is Clariti’s offering 50% off of your first month if you sign up. And you can do that by going to Clariti.com/food. Again, that’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food to check it out. Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.
Hey there. This is Bjork Ostrom. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Today we are having a conversation with Katie Webster. She has a site called Healthy Seasonal Recipes and deep experience in recipe development. And we’re going to be talking about her history with that. And also recommendations for anybody who’s creating recipes to create a strong process and system around the recipe development that you are doing.
And we all know that that’s a really critical piece, it’s a really critical component of building a successful site, is making sure that the content that you’re putting out, not just like the structure and the organization of the content, but the actual meat of the content, for lack of a better word, the recipe itself needs to be really good. That’s what it’s all about. And she’s going to be talking about how she makes sure that every recipe that she puts out is quality and she’s going to be talking about different jobs that she’s had and her history of recipe development, how that’s led her to success with her blog. So let’s go ahead and jump in. Katie, welcome to the podcast.
Katie Webster: Thank you for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we’re going to be talking about all things recipe development because your background is in recipe development. In some ways we’re all doing versions of that. But really you’ve been doing it as a career as your work for a long time. And I’d be curious to know what that looks like. So take us back to when you first started in the world of recipe development. What were you doing and what did your work look like at that point?
Katie Webster: Yeah, so I started out, I went to culinary school. I was on the sort of restaurant track and I had my… He’s now my husband, but back then he was my boyfriend.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Katie Webster: His family was always joking that I was the made up girlfriend that didn’t really exist.
Bjork Ostrom: Nobody ever saw you.
Katie Webster: The girlfriend from Niagara Falls because I just was always working. And the lifestyle of working in a restaurant was really not… I realized it wasn’t for me. And so I quit and I went on to a job listing forum for graduates from my culinary school. And there was a listening for a personal chef. And I ended up getting this job, but it was only part-time. And so I needed to figure out how to fill the rest of that week. And I ended up getting a part-time job working in the test kitchen at EatingWell Magazine. My mom’s friend had worked there and got me an interview. And so I ended up starting out working in publishing. So in print as opposed to being online.
Bjork Ostrom: The personal chef thing, was that just an inroad to the idea of working in other industries or did you actually do that as well?
Katie Webster: I did end up doing that for a few years. So I ended up sort of working part-time at EatingWell and personal chefing. So I started out working for one client who had special dietary needs. She had celiac, but she also had major gut issues. And so I worked for her for a few years. And then I ended up starting a little catering and personal shopping business as well.
And I specialized in healthy cooking, but also cooking for people with special diets. But I live in Vermont and so there’s a pretty small population. And so I really needed two different jobs. So working at EatingWell was great because it was part-time. And at the time they were only doing four magazines a year. And so they didn’t need me that much. So it was a good balance of the two.
Bjork Ostrom: What was it like to do… What’s the role of a personal chef, When I hear that, I’m like, gosh, that must be so interesting. Not only because of the work that you’re doing, but I’d also imagine it’s interesting to work with people who are in a position where it makes sense for them to hire a personal chef.
Katie Webster: Oh gosh, yeah. It was such a dream job, I have to say mean. It was really incredible. So it started out where I was working for this one woman and she definitely was a person of means. She had two kitchens, she had the fancy kitchen and then my back kitchen, which was a galley kitchen and it was set up with tons of equipment and it was super efficient.
And I would cook and then I’d go display everything in fancy dishes in her refrigerator and she’d like be like, “Oh, what am I going to eat tonight?” And then from there I ended up launching this personal chef delivery business, which was much more geared to the everyday person.
And I had people who… I had one guy who was a bodybuilder who was trying to constantly build. And so he wanted all these high protein things. This was back, low-carb was pretty popular. The South Beach diet was really popular. So I had several clients who were on the South Beach Diet. And then of course, since I had this experience with the gluten free cooking, I also ended up with a couple other gluten free diet clients.
It was fun with the delivery stuff, it was definitely I would deliver to them once a week kind of a thing. And I had different packages that people could choose from. So that was really fun. It was a lot of work and a lot of running around all the time. Not something that probably would work at as a mom. It would probably be hard to make that work.
Bjork Ostrom: Right. Schedule wise, it’s not something that you can adapt around. It requires you at certain times. What did you learn in that process? And the context for that question is I think a lot of times our previous experiences fold into our future experiences and we can learn whether it’s within a job or a business that we’ve had. In this case, for you it’s a business. What did you learn in the process of building those two businesses?
Katie Webster: I think that doing the personal shopping business was super important to ultimately becoming a freelancer as a recipe developer. Because I learned about creating boundaries with clients and how to deal with writing a contract and creating packages to sell my product.
I had no idea how to do that. And my mom’s friend was a business coach and she sort of took me under her wing and she was like, you really need to create these packages. Because you can’t just go out there and say, “I’ll cook for you.” It’s much easier to go out and say, “I will cook for you. These are the three products that I offer.” You can get once a week delivery once every other week, or you can get two times a week or whatever it was. And then to have a pricing structure set up. So that then when somebody comes to me, I don’t have to spend six hours trying to price out what they’re looking for.
It’s already pretty much set in place. And I definitely applied that when I went into freelance recipe development to saying, okay, well now I offer six recipe packages, that kind of thing. The other thing I learned from that process was how to be a better cook. Because, well, for example, the woman who I cooked for, she was not afraid to give me feedback. And I remember she was really into stews. And I remember one time I was sort of short on time and I didn’t sear the meat before I added the liquids. And she called me on it.
Bjork Ostrom: She let you know about it.
Katie Webster: She was like, “I don’t know why this doesn’t taste as good.” And it was really that kind of experience where I was learning from feedback that I really sort of was like, oh gosh, this makes a huge difference in whether or not something’s going to be successful. So I think both of those things were two things that I brought with me.
Bjork Ostrom: So in the world of recipe development, so you’re doing the personal chef stuff, but then you’re also doing some of the recipe development for EatingWell Magazine. How do you apply that same level of that standard, but internally for yourself? You talked about learning for that quality standard, but what does that look like for you to have your own personal standard and how do you know when a recipe’s done. At what point you’re like, yes, this is good enough?
Katie Webster: Oh, well, I have a whole process of developing a recipe. I think when first started writing Recipes for my blog, I was more likely to put something out that I wasn’t 100% behind. But as I started to get more and more readers, definitely I was like, oh gosh, this better be good because it’s got my name on it. And I think being in a test kitchen at EatingWell, there’s tastings. Everybody has to agree that it’s good enough to print it. So that’s easy. But for me, I have to really like it and feel like it tastes really good. And then of course I’ve got my family to taste it as well. I don’t know if that answers your question.
Bjork Ostrom: No, for sure. And let’s talk about that process. Because I think that’s one of the things that as people get into systems around their business, whether that be content or publishing or whatever it is, there’s all these different components that we have to navigate as creators. One of the most important systems or processes would be around the development of recipes. And for those who aren’t as familiar with that, I think there could be a lot that we could learn from somebody who is very familiar with it. So what is your system when it comes to developing a recipe? And we could go from idea to when you actually press publish on it.
Katie Webster: Okay, so at EatingWell I was trained on how to develop a recipe. And they had a whole system that they used and I really took that as my own when I started doing it on my own. So yes, absolutely, it starts with the idea of the recipe. Of course now with food blogging, that’s all wrapped up in the whole SEO thing and keyword research and all that stuff.
But actually the first thing I do once I have my concept is I actually type the recipe first. And I know that sounds really backwards for a lot of people, but I have found over the years that if I do that, the recipe is so much clearer and has much my far fewer mistakes. If I start out with a first draft, and I call it my hypothesis draft because it’s never been done before and it’s just a guess of how it’s going to go. But I use a recipe template, so I use Word and I just keep a template there that has all of the components of the recipe. And then I-
Bjork Ostrom: What are those components?
Katie Webster: Oh, so you’ve got your… Well let me pull one up here. You’ve got you-
Bjork Ostrom: So this is in Word, you’re opening up word and within Word is a template that you’ve built called a recipe. And when you have an idea [inaudible 00:13:34].
Katie Webster: Recipe or recipe template, So there’s the title, the yield, the servings, which are two different things, active time, cook time, and total time. So I do active time as opposed to prep time because I think that that’s much more helpful for the reader than prep time.
Bjork Ostrom: Explain the difference between those.
Katie Webster: So prep time would be the amount of time that you spend before you start cooking. Active time is the amount of time that you are paying attention to the food, you are in the kitchen, busy working with the food. If you can walk away for five minutes or more, that’s no longer active time. Prep time connotes just the time that is spent prior to turning on the stove or the oven. And then my template has a recipe description. So that is what would end up going into that field in the Tasty-
Bjork Ostrom: Like a description.
Katie Webster: Is it called recipe description in Tasty?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah.
Katie Webster: I don’t even know. And then I also put my keywords in there too. And then the ingredient list, the method, and then I have a section at the bottom where I put in the nutrition, so the calories, all that. And then I have the ingredient notes, tips and make aheads. So that’s all part of my template. So when I write my-
Bjork Ostrom: Write, as you said before, we get too far away from it, was servings and yield being different? Can you explain that?
Katie Webster: Sure. The yield would be, makes eight cups, servings would be, makes four servings, two cups each. So it’s different. It’s just more information for the user, basically to have both those things. I was going to tell you about-
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, before I interrupted you. But to recap, so what I find interesting is you’re not just jumping in and going through the process of creating a recipe and experimenting. It’s almost like you’re kind of developing a hypothesis around how that recipe will be made. And then you’re going through the process of actually making it. So you have the kind of framework of what it might look like before you go in and actually start working on it. Is that generally speaking what this step is like?
Katie Webster: Yes. So I’ll truly type the recipe out and I’ll write out the ingredient list. I’ll write out all the measurements, all of the method and the timing. And I know a lot of it’s going to be wrong, but it’s all there. And so I have to really think it through. So I think that your first test is more likely to be successful if you’ve really thought it through and all the information is there so that when you are testing it, you’re like, “Oh, I thought that it was going to be four to five minutes.” And so you set your timer for four to five minutes and then it actually ends up being six to seven and you have something written down where it’s sort a placeholder for where you would change that.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. And I can imagine with that process, one of the things that’s really nice is you’re doing some critical thinking before you get into stuff that’s a little bit higher stakes, putting ingredients together and it kind of forces you… It’s a forcing function to think through things, to be slow with it a little bit and to make kind of a prediction of what you think it will be. How accurate would you say that first version is compared to what it ends up being, eventually?
Katie Webster: For a baking recipe, it’s usually the first of six versions. For a dinner saute kind of a thing, the first of three or four. It really depends on the recipe. Once I’ve written that hypothesis draft, I print it out and I take it into the kitchen with me, with my pen, with my scales and my measuring cups.
And I start a timer, write down the time I started, and I mark that document up extensively as I test and I make changes in live time. And sometimes I’ll get to it and I’ll be like, I can’t believe I wrote down that I need a quarter teaspoon of salt that’s not nearly enough. And I’ll change it on the spot. I mean, it’s there for me to fix.
And then from there, once I have tested it, then I’ll take that, go in and edit it, change the title from example recipe E1 to example recipe E2. And then I have a second version that I’ll print out, staple that on top of the E one, and then I take that back into the kitchen, same process over and over again. Next one is an E3, until I’m like this thing as bulletproof, I’ve tested every single element in here. I know that it’s going to work for me in my kitchen and for someone in their kitchen at home who isn’t an expert chef.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. What does the E stand for? Or did you say V?
Katie Webster: E, that’s from EatingWell. I got that all from EatingWell. I actually don’t even know what E stands for.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, funny. It’s just one of those holdovers of that was the process. And so that’s what it is.
Katie Webster: I have all sorts of weird stuff like that when you don’t know something and you need to find out, it says… There’s a capital T, capital K is what you put in as a place holder. And I don’t know what that stands for either.
Bjork Ostrom: I still use it. Yeah. So I really like that idea. It’s almost like the versions are stacking on each other. And you can start to see, my guess is from version one to version two, a lot of changes. Two to three, not as many, three to four, probably even less. At what point do you call it good? Do you try and get two recipes in a row when you’re… Or like made it once it was good. I’m going to make it again, make sure that it’s good. Or at this point you’re confident enough with that final one, once you’ve nailed it to know, great, this is good.
Katie Webster: Usually when I go to shoot, it will be my final test where I’m like, the last time I made it was good and everybody enjoyed it. And when I go to shoot it, I might find a typo or something like that. But at that point I’m not trying to adjust measurements or anything like that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that makes sense. We have a question from Robin from the Facebook group for those one who want to jump in FoodBloggerPro/Facebook, and sometimes we’ll get some questions that we ask in the podcast interview. This is related to documenting, Robin’s asking, “Do you take pictures and record videos of the process during your first test just in case it comes out perfect the first time? Or do you wait until you have nailed it to go through the documentation process?”
Katie Webster: No, I don’t. And the reason I don’t is that I’m always timing myself. So to get that active time, total time, all that accurate, you can’t be taking photographs. You need to be actually cooking. And also I find that so distracting and using a different part of my brain anyway. And also, I test recipes when I’m making dinner. I test it 5:00 at night in my house while my kids are running around and asking me to sign stuff or whatever.
Bjork Ostrom: Like field trip forms or something.
Katie Webster: So yeah, that’s enough of a hindrance to getting an accurate timing.
Bjork Ostrom: But I think that it’s a service for your readers that you’re so insistent on that. Hey, I’m going to make sure that when I put in timing here, that it’s the actual amount of time that it takes. And what I hear you saying is if you’re also then trying to do photography or video or something like that, that’s not going to give you an accurate representation of how much time that it’s taking.
So I think that’s great. Related to that, another question that Robin had is around timing. So, “If you were to guess, how much time would you say that you put into recipe development, keyword research and trying out the recipe before your first recipe test?” So almost in that pre-stage, getting it ready, getting it prepared, researching would you have a guess as to how much goes into that before you actually go into the process of actually testing the recipe?
Katie Webster: For example, I was thinking about doing a brown rice risotto in my instant pot. But I’ve never made even white rice risotto in my instant pot. And so I was like, well, I should try this. So I looked up a recipe and I tried it. That’s probably all I’ll really do for a pre-hypothesis draft step. Or I’ll go to a cookbook and I’ll use a recipe from a cookbook if I’m not familiar with something, because in general I want to create something new.
Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense. So we go through the process of first drafting it up. You have a template within Word where you’re entering everything in, taking some time to do that, print it out. Do you have a clipboard that you put it on? Is that…
Katie Webster: I am a clipboard queen. I have it right here.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. So you put it on the clipboard and you’ll mark it up as you’re going through and attempting to replicate that first version, continue to do iterations on that. Eventually you get to the point where you say, great, I feel good about this. And then you make it one more time after that to document the process. Is that right?
Katie Webster: Right. Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Great. What does it look like from that point? Is it then going into the publishing stage where you’re entering it into WordPress, you’re bringing the photos in, editing the photos. Anything that you’d add to that kind of in the development stage that’s worth noting?
Katie Webster: No, I mean there were some things that I learned from the EatingWell process. There are lots of parts of the testing process that aren’t in the kitchen. For example, the test kitchen manager when I was there, she used to say, “Testing always starts at the grocery store.”
Bjork Ostrom: What did she mean by that?
Katie Webster: What she meant is you have your ingredient list. When you go into the store. Is there such a thing as a 10 ounce box of lasagna noodles? No, there actually isn’t. And so knowing that we’re… Or I did an enchilada recipe and I called for a certain number of enchiladas in the recipe, and then I got to the store, thought I was buying a package of tortillas that had enough for the recipe and it, I’d come home and I’m like, oh, there’s only eight in here. This isn’t enough to make a whole batch of enchiladas. So it’s that kind of thing where you’re just making sure that this recipe actually will be replicable in any grocery store in any town.
Bjork Ostrom: And so that being an important critical piece of it. Other things that you learned from EatingWell? Kind of maybe like do’s and don’ts of recipe testing, things that you consider to be like things that you learned that you do, and things that you learned that you don’t learned that you don’t do.
Katie Webster: They had a very rigid system, so they do nutritional analysis for everything. So we had to weigh our food before and after cooking. Sometimes, for example, if you had to bone in meat and you were to discard the fat and bones after braising or something like that, you would weigh your roast before and then after the braise. You would literally pick it apart and just weigh out what the edible portion was in order to use that for the nutritional analysis.
They were very strict about timing. One of the things that we learned about was using… We had a gas stove and an electric stove, and we always tested on both. And obviously that’s not something we can do as food bloggers, but I have a stove that has different size burners, and so I will test it on the medium burner and on the big burner too to create a range. Because not everybody has a high powered burner in their house, but some people only have that. Things like, oh, for example, I developed a recipe for the magazine that was a breakfast bar. And the whole time I tested it, I tested it in this one pan. And then we started getting letters about it and it was burning because turns out the pan that I had tested it in was an insulated pan.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, interesting. Which most people wouldn’t have.
Katie Webster: Totally. And so I think as a food blogger, obviously we can change a recipe on the fly if we need to, so that’s good. But it’s important to remember to, if you have two different crock pots, try it in the two different crock pods or try it in the different pans because a cast iron pan and a stainless pan to get as much information as possible and create those ranges so that your reader can be successful.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, interesting. It’s all of those little things that you don’t learn until it happens. That filter doesn’t exist in your mind until you go through it and it actually happens to you. So then you think, Oh, what type of pan is this? And is it one that is going to be common for people or not common?
Katie Webster: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great.
Katie Webster: I think the only other thing I would say that they were really sticklers about was about sort isolating variables. If you’re doing a subsequent test to not change too many things at once. Because then you don’t necessarily know what it is that affected the change if you change a bunch of things at once.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So one factor at a time allows you to know the impact that changing that one factor has.
Katie Webster: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Versus multivariate testing where you’re like, hey, I’m going to change five things, turned out really well, but you don’t know the one thing that really contributed. Was it everything? So being selective about what you’re changing along the way, if that makes sense. How about staying organized? My guess is for anybody listening to this, it could relate to the fact that you have hundreds of ideas, you’re maybe testing things, multiple things at a time. What does it look like for you in terms of organization as it relates to the different stages of things, but also ideas that you have? Any advice for people in that regard?
Katie Webster: I actually have… I use a spreadsheet to organize where everything is in terms of it. I told you about my e-version. So that is within this, I have a whole spreadsheet where it’s like… So actually I use it… At the very bottom I have just a junk pile of recipe concepts where I’ll just throw ideas in there and eventually they’ll make it up onto the actual list where it’s all organized by date and it has a checklist moving across where it’s like hypothesis, draft, written, first test, second test, third test, photos taken, video shot.
It’s got all those checklists. But then I work from paper. I always try to keep my recipes printed out. I am a firm believer in that. Having written my cookbook and worked with editors, just having those documents with all of your notes on them has saved my behind so many times when they come back and they ask, “Well, where did this change come from?” And to go back and see where those changes crept in, maybe it was on the second version of it, that kind of thing. It’s really helpful. Excuse me. And I keep everything… Well, I have my active pile and then I file everything from there. And so I have 20 years worth of files.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome. Of all of these Recipes that you’ve done. One of the things that I think about as you talk about that is how bad our brain is at storing information. It’s a really bad storage facility for information and remembering a change that you made.
And so if you develop processes around documenting, you’re going to be so much better off because you’ll be able to look back and say, “Why did I change that?” Maybe you’ll have a note on what you changed, but even more helpful if you have a reason why you changed it. And in the moment, for myself at least, I think that I’ll remember that. But I never do.
Even if I’m parking somewhere and I’m coming back six hours later, I need to take a picture of the parking garage and what level I’m on because I won’t remember unless I document it. So I love that. As a takeaway, when we think about the development process. I know you’ve gone through the process of writing a cookbook, we just did a series on Blogger to cookbook. What did that process look like and how did it differ from when you were publishing on your blog to when you were doing something for a cookbook, which feels a little bit higher stakes when it’s going to be printed as opposed to on a website where you can go back and change or tweak something?
Katie Webster: It was way faster. Way, way faster. It was so stressful.
Bjork Ostrom: In terms of how quickly you had to produce content.
Katie Webster: Yeah. We signed our contract for the book deal in the summer, and it was due on New Year’s. So I had a very short window of time to develop 100 recipes. So what I ended up doing there was I really had to batch everything. And I wrote probably 40 hypothesis drafts in a matter of a week. I just sat down and cranked.
And then I ended up needing to work with individuals to help cross test. So I did the first test of every single recipe, but then from there I had various people helping me. And when I went through that process, I used EatingWell’s test report form. I adapted it for my own, and I used that to send to my cross testers. So this is a form that they use for the testing process where you have to document… In addition to what you write on the hard copy of the recipe, you have to write notes in it. So it asks you questions. Are there any variables that may have affected the results of your test? And so you’d say, yes, I used an insulated baking pan.
Bjork Ostrom: For instance, speaking from experience.
Katie Webster: Yes. And so I assigned that to… Or I sent that to all of my cross testers. And every single time that they tested it, they needed to submit both a photograph or a scan of their hard copy and all the notes that they took on there, but then also their test report form. And then that whole process was a whole can of worms. Just managing a team of cross testers, excuse me. But it was necessary in order to get those recipes to the point where I felt comfortable putting them into a book. Because you’re right, there’s no going back and changing it once it’s been published.
Bjork Ostrom: So the thing that I would imagine would be hard, which you kind of alluded to is you have a tight system, you have a process, but as soon as you bring other people in, what you’re having to do then is kind of train them on a system or process. But I think the upside of that, that is it’s a little bit more of a real stress test out in the wild. Here’s a recipe, can you make it? Somebody’s like, “I couldn’t figure out why it was so sweet.”
And it’s like, “Well, how much sugar did you put in?” They’re like, “Well, I put in a cup.” And it’s like, “Oh no, that’s like a half a cup.” And they’re like, “Well, I thought it was one or two cups.” Something weird like that. One slash two, your option, but also weird little nuanced stuff like that exists within the world, which I think anybody can relate to if they’ve ever published something or given instructions to somebody and watched them try and follow it. So was that part of it was allowing people to see the process or to create something and to not only give feedback on the recipe itself, but also just are there formatting changes or ways that could communicate this more clearly? Even if it was accurately communicated is there a way to shift or adjust so people understand it better?
Katie Webster: Yeah, I mean definitely through that process, learned a lot about being more, I guess… I don’t know what word I would use, but I definitely… For example, I had one tester who always went off script.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, like I’m going to improvise a little bit on this.
Katie Webster: Yes. And so for her, when I knew that that was happening, it was almost like I needed to explain to her why I was doing something. So I would say one teaspoon of grated ginger, and then she would write back and say, “Well, I didn’t grade my ginger, I chopped it.” And I’m like, “Okay, well a chopped teaspoon of ginger is going to be a lot fluffier and have actual less ginger in it than a teaspoon of grated ginger.” And so now I need to add a little tip at the bottom of the recipe and explain why we like to grate our ginger. And if you don’t have a greater use, two teaspoons of finally chopped instead or something like that.
Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense. And it feels like you could potentially go down that rabbit hole in many different ways. So at some point you have to draw the line and say, I’m going to assume that people are going to follow this, but if you get enough feedback on something, maybe tweak it or change it. But it feels like there’s an art and there’s a science with it, and it’s hard to know for sure. I guess what I’m getting at is over-communication versus simple communication and finding that balance between those two things really with anything, not just recipes.
Katie Webster: So that gets into the whole world of the recipe writing part, which is definitely, I have strong opinions about that, and I know there’s two very different sides of that. But the way that I write my Recipes is very structured based on coming from a print world where we needed to fit our recipes into galleys and there was no room for extra words and there’s no rooms for flowery language. And so I feel like being sort stuck within that framework of this very rigid sentence structure, blah, blah, blah, I think that I’m sort of forced into being very clear for people.
Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense. So as we come to an end here, I think of the people who are just getting started out and they know that they love this world, they know that they love food and recipes, but they maybe don’t feel quite confident as somebody who’s going to develop a recipe that they can publish, that somebody’s going to make. What would your advice be to that person who’s in the early stages just starting out excited about it, but maybe not super confident? Anything that you would tell those people who are in the early stages?
Katie Webster: I would say to don’t be afraid to mess up. It’s better for you to make a mistake in your home kitchen when you’re testing a recipe than your readers to be making the mistakes. And so it’s okay to come across errors in recipes. It’s okay to burn something. That’s how to explain to someone not to burn something.
I think the other thing that I would say is it’s just super… I think the most important thing is to create a consistent writing style. There’s a book called the Recipe Writer’s Handbook. It’s a great book, so if you’re just getting started, it’s a great way to learn how to write a recipe. They give you a guideline of how to build your sentence structure. And so if you follow that, you’re not going to forget to do things like explain the timing and the degree of doneness. That way you’re going to include all of the elements that you need to include to make somebody successful, because that’s ultimately what your goal is to get your readers to be successful.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. What was the name of that book?
Katie Webster: The Recipe Writer’s Handbook.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, cool. We’ll link to that in the show notes as well. One of the things I think a lot about is just the formal education process. You go through college, you learn a specific thing. One of the ways that you do that is textbooks and lectures. And I think in one way, this is a lecture, it’s somebody sitting down and hearing something. But what’s the accompanying textbook? What’s the thing that we can go to and learn about?
And almost for anything in the world that exists, like you can learn about all of these different things that we have questions about, whether it be podcasts or videos, or in this case, a book that somebody can look through. So Katie, this is awesome. I know that people are going to be able to take little nuggets from this, apply it to what they’re doing .little by little will make the recipe world a more accurate, better, higher probability of success world through conversations like this.
But for anybody who wants to follow up with you, to connect with you, can you talk a little bit about your site? And you’ve been doing that for a long time and have had a lot of success with that. So talk about where that is, and if people want to connect with you on social, where can they do that?
Katie Webster: Sure. My website is HealthySeasonalRecipes.com, and I can be found online, on social. Facebook is Healthy Seasonal Recipes, but then on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, I am Healthy seasonal.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. That’s great. Katie, thanks so much for coming on. Really appreciate it.
Katie Webster: It has been a true pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Alexa Peduzzi: Hey there, Alexa here, and thanks for tuning into this episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. We appreciate you being here so much. And if you want to go even deeper into the topics of recipe development, food blogging, business owning, and more, we really encourage you to check out the Food Blogger Pro membership so you can learn what’s included by going to FoodBloggerPro.com/join. That’s J-O-I-N. And there you can sign up for either an annual or a quarterly membership and you get access to everything we have on the site as soon as you sign up.It’s a really great thing to do to just make a ton of progress on your blog because we have courses, we have a community forum, we have experts that help out our members. We have different events, and it’s just a really positive place to be. I really love it, and I think you will too.
So I wanted to give you a little bit of an inside scoop onto what we’re planning for Food Blogger Pro this month. So Thursday, November 10th, we have our live Q&A. So each month we have a live Q&A where members can ask their questions to either Bjork or whoever is hosting the Q&A. This month it’s going to be Leslie and I and we’re going to be talking about creating great Recipes. So if you enjoyed this episode with Katie, you will definitely get a lot out of that Q&A.
Then on November 17th, we’re releasing our brand new updated Instagram for food creators course. As you know Instagram changes very often, so we wanted to give this course a nice refresh and that’ll be available for all members on the 17th. And then we have a blog post all about the foods that are trending this winter coming up at the end of the month. And that’s just a really nice place to go if you want to build out your content calendar for the next couple of months. So we are really excited. We have a great month planned for our members. And of course, like I mentioned, you can go to FoodBloggerPro.com/join if you’re interested in becoming a part of the membership. But that does it for us this week. We will see you next time, and until then, make it a great week.