449: Monetizing Through Bread, Courses, and a Food Blog with Matthew Duffy

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A blue photograph of someone kneading bread with the title of Matthew Duffy's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Monetizing Through Bread, Courses, and a Food Blog' on the image.

This episode is sponsored by Clariti and CultivateWP.

Welcome to episode 449 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Matthew Duffy.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Faith Christensen. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Monetizing Through Bread, Courses, and a Food Blog

We first got to know Matthew when he joined Bjork for a 2-hour-long marathon Coaching Call as a Food Blogger Pro member. He started his career in food as a professional chef in Michelin-starred restaurants before becoming a private chef to a slew of celebrities. Since that time, Matthew has become an online food creator with his courses, social media accounts, and food blog (while also baking lots of bread and panettone on the side).

Since his Coaching Call last fall, Matthew has kept the FBP team updated on his progress with his site (spoiler alert: there has been a lot of progress!). One major win? His site traffic has grown from 6,000 monthly pageviews to over 45,000 in just 5 months!

In this interview, Matthew shares more about his professional background, why he decided to start sharing content on social media and his blog, more about his different streams of income, and lots more.

A photograph of someone holding a sliced open loaf of bread with a quote from Matthew Duffy's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast that reads, "It's so important to have passive income."

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • More about Matthew’s background as a professional, celebrity, and private chef.
  • Why he started teaching about bread.
  • How he transitioned his career into the online space and prioritized Instagram.
  • How he has built his brand and business online while also growing his bakery business.
  • Why he decided to work with a brand management agency.
  • About his different streams of income (in-person and online classes, selling bread, AdSense, and affiliate marketing).
  • How he scaled from 6,000 monthly pageviews to 45,000 in 5 months.
  • Why he and his wife are focusing on the blog right now.


Thank you to our sponsors!

This episode is sponsored by Clariti and CultivateWP.

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Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode!

Sign up for Clariti today to easily organize your blog content for maximum growth and receive access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing, 50% off your first month, optimization ideas for your site content, and more!

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If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

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Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Clariti. If you’ve been frustrated trying to discover actionable insights from different analytics and keyword platforms, Clariti is your solution. Clariti helps you manage your blog content all in one place so you can find actionable insights that improve the quality of your content.

Not only does it automatically sync your WordPress post data so you can find insights about broken images, broken links, and more, it can also sync with your Google Analytics and Google Search Console data so you can see keyword, session, page view and user data for each and every post.

One of our favorite ways to use it, we can easily filter and see which of our posts have had a decrease in sessions or page views over a set period of time, and give a little extra attention to those recipes. This is especially helpful when there are Google updates or changes and search algorithms so that we can easily tell which of our recipes have been impacted the most.

Listeners to the Food Blogger Pro podcast get 50% off of their first month of Clariti after signing up. To sign up, simply go to clariti.com/food. That’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I .com/food. Thanks again to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.

Emily Walker: Hey there. This is Emily from the Food Blogger Pro team, and you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. This week on the podcast, Bjork is interviewing Matthew Duffy. We were first introduced to Matthew because he’s a Food Blogger Pro member, and he was part of a coaching call with Bjork last fall. It was a marathon two-hour long coaching call with lots of amazing takeaways.

Since that coaching call, Matthew has been closely in touch with the Food Blogger Pro team and has shared all of his recent successes with his own food blog. His site traffic has grown from 6,000 to 45,000 page views in just five months, and he has been putting a lot of effort into revamping his content, publishing new content, improving his food photography, and he’s going to share more about all of that with you today.

But let me back up a little bit and just give you a little bit of info about Matthew’s background. He started out as a professional chef in a Michelin starred restaurant and then became a private chef and chef to tons of different celebrities. He shares more about what that’s like and why he decided to step back from that and transition into being more of an entrepreneur.

He currently runs his food blog with his wife and then also sells bread and panettone on this side. It’s a really fascinating interview. I’m sure you’ll really enjoy it. I’ll just let Bjork take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Matthew, welcome to the podcast.

Matthew Duffy: Hey. What’s up? I’m super thrilled to here and chat with you today.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. This feels like now almost like we just have a little bit of a recurring call because we did … For Food Blogger Pro, we do this thing called a coaching call, and it’s one of my favorite things that we do within a membership. Have a conversation once a month with somebody who’s creating, talking about their business. We record that. Members can watch it.

We did a call together and it was a really long great call. Then you’re like, “I actually have to go.” We’re like, “Let’s do a part two.” Then we did a part two. I don’t remember how long it ended up being. But it was a really great conversation. After that, you followed up, you shared some information, which we’re going to talk about today, some of the action you’re taking, some of the progress you’re making. It’s all really exciting stuff.

But before we get into that, I want to go back to a moment that you and I have talked about before. It’s like the helicopter moment, the billionaire helicopter moment. For our listeners, take us back to that moment and talk about why that was a pivotal moment in your life journey.

Matthew Duffy: Sure. I have a background of cooking as a chef for a long time. I worked my way through a number of really high-end restaurants. I kind of started and I basically worked my way up to the best of the best and I was cooking for celebrities. Then that turned into me cooking for a billionaire, extremely wealthy Canadian gentleman. I had a really good working relationship with him. Now, I was an employee, I was still kept that as employee level. But he was very open with me.

I had been through really the ringer when I worked in restaurants. I mean, I had opened a restaurant for Chef Daniel Boulud and my wife at the same time, or right around that time was diagnosed with cancer. I had this extreme hand accident where I had multiple surgeries. I was already thinking of how to get out of restaurants, which led me into private chefing.

I think that was a temporary solution. But I realized very quickly maybe there’s something else out there. I think the tipping point was on the day that my wife was officially cancer free, she had phoned me and said, “We’re good. I’m cancer free.” There had been some mistake in her … I don’t know if it was a mistake, but it was maybe there was a few things that came up after when we thought she was clear.

I was in a helicopter hanger cooking lunch for four people in a beautiful commercial kitchen better than most restaurant Michelin kitchens with a Rational oven. I had the same barbecue that they had at Stone Barns, the big huge Grill Works grill, which is I think about 100K US.

Bjork Ostrom: Is this just this billionaire’s helicopter kitchen, not in the helicopter, but in the hangar?

Matthew Duffy: Well, you could see the helicopter. You’re working beside a helicopter. Yes. Literally in a hangar with an entertainment space and car spaces. There was room. It’s pretty wild. From NDA purposes, I won’t really go into detail about who.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That make sense.

Matthew Duffy: There was multiple private concerts with extreme … If I told you the band, you would be like, “What’s no way?” That’s the kind of money was to hire those people. I cook lunch and in the morning my wife phones me and she tells me she’s cancer free and I’m super happy. I’m cooking lunch. My boss was actually out and it was family and friends that I was cooking for. I do their lunch, I set everything aside, and then he comes in to have lunch by himself. He was very friendly with me. He would come in and tell me about his day, ask me about my day.

I’m telling him, “Yeah. Jody called. She’s cancer free, all that.” “Oh, congratulations.” He sits down for lunch and I cook and bring the courses out and I would sit down and explain the course. Typically, I would make a three-course meal. In between courses, I can’t remember which courses, my phone rang. Now normally, I would never answer the phone when I’m working. But because of what had happened, “Excuse me, sir. Would you mind if I take this phone call?” “Yeah. No problem.”

I pick up the phone and I immediately think something’s wrong. There’s a misdiagnosis. They called her back. Oh, my God. She goes, “I’m pregnant.” Just even now saying that makes me emotional.

Bjork Ostrom: This was the same day?

Matthew Duffy: Same day, only a few hours later. I’m already emotionally exhausted because of the other news. That was just the whole thing on its own to go through in life. Then this, and I stepped out and I’m crying. To be honest, I think I might’ve thrown up if Jody listens to this, sorry. I think I got sick.

Bjork Ostrom: Will that be news? Will that be news to her? Is this a new piece of information?

Matthew Duffy: Yeah. It might be. It might be.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s just all here.

Matthew Duffy: I won’t tell her when this goes live and hope she didn’t know. I’m just kidding. I will. I went out and told him, and he stands up and he gives me a hug and he said, “We’re having a baby.” I was like, “Okay. I’ve got to get out of here.” That was a pivotal moment because …

Bjork Ostrom: Because of him being collective, we.

Matthew Duffy: It’s just too close. My life was lived more in someone else’s life. I don’t want to say property of, but I was … you say “jump” and I’ll say “how high. If you need me there at whatever time I’m there.” I gave my life to that job. It sounds silly, you’re only cooking for four people. But some days I was in the kitchen for 16, 17 hours and I would start super early. I would cook dinner for eight people and the net worth of the table would be $12 billion.

Then the next day I would be packing food to go on a private jet to fly to wherever my boss was going in the world. I mean, it was a really extreme high pressure, high stress go, go, go, go, go scenario. It was starting to fry me. Then that moment was like, “Okay. It is time for me to maybe figure out another path in life.”

I had opened multiple restaurants with Daniel Boulud. I worked for him for four years. When I worked for him, I would go into work at 7:00, maybe 8:00 in the morning, come home at 1:00. There was days where I would go to work, my wife would still be in bed. I would work all day. I would do the breakfast and the lunch, then I would go in the change room because it’s at the Four Seasons Hotel.

I would have a shower in the change room, change, go back upstairs, maybe lay down for half an hour, eat something, usually coffee, probably not even eating, go back upstairs and do it again for the dinner service. Then sit down after service with Daniel and a menu and a glass of wine. We would talk through these menus and make changes and ideas. I loved it at the time. There’s nothing I wanted to do more.

But Jody would get off work, go to the gym, go out for dinner with her friends, come home, read a book, watch a movie, get ready for bed, and I’d still be at work.

Bjork Ostrom: You still. Yeah.

Matthew Duffy: I’d come home and she’d be in bed. I just knew that that doesn’t … I don’t want to say it doesn’t work, because it definitely works for some people. But for me, I just knew that this isn’t going to work for me and I just can’t do this for the rest of my life. I’d had multiple offers through open restaurants, multiple head chef jobs, been getting hand hunted. The Four Seasons had me looking at an executive sous chef job at either the Four Seasons Miami or San Francisco.

I just couldn’t do it. It just became a time to move on from all that. I love it. I still love that world. It took me all over the place. I was lucky enough, we were talking about this earlier, but I worked in Japan, Italy, Spain, Denmark, New York City in all Michelin restaurants, Vancouver Island, and have been traveling in that capacity so much that I love that fast pace.

I never was a person who didn’t want to work on the weekend. Friends would say, “Oh, don’t you hate working weekends?” I did not care. I just wanted to be in the restaurant. I just wanted to learn as much as I could. I just wanted to be at the top of my game and I wanted to push myself to the extreme and I would work myself to burnout and then just do it all over again.

That’s all I knew. That’s all I wanted to do. That was my life. I think that moment I was already thinking about the transition and that kind like, “Okay. Now I got to get out of here.”

Bjork Ostrom: It was like the straw broke the camel’s back.

Matthew Duffy: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Does this feel accurate? There’s almost like three evolutions to your career. The first being working in these fast-paced, well-known, recognized restaurants. The second being this world of private chefs, celebrities, billionaires. Then the third being this evolution into entrepreneurship. Does that feel generally accurate when you look at the arc of your career that those would be the three buckets or would you define it differently?

Matthew Duffy: I think it’s accurate. But I would potentially add one more. I think that the private chefing, celebrity chefing overlaps with restaurants. At Four Seasons, only managers are allowed to contact and deal with celebrities. As a sous chef, I would be able to take plate of food out to Steph Curry. When Ricky Gervais is in the dining room, I personally would take the food to him, ask him how it went, how was your stay. Rihanna, Drake, Steph Curry, the Rolling Stones, U2.

Then that transitioned into me cooking in people’s houses. I cooked for Martin Short privately for a while, who’s a Canadian comedian. He would hang out with all kinds of people. Next thing you know, I was cooking for Larry David. Then Tom Hanks would come over for dinner and there’s Goldie Hawn. It was just this crazy thing to experience, I guess.

Then I went into education and I think that is a really important stage of my life and an important bucket. I would definitely add that in there.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Education, meaning teaching essentially?

Matthew Duffy: Yeah. When I was at Four Seasons, another chef was telling me, “Have you ever thought about teaching? You’d be good at it.” At the time, I had zero desire. I thought, “When you can’t cook, you teach. If you don’t know how to bake, you teach. You can’t get a job. You can’t open a restaurant.”

Then through the stages of my life, I thought, “Well, maybe I will give it a shot because maybe that is a good opportunity.” Actually, I was teaching in two schools. I was teaching culinary at what I would say is, or at the time I guess was the leading culinary school in Ontario. That’s where people wanted to go. I was teaching there and I was great.

Then I was teaching at this other lesser-known college. I think that is really important for my life because this was … I had a chair who’s still my chair. I feel like she took this chance on me. I had been working in restaurants and I had been baking for a long time. I had run a bakery at Relais & Chateaux, which is a designation for hotel. We were in the best restaurants in the world.

I had baked in Japan. I baked in Italy in the same thing in Relais & Chateaux. When I was working in Italy, another celebrity, just a name-drop as I cooked for Daniel Craig, which was pretty cool. They filmed James Bond in Siena the movie. I was there while they were filming cooking for the director and the cast and the crew.

Anyways, then when I started teaching, I had this moment where I was at home on a Friday night and I had my kid and that was like, “This is different. I’m in a different life now. I have this kid. I can’t be in the restaurant.” I taught bread and the chair said to me, she said something like, “You bake bread, right?” I said, “Yeah.” She was like, “Can you teach bread?”

I had done some private things in my life and I’d gone to restaurants for consulting for bread, but I’ve never really taught it. I just totally was like, “Yep. Yeah. I can do that 100%. Yep.” She took this chance, let me teach bread. Then I came to her with really positive ideas and I just said, “Look, this is a good program. Here’s areas of opportunity to make this learning experience better for the students.” She just let me run with it.

I mean, the things that we’ve done in the five years of me teaching, I think that’s just so important because I think I really truly started to learn when I started teaching. Both of the things that I was passionate about were supporting and growing each other. For example, I’d always wanted to take a course with Jeffrey Hamelman about artisan bread.

I have his book. When I took his course, he took a picture and he said, “I’ve never seen my book as used as this falling apart pages and everything.” I was able to get funding from the school to go there. I can have PD days, professional development days, where I can take 10 days off. I think that that really fueled my learning.

The other part is you forget the beginner journey sometimes and you forget the pain points of the beginner. I was ahead in my bread baking space, and I had stazzed and worked in great bakeries. I had spent time. I went to Germany and worked with a master baker.

That was all things that I was able to do because I was teaching. Because I said, “Hey, I’m off for the summer.” I said to Jody, my wife, you want to go to … it’s a weird sidenote was we get these courtside basketball tickets from her dad. There was a really big player trade, really probably the biggest in the past 20 years for the Toronto Raptors. I had the game where those two teams were playing.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh, interesting.

Matthew Duffy: Kawhi Leonard’s coming back.

Bjork Ostrom: I was going to say Kawhi Leonard. Yeah.

Matthew Duffy: Kawhi, DeMar. DeMar is coming back to Toronto, Kawhi is playing and it’s the game of the year. I was going at that point in my life to maybe 30 games a year, maybe 20 to 30 games. That’s a lot. They only play 40 some home games. Jody said, “Let’s sell some tickets.” I was like, “There’s no way.” What I ended up doing was what I thought was sneaky is I posted them for a ridiculous price thinking no one is going to purchase these tickets.

I pulled into work one day, 8:00 in the morning, phone rang, the ticket sold. I was like, “What?” Then I just said, “Do you want to go to Germany?” She said, “Okay.” We ended up planning …

Bjork Ostrom: With that money, trip.

Matthew Duffy: Yeah. With it. We did a whole three-week trip through Europe. Being able to be in education allowed me enough time off to go and work with this baker. I went and worked with this guy, Michael, who is probably the best baker I’ve ever worked with. He’s just so brilliant and savant about bread. I was able to do these things.

I went to the UK to take a class at the School of Artisan Food. I took a group of 10 students. I was visiting Euro Pan, the Coupe du Monde De La Boulangerie. I presented at the Artisan Bread Expo. I was a presenter at the IBIE, International Baking Industry Exhibition. I took students there.

But the ability to do those things, whereas in the restaurant you can’t do all that stuff. You can’t just go wherever you want, take courses, do this. I think that that trust, that person, Suzanne, put in me was just really something I didn’t have before maybe in my career. Someone who was like, “Hey, I trust you. You want to do it? Go for it.”

“Hey, I think we should mill around flour. We should get this huge mill and we can teach the students about that.” She’s like, “Okay. Cool. Let’s do it. You make a proposal.” Then we got a flour mill and I started learning about milling. Anyways, I’m long-winding this. But I think that that is really important. I guess another part, and I don’t know if I told you this, I was hired on full-time after two semesters, which is very unheard of an education. Normally you work contract to contract.

Some people do 10 years before they get full-time. It’s like the coveted job because you’ve got your pension, you’ve got your summers off, whatever holidays off. I taught one semester and in my second semester teaching, I got full-time. For five years I was the coordinator of the Baking and Pastry Arts Management program.

For the first two years, I also coordinated the WIL program, which is Work-Integrated Learning, which is where students go in the field and work. Just as of September, I stepped down from coordinating baking and I’m now coordinating food media. If you look at this long-term journey of … I don’t want to say … I still think I’m learning. I don’t think I’m the best baker or anything. I’m not trying to say, “Oh, look at me.”

But I started with knowledge of baking and I took that to the point where I’ve now written a book, it comes out next year. We’ve done all this stuff online. We run the website. I do consulting, coaching nonstop. It’s constantly coming in. Now, I’m going to do the same thing in the food media space.

For one, I’m going to make it a great program, give students opportunities, share my passion and knowledge. But now it’s forcing me to learn about food media. If I want to learn about podcasting, I can do that. It makes sense both personally and professionally.

Bjork Ostrom: Professionally. Yep.

Matthew Duffy: It’s this weird thing that I have going on that’s really helped me progress my skills and my knowledge. Most importantly, given me time to be home with my family and with my kids and with my wife. I have two kids now. I don’t want to be in the restaurant every day, all weekend and whatever.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. I think what I love about that is one of the things we’ve talked a lot about is this idea of dream building on the podcast. What does it look like to have a good understanding of what you’re actually after? A lot of times that changes. My guess is you had a season where it’s like, “I want to climb the ranks of the most incredible restaurants.” You do that and it’s good and you continue to do it until it’s not good.

Then you’re like, “Okay. Why is this not good? Why does this feel misaligned?” Then you refresh and press reset, and you go about building a new dream. It’s like, “Okay. What does it look like then to do the private chef world? Maybe that could be something that would look a little bit different.”

Doing that multiple times, and it’s exciting to see you where you are now in a season of doing that again with all of the skills and expertise that you have, this is another thing we talk about is looking back at … for any of us, to look back at what are we good at? What’s the through line for us? What do people keep asking us about? What are the things that we’re excited about? Then from that saying, “Can we pair this with the internet? Can we pair this with social media platforms? Can we pair this with a website?”

It seems like you have done that and are continuing to do that. Now, while also having some of these other pursuits but saying, “Hey, what does it look like for me to strategically build a following with all of this valuable information that I have and these experiences that I have online?” Can you talk about what that journey has been like and where you’ve found success with that and the things that you’re discovering about yourself?

Matthew Duffy: Yeah. That’s interesting for sure. It’s good to reflect on these things. First of all, I’ve always gravitated towards computers. We were one of the … I grew up in a really small town in Ontario, 7,000 people, but my mom was a teacher and we were one of the first people that I knew that had internet. At a young age, I was on forums and I was on ICQ and Messenger and all those other things.

I think I’ve always been in the digital space. I maybe just didn’t know it. I always took pictures and videos. When I was a chef, I had a good DSLR. I traveled. I would take pictures of the food. I never really did anything with it. I didn’t know how to edit the pictures. The pictures probably suck if I look back at them. But I thought I was going to learn photography and I thought I was passionate about it.

Much like anything, you have to work at it to get good at it. I think what started it for me was, first of all, I was always geared to technology. I can look up the number, because I think there’s somewhere you can check. I was one of the first 500,000 people to download the app Instagram. I had it really super early. It started out by me hosting a little bit of everything. Here’s some flowers. I’m walking my dog. This is some cool graffiti. Here’s the plate of food at work.

I had grown to 2,000 or 3,000 followers. I have a friend who’s a celebrity chef, Matty Matheson. He was actually on the show with The Bear as an actor. But at one point, we were cooking an event and he took a picture of me and posted something like, “Best upcoming chef in Canada follow this guy.”

All of a sudden, I had this spike in followers from 2,000 to 5,000. They’re like, “Oh, there’s something here.” I just kept working at it. It slowly turned more into me taking pictures of food. Then I have another friend who actually doesn’t cook or do any social media stuff anymore, but he had a good decent sized following of maybe 15,000 or 20,000 followers. I said, “What do I need to do differently to grow my page? You’re growing and people are liking your pictures.”

He said, “Look, you have this unique thing because you are a chef and you bake bread.” This is before sourdough was cool. People weren’t really baking sourdough way they were, but not the way they are now. He said, “Why don’t you just focus on sharing more bread stuff and share your pictures?”

I started taking this picture where there’s a white wall. I had floor to ceiling windows in our apartment. I’d take the picture of the bread and I would post it. At first it would just be the title, 100% whole wheat or whatever. Those started doing well. I started getting that primal branding effect where people would recognize that picture is mine. They just knew that that’s the Duffy shot.

Then that transitioned into me sharing a little bit about what I was doing, because I started getting questions, “Well, how did you bake this and what temperature, dah, dah, dah?” Then I started sharing that. Then one day I posted a video, and this is maybe five or six years ago. It performed really super well. Then I started transitioning into learning a little bit about video. Then I put everything into Instagram at one point and thought, “I’m going to grow this profile.”

But I didn’t ever look at it as a business, which I think in some ways, maybe looking back was a mistake. But I guess you never know when you’re doing these things. I just looked at it at the vanity metric. How many followers do I have? I just knew if I can keep sharing what I’m doing and keep growing, this will somehow be important later on.

I think I started by growing that Instagram platform. That’s what gave me that introduction into there is some opportunities in this digital space and there is something here and I should work at this to figure it out. I think that platform Instagram was what really started it for me, for sure.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. You started to see like, “Okay. There’s people reaching out, there’s some interaction, there’s an audience here, people are interested in this.” That being an early indicator that if people are interested in it, there’s probably going to be an opportunity here.

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What did it look like for you? I know this has even been within the last year or two to discover what that opportunity is. I know you’ve done some courses and have had success with that. Talk about what it’s been like to step into the world of brand building online, but also business building online. Maybe if you could also talk about some of the physical, I don’t know if you’d consider it retail, but some of the sales of baked goods that you’re doing as well.

Because what I love about it is, to take a step back, when we talk about this, what we are all after is building our ideal. That looks so drastically different for everybody. What’s great about your story is you’ve had different iterations of that. I think we all are always building what that ideal is. But you have all these different pieces and you’re putting them together.

You have the teaching part, which is really great. You’re able to sell actual baked goods, which there’s something that’s so awesome about that. You have course sales and you’re building that a following online. You’re building your website. All of this would be under the category of business. The teaching is a job, but it’s also, it’s like you could look at it that’s a client of yours, which is the school and you’re working for them.

What has that been like for you to craft this new stage of things and how has the online business part developed within that?

Matthew Duffy: It’s really difficult. It’s heavy-lifting. It’s not easy. I think consistency has shown us some success and the way, a little bit of trial and error. Before the pandemic, I used to teach some in-person classes outside the college, very home baker, couple things. I was doing it in a studio and they would pay me hourly.

What started happening is people were coming for me, not for the place that was advertising. They’re great and I had a really good … I still know them very well. But they were no longer coming because it was the baking studio. They were coming, because I was advertising this class.

That was the original side hustle was these in-person classes. I would load up the car, go teach this class. Through an obsession for learning and a desire to become a better baker and understand more about it, I was baking a lot at home, like 20 kilo bag a lot at home. I would work in the restaurant all week.

Then what happened was I was just losing money because I was baking so much bread and I was spending 50 bucks on a bag of flour or whatever. I was going into Whole Foods in Yorkville and buying a 20-kilo bag. They’re like, “We don’t sell this.” I have to get a manager to price it for it, because at the time, I didn’t even know, even though I worked at a restaurant, I probably could have just ordered.

Anyways, that was the initial selling some bread. Then I have a friend who was a farmer, organic farmer who ran a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, at our local farmer’s market. He said, “Why don’t you bring some bread here and sell it off the table?” I started doing that. Prior to that, maybe 15 years ago, well, 18 years ago now, in the first restaurant I had worked at, the chef was in an obsessive bread phase and we were selling bread at the market.

I already knew what the side hustle of bread looked like, because he was backdooring bread out of the restaurant. I already knew that there was something to be said there and there was a way to make money. We had those two things going, but very small scale, loaf of bread here, loaf of bread there.

Then we moved out of this little apartment and we started a local WhatsApp group. We had, I can’t remember now, maybe 50 people that were buying bread off me. It was more of a way to sell what I was baking so that I could bake. The more I bake, the better I’m going to get. I got a spiral mixer, it’s 15 kilos, I want to max out and make 10 to 15 kilos of dough. If I shape two breads, I’m learning twice as fast.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah.

Matthew Duffy: I would always make 10, 15. Next thing you know, I had a cooling rack on the back stairs. When we decided to move to this house, I now live in the suburbs, all of this was built around that online business side of stuff. Early pandemic, I lost the ability to teach bread. I didn’t feel comfortable selling bread because I didn’t want people coming to my house. I didn’t know.

We also didn’t want to give someone a bread and something happens. We were wiping our groceries down with sanitizers.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. All of us. Right. Right.

Matthew Duffy: Crazy. I was just really stressed. I had a newborn baby. I had a job and I have a really secure job. But my brain was thinking like, “Well, what if this is the apocalypse and the college closes? I don’t know what’s going on.” I went outside and I just on my phone how to make money online. No shit. I just Googled how to make money online.

Three things came up. Some woman came up. She’s like, “Here’s what you do.” I wrote them down on a piece of paper. I went and I said to my wife, I was like, “Here’s five ways to make money online. I’m going to do all five of them.” She rolled her eyes and was like, “Whatever.” She’s known me for long enough that she just … I’m just a crazy person. She’s like, “Whatever. Okay.”

She was probably watching a show at the time and I was like, “No. No. I’m going to do this.” Then I looked at her and I said, “Think of how much different our lives would look if we could make an extra $200 a month, $200 online.” Now, when I break down streams of income, we have now since moved. I’ve set up a baking studio in my house.

Inside of that studio, I have two large deck ovens, well, one in the garage, one in the basement. I use a Simply Bread Oven, which is like home artisan bread oven. Ironically enough, I started tracking the sales. August, I was away for three weeks. With half a week, maybe one bake in August, September, October, November, December. Four months, we did over $10,000 in sales.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.

Matthew Duffy: That doesn’t include panettone, which we make somewhere. Usually, we made around maybe 420 this year, 410. That’s a pretty high-priced item. There’s probably another 15,000 to 18,000 in sales there. In a matter of four months, we’re doing like 20,000 to 35,000 in sales, which is like crazy considering I was just trying to sell a loaf of bread. We call that the side-side hustle.

We’ve essentially run a WhatsApp group. We have about 325 people in it. My wife previews what’s coming. Actually, before our interview, I fed my leaven so that when we’re done, I can go downstairs and mix the dough and I’ll have baked tomorrow morning before I start work. I set the oven on a timer, it turns on, wake up with the kids at 7:30, throw the bread in the oven, do breakfast, pull the bread out, take them to school, and then go upstairs, do my job, and then my wife will manage … Jody manages all the front of the house.

I cannot deal with people. I hate dealing with orders. I don’t want any of it. She rocks it and she runs the group insanely good. We leave the comments off. She says, “Hey, everyone drop coming today 4:00 p.m. or tomorrow at noon or whatever it is. Here’s what’s coming.”

She turns the comments on. I have the reputation, and it doesn’t mean that everything I bake is good. I’m not saying my breads are the best. But I have this reputation of being excellent product and everything sells out. It’s very rare that we don’t sell out anything. I could be baking like 10 loaves of bread and 15 baguettes. I could bake six loaves of bread. I could make 100 donuts. I could make anything, anything we want.

Pairing that with the online business has been super helpful. That’s side-side hustle. Then we have online. I work with an agency. I actually stopped working with them and then started working with them again because I thought in my head that I could do a better job and I’ll do my own brand outreach and I want to negotiate these deals, but I don’t have time for that.

Sometimes I did … It was a nice company, but it was like 800 bucks. It was nothing and a very low brand deal. I counted it after. There was like 82 back and forth emails. I’m like, “I just sent 82 emails for freaking 800 bucks. What am I?” Now, I’m working back with them. The way that works is I pay a fee and they do all my posting comments and they outreach to brands on my behalf, and then they bring me partnerships.

They will take a percentage. I also pay a fee for the social media. But our deal is that I don’t pay if they don’t get me a partnership. If they don’t cover my cost of them, what I have to pay them in the month on the partnership, then I don’t pay. They’re really good. Chan Lee is her name. She does a good job, and she’s super good at getting the opportunities.

Even when I was on the social that I was telling you about a TV show, she came, sits there, she follows up with them, thanks so much. If a brand reaches out to me, I forward it to her. That is the whole monetization of the internet world. I’ve monetized my YouTube channel. We have AdSense coming in on the YouTube channel. YouTube is a really big lead magnet for me, which is going to lead into my next sort of thing.

I create Excel spreadsheets for all my recipes when I post them on YouTube. Then in the video I typically say, “The best way to scale this recipe is to download the Excel.” I make videos sometimes making 2 loaves and sometimes making 16. I found at first that 16 loaves of bread in the mixer, I thought, “No one’s going to really want to watch this because people don’t make that at home. They make two breads.”

But surprisingly, a lot of homemakers just maybe find it interesting or they learn a lot because I just talk about the process and I’m essentially just … My videos aren’t short. I have one that I was reviewing that’ll get posted tomorrow. It’s 32 minutes, jalapeno and cheddar sourdough. I could condense that into a four-minute video. But I really go through the deep dive of the process.

That is a stream of income. Then we have affiliated marketing through there and the blog, which is a stream of income, but very low. I just started teaching in-person classes again. I run workshops of four to six people. It’s $250 a person. It’s not a ton of money, but it’s a really great way for me to plan and think about online courses.

People come in-person. They ask questions. As an example, I’m going to launch a mini course online for rye bread with four-ish recipes and some information about rye, how to mill yourself, how to crack the grain and soak the grains, why it’s good for fermentation, Emily’s activity of rye, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

I teach this class in person one, two, three, four times. People come, they ask questions, I take some pictures. They leave a testimonial. Now I have an instant … I don’t know what the word is. But I have an instant evidence of practice, evidence of success. These students came. They took the course. They were happy. I will then transition that to an online course.

My newsletter, we’re coming up on 10,000 subscribers. We have about a 70% open rate. We have somewhere between probably 6,000 and 7,000 bakers that read my weekly email. Now what I can do is take the pictures from the student in the in-person, show the testimonial in the newsletter and say, “If you’re interested in my upcoming rye course … or if, hey, I taught this course on the weekend, it was local. But if you’re not local and you don’t want to fly to Toronto, I’m actually creating an online course. Click this link and I’ll be the first to let you know.”

What I’ll do is I’ll run a campaign. I’ll do a reduced price for the people who click the link. Then I’ll increase the price for the main newsletter. But then I always have something that I can market. On our online courses, I currently have three, they’re all designed for home baker. One is sourdough bread, one is sourdough pizza, which has pan pizza and five or six different pizzas. Then one is panettone.

Panettone is an advanced course for more serious baker. I’m actually making panettone this weekend for Valentine’s Day. We have about 100 on order. That’s the madre in the proof for now, timed it with the podcast. I will take those courses and market them through newsletter, and I’ll also mark them to social media.

Or in this example, I’m doing a podcast with you. I’ll say something like, “Hey, everyone. If you listen to this podcast, I’m going to give you 50% off my sourdough course. Use the Code Food Blogger Pro.” Or if I have a guest appearance, a speaking engagement, and whether it’s free or paid, that is just an upsell in another business. We were featured by Teachable, how to do a pre-sale.

I had been a number of their blog publications. They’ve used my model several times. I’ve spoken at their virtual conferences. We have done six figures in course sales, online course sales, and that’s over the time since we started. It’s not in one year. I also have a job and it’s side hustley. I do wonder if I really went all in, could I increase that?

But there’s classes, selling bread, online classes, AdSense, affiliate marketing. Then the last … There’s probably something I’m forgetting. But another side is I often get little consults for restaurants and bakeries. I’ll do them virtually in person. I charge an hourly rate and then I have a follow-up and I work with you to reach your goals, because a lot of people are trying to make these products in their restaurants or bakeries.

Or the really big one is December gets really crazy because panettone, and our course sales, just like the whole year is like this. I actually sold one yesterday at full price. But that’s the only panettone course sold in January. Whereas we get …

Bjork Ostrom: December. Yeah.

Matthew Duffy: Oh, yeah. It’s like hundreds of people and everyone’s trying to learn it. We juggle between all of these things. Then the last one, I guess, that’s not there yet, but is part of what I’m doing with you or what I’ve learned from not just you but your team at Food Blogger Pro is we are working towards growing the blog. There’s a few reasons why.

At the very beginning of the pandemic, somebody told me, I don’t even remember who, like, “You should have a blog.” I was like, “Cool.” I started this blog and I didn’t know what I was doing and zero SEO and I took really crappy pictures and lighting was really crappy. But people were still baking the recipes because I have a reputation of teaching bread. They know who I am. It was still successful.

We were still having a couple thousand sessions and people were visiting the site and sending me pictures and sharing the recipes. I now coordinate food media and I talk to a lot of people in the food media space. A recurring theme through interviewing professionals, one that really stood out to me was Mijune Pak. She’s the judge for Top Chef Canada.

She said to me, “It all started with writing.” She said, “I started a blog and I wrote” … This is crazy. Actually, you should interview her for Food Blogger Pro. She wrote every single day for three years.

Bjork Ostrom: Wow.

Matthew Duffy: She didn’t write recipes, I don’t think. I think she did restaurant reviews, food reviews, restaurant reviews. But anyways, she had told me that. Then it was like, “Okay.” I had spoke to a few other bloggers and a few other online creators and I said, “How do I do this full time? I like my job and I’m happy where I am. I’m not looking to quit my job. But I can’t help but think. Is there another path or can I build them both to the point where I have this ultimate decision?”

“If I didn’t have kids, I probably would’ve already left my job. But I’ve got two little kids and I have a pretty good situation at work. I really like it. It’s rewarding. It’s fun. It’s good. There’s lots of opportunity. Overall, it’s been a pretty great period of my life.”

A few people told me passive income on the … I’m a huge believer of passive income, so I invest in dividend paying, ETF stocks. I really look forward to that. I’ve tried to set up all the affiliate marketing, all the things that bring that, which is why I’m really big on online courses because I can earn money.

I was in Montreal staying in the Barbie suite, which is this room at the Fairmont. They turned into a Barbie suite. I won in an auction. I surprised my girls on Christmas in a getaway to Montreal. I wrote an email and did a course sale while on vacation. In 20 minutes of work, we made a couple grand off one email. That to me is why it’s so important to have passive income and whether it’s in baking or not.

I teach my students this all the time. You have something. There’s something you can do that can earn you money while you sleep. Even if you start small … My first YouTube check was like $4. I showed my wife and she was like, “You’re crazy. Like four bucks.” But she’s super supportive. She was like, “Okay.” She’s like, “We’ll give it a chance. Go for it.” She’s never said, “This is a dumb idea.” Well, maybe when I was going to buy a pizza truck during the pandemic, that was the one time she’s like …

Bjork Ostrom: Dumb idea.

Matthew Duffy: I was like, “But babe, we could do weddings and I could roll up to your house.” She was like, “It’s COVID. There’s no weddings.” I think that’s the only time she’s really shut me down on something. But that is one where I feel like that’s what I’m really focused on now is blog, YouTube, newsletter and all the rest of it is on the backburner for a bit. You say this in the podcast, and this is something that I don’t do super well.

But if you want to grow your newsletter, grow your newsletter. If you want to grow YouTube, just do YouTube. Sometimes I go to these YouTubers and they have these million followers, and then I click their Instagram because I’m curious and they have 30,000 Instagram. I’m like, “Well, how is this person not have that?”

But the reason is because they never focused on it. They don’t put any energy there because they’re solely focused on winning on the other platform. That’s where we’re at now. We started … This is a plug for Food Blogger Pro. This is not a paid endorsement. But when I started with Food Blogger Pro, I think we had about 2,000 monthly sessions, maybe 2,500. Now, we’re setting at about 22,000. We had about 6,000 monthly page views. Now, we’re sitting at about 45,000. It’s also my favorite place on the internet is my newsletter and the blog.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome.

Matthew Duffy: Because you put a recipe on Instagram and it’s fine and all that. But how many people are really truly making that TikTok feta pasta? How many are really making the viral shaping video? How many people are actually shaping a bread and watching my video. But on YouTube, people are really there to learn. The amount of responses I get to my emails is actually so overwhelming right now that I’m considering potentially trying to have … I have a VA that we work with and she’s great.

I’m like, “Could she answer emails as well? Could she run?” I like to keep it personal, but that’s the next monetization strategy is to get the blog bringing in a recurring revenue so that even if I just want to outsource whatever other job and have that, but that’s, yeah, I guess that’s a long answer. But those are the five or six income streams that we’ve come to growth.

Bjork Ostrom: What I love about that, there’s a couple of different things we talk about. People who have listened to the podcast a long time know that we talk about this idea of the egg carton method where it’s like, “Okay. What does it look like if you think of an egg carton to fill in?” If the full egg carton is your entire salary, maybe it’s a half egg carton, like one of those little ones, six. In your case, this would work out perfectly. What does it look like to build up the different pieces of that as income sources?

In your case, those will ebb and flow through the year. The other thing that I really love about what you just shared was this the moment where you said you were really stressed because you thought like, “What if this job goes away?” What you have now with a simple WhatsApp group and the skills that you’ve created around building a great product, which is baked goods, that is something that you could fall back on in a lot of ways, I think, correct me if I’m wrong, as a sole source of income if needed.

Matthew Duffy: 100%.

Bjork Ostrom: For a lot of us, it’s not just even doing this full-time, it’s having something that’s part-time, that’s a really great safety net against another thing that you maybe love doing, which is what you dedicate most of your time with that could potentially go away. If that thing goes away, you have a safety net that can scale up and is it in some ways a little bit of an insurance policy for the inevitable jobs change, company strategies, different education changes, whatever it might be that you have as your full-time gig.

That stuff shifts and changes. You have all of these things that are surrounding you that you could scale up at any point if you want. The other thing that’s really exciting to hear you talk about is scaling up the traffic to your site. Now it is at that point where very soon you’ll be able to apply to some of these ad networks and it’ll be much more than 200 a month, which you joked about earlier. It’ll be …

Matthew Duffy: That was the goal. That was the original goal. Which is great. I said, “Can you imagine how different our lives would look if we could just earn $200 a month? We could just pay for the groceries, babe. We would be set.” That’s what I was telling her.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think the trajectory that you have with your site pretty soon, that will be thousands and that just different. It’s not completely passive. As you know, it’s a lot of work to get there.

Matthew Duffy: Definitely.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s also a lot of work to maintain it. But there is a certain type of passive to it where in the future you’ll do that trip to the Montreal and you won’t even need to send out an email. You’ll just check your ad network dashboard and you’ll see like, “Oh, the site earned multiple hundreds of dollars or $1,000,” whatever it might be. That’s just happening truly passively in these blocks of time where you’re not working on it. It’s exciting to hear.

Matthew Duffy: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Go ahead.

Matthew Duffy: That’s important. Just my wife works on this with me, and that’s something that we talked about, and that’s how I was able to hook her into this business because it was me for a long time and this was my thing. She’s not a baker. She’s not a chef. She never worked in a restaurant a day in her life. She works at the government. She has a full-time job too. She was always living around me cooking. She loves food and we love to go out to eat and all that.

I just sat her down one day and I was maybe frustrated. I’ve been doing all this stuff on my own for years. Not to say that she hadn’t helped me, because she helped me look the camera and stuff like that. I just said, “What do you see yourself in five years? What’s your dream scenario and where do you want to be?”

I probably heard this on your podcast to be honest. She kind of said, “I’d love it if we could do this and this and this.” I just looked at her and said, “Well, it’s not going to happen if we just work a regular job. That life is not there.” We now have this opportunity. Then I showed her, here’s the streams of income, here’s how much we made on this, here’s how much we made here. I don’t know what it was, but I think that was enough to spark her.

Now she manages the blog in some ways and she’s the one that’s driving it forward. Then I’m managing all the video content. But that’s a huge goal for us is to get that recurring revenue and have that monetization on the blog. It’s also fun to do the blog for the most part because it’s a really great creative outlet and just learning how to take the pictures and learning how to write the blog and learning how to write better recipes.

But I think the best part of it is people making the recipes. I think that’s something that when I started the blog, that’s the number one goal. But I don’t know that I really thought of that as the goal. But now when you see those tags on Instagram, people respond to the newsletter. I’ve sent a newsletter out. I sent it usually at 8:00 a.m. on Friday. I’ve had people sending me pictures of the product that I sent in the newsletter the same day. Like, “Oh, here’s the picture.” I’m like, “How did you … that so fast?”

Bjork Ostrom: Maybe even went out and got ingredients, came back home.

Matthew Duffy: Yeah. 100%. They for sure did that. Like, “How did you do that?” I think that’s a rewarding side of it, that regardless of monetization and it’s a skill stack. It’s only going to help me be a better writer. I have a book coming out next year and writing the book helped me learn how to write better recipes, of writing the recipes helped me learn how to write the book.

The publisher found me through recommendation. The first thing you know what they do, they go on your website. They look at your recipes. What does he have? That was they instantly were like, “Well, this is a very different style of blog. You have very different categories of restaurant that no one else really has, and we want you to write a book about it.” That’s, yeah, all those things together. But I think ultimately bringing in.

My wife is really motivated by the numbers and she’s really working hard and every day this morning she’s like, “How many page views today?” Every day, she’s refreshing in the morning. To be honest, I usually stay up past midnight and I’ll check it after midnight. But I think she’s motivated seeing the number. Once it becomes a paycheck, I think she’ll like, “I think that’s really going to change things.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. It makes sense. For everybody, the motivation is different. But when you can see the hard work that you’ve put in result in money deposited into your bank account, that can be an extremely motivating thing, especially in a season like you have right now where it’s generally incrementally up. This month is higher than last month, and that’s not always how it goes. Algorithm changes. Maybe a piece of content takes off that doesn’t in the week to come.

But generally speaking, if that’s what you’re doing as you’re working hard on a thing, that can be really rewarding to have those metrics showcase the hard work that you’re doing, which you guys have done such a great job of. A lot of it is the culmination of decades of work as well. It’s your skills and expertise. It’s her continued effort around shaping that online. It’s important to call that out, too.

It’s a lot of time, experiences, skills stacked over time. It makes sense that you guys are finding the traction that you’re finding. Matthew, like we’ve done, we could talk for hours. I know that you literally have things to tend to in the kitchen. But for people who want to connect with you, follow along with what you’re up to, what’s the best place to do that? You’re active in multiple places online.

Matthew Duffy: Yeah. I think the best place or the number one place I would promote right now, or the place that I would probably send people is to my newsletter. I send a weekly newsletter. I struggled with this for a long time and it was one of the biggest pain points for me was doing a newsletter. I think that it’s now my favorite thing to do. I don’t share highly curated recipes. I share what I’m doing.

If I’m in the kitchen, I snap an iPhone picture. I don’t even turn the light on sometimes. We have the studio lighting. I just take a picture and that’s in the newsletter. I’m like, here’s what I’m baking this week. I send out my new best and what I’m vamping and what’s coming up. It used to be a notification and I would just send a newsletter, “New YouTube video.” I think that’s the number one place.

Instagram’s pretty big for me. I get a lot of DMs and message on Instagram. I answer all my … I did say before someone answers comments. But if you actually ask a skill question or an equipment question, I’ll answer it. If you say “Nice bread,” it might not actually be me that answers you. But Instagram’s a great one.

For anyone that is interested in learning more about sourdough and tutorial demos, YouTube is where I put my most intense versions of my recipe, and then of course that compliments the blog. The blog and YouTube go hand in hand. On the website, we’ve got sourdough yeasted bread, leftover bread, sourdough discard, and a pizza category, which I’m starting to build out now. There’s lots of great stuff there.

But yeah, I think newsletter number one. The other thing that I didn’t understand about newsletters is everything can go into newsletter. If someone listening to this wants to see what I’m doing, if you join my newsletter, I will tell you when the best Instagram posts are or the best YouTube.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Right. All of it.

Matthew Duffy: All of it. Yeah. You don’t need to go and follow every channel …

Bjork Ostrom: Just go to the newsletter.

Matthew Duffy: … if you really want. Just follow the newsletter and I’ll direct you where you need to go.

Bjork Ostrom: The best stuff each week.

Matthew Duffy: Yeah. Yeah. That’s the way I’ve decided to run the newsletter. I think it’s the best way to get people the information. It’s overwhelming. Everyone has 10 channels and follow me on all these platforms and do all this stuff. Just subscribe to my newsletter. That’s it.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Matthew, thanks so much for coming on. Great to chat again.

Matthew Duffy: Thank you. Thank you.

Emily Walker: Hey there, Emily here from the Food Blogger Pro team. We hope you enjoyed this week’s podcast episode and really appreciate you taking the time to tune in and listen. In case you didn’t know, in addition to the Food Blogger Pro podcast, we also have the Food Blogger Pro membership, which is where we teach our members how to start, grow, and monetize their food blog.

We have lots of incredible resources to help you on your food blogging journey, including our courses, our community forum, our member only live Q&As, our deals and discounts page, and so much more. You’ll get instant access to all of this when you sign up for a Food Blogger Pro membership.

We have two awesome membership options available to you. Our yearly membership or our quarterly membership, which is just $99 a quarter and allows for some more flexibility if you want to try the membership out and see if it’s a good fit for you. If you’re interested and want to learn more or to sign up, head to foodbloggerpro.com/join. We are so grateful for our Food Blogger Pro community. We would love to have you join us.

Thanks so much for tuning in this week, and we’ll see you back here next week for another episode. Have a great week, everybody.

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