280: A New Recipe Experience – Getting Started with SideChef with Sandie Markle

Listen to this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast using the player above or check it out on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

An image of cup of coffee on a desk and the title of Sandie Markle's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'A New Recipe Experience.'

Welcome to episode 280 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Sandie Markle from SideChef about how their platform helps foodies and creators.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Anna Rider from Garlic Delight about financial independence and retiring early. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Getting Started with SideChef

Let’s talk about SideChef, a platform that’s aimed at making the cooking experience easier. With a custom app, tailored cooking experiences, and dynamic recipe guidance, SideChef wants to make the whole cooking journey easier for its users.

Sandie Markle, SideChef’s Director of Content Partnerships, will share how SideChef helps their users with meal planning, grocery delivery, and smart kitchen connectivity, as well as how bloggers, content creators, and influencers can get involved with their Micro-Influencer Program.

It’s a really cool platform, and we’re excited to help you learn more about it in today’s episode!

A quote from Sandie Markle’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'Why people cook will never change; how they cook will.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What SideChef is
  • How content creators can add their recipes to SideChef
  • How to increase engagement with virtual assistants
  • How to create clear step-by-step recipes
  • How SideChef works with partners
  • How to create money from SideChef


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

Learn more about joining the Food Blogger Pro community at foodbloggerpro.com/membership

Transcript (click to expand):

Alexa Peduzzi: Hello hello, and welcome to this episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. My name is Alexa, and I’m part of the Food Blogger Pro team here, and we are so excited you decided to join in and listen to this episode today, because today on the podcast you’ll hear about the tool called SideChef. And it’s a platform that’s aimed at making the cooking experience easier for its users.

Alexa Peduzzi: So with a custom app, and tailored cooking experiences, and dynamic recipe guidance, SideChef wants to make the whole cooking journey easier. Sandie Markle, who is SideChef’s Director of Content Partnerships, is going to be interviewed here today on the podcast, and she’ll share more about how SideChef helps their users with meal planning, grocery delivery, and smart kitchen connectivity, as well as how bloggers, content creators, and influencers like you can get involved with their micro-influencer program.

Alexa Peduzzi: It’s a really cool idea for a platform, and we’re excited to help you learn more about it in today’s episode. So without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Sandie, welcome to the podcast.

Sandie Markle: It’s so great to be here, I’m so excited.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So you’re going to win a record for the Food Blogger Pro podcast. We were just chatting a little bit about where we are and where we’re recording from, and I was like, “Twin Cities.” And then I said, “How about you?” And your answer was… you can tell the audience.

Sandie Markle: I’m broadcasting from Shanghai, China, where…

Bjork Ostrom: Shanghai.

Sandie Markle: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Oh, that is so awesome. And it is 5:00 AM.

Sandie Markle: Yes. Yeah, Food Blogger Pro.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It is the official earliest ever recording for the Food Blogger Pro podcast. So I’m curious to know, what brings you… I know that the SideChef story is one where it’s kind of a distributed company. Is that your reason for being in Shanghai, or is there another reason that you’re there?

Sandie Markle: Actually, it kind of all worked out. I was in the accounting field for about 10 years. And I’m originally from Miami, and in Miami, it’s really not uncommon to speak more than one language. My family’s from Haiti, so I do speak multiple languages, and in Miami… Spanish, Asian Creole, a lot of different languages there. And the Chinese population is pretty vast there as well. And so I just started to kind of learn it on my own, and then when I got married, my husband and I decided to move to Shanghai. And then a few months later, I found SideChef, and that was almost six years ago.

Bjork Ostrom: That is awesome. Tell us a little bit about SideChef. I’ve had a couple of conversations with some team members from SideChef, and I know that came out as an app, and now it’s starting to evolve a little bit, which we’re going to get into, kind of talk about this idea of content and how people can be putting content in multiple places, some of the thoughts that we’ve had around that. But what about SideChef as a business? What does that look like in terms of the different evolutions that they’ve gone through over the years?

Sandie Markle: Yeah. When SideChef launched in 2013, kind of SideChef 1.0, it really was launched as a mobile app like you said, and really to gamify the cooking experience. Our founder and CEO, Kevin Yu, he really created SideChef to help himself first, just to learn how to cook. And over the years, now that we are at SideChef 5.0, which recently launched, it’s now a really holistic platform which includes web, app, shopping, and extensive tech integration.

Sandie Markle: And we’ve actually moved past just being a mobile app. So SideChef, as a company, is actually split now between our consumer-facing side and our B-to-B arm which we really strengthened over the years. And so we’re now able to… we’ve closed the loop in our end-to-end experience, from just the aspiration to cook to now sitting down and having a meal. So now we have custom apps, cooking software, tailored cooking experiences, and now SideChef is a great place to cook.

Bjork Ostrom: So when you say end-to-end, what do you mean by that? For those who aren’t familiar with that term.

Sandie Markle: So end-to-end-to-end really means, like I just said, from the moment you decide hey, what’s for dinner, and then the cooking journey begins. So you say to yourself, okay, I want to make something. And then the search. So you can go onto SideChef, and now you can browse through recipes. And then once you’ve selected the recipe that you want to make, what do you need next? Well you need ingredients, so we also launched grocery integration two years ago, where the ingredients are now shoppable.

Sandie Markle: And then you get your ingredients, and now say it’s a new recipe, or you’re just not familiar with this cooking in general. Our guided cooking experience, which had been around since 1.0 and has increasingly advanced over the years, then we can guide you step by step. We have really tailored articles and tips to guide you through the cooking process, even shopping lists, et cetera, and then now you’re sitting down to a meal.

Sandie Markle: So, that’s what me mean by end-to-end, from the beginning to the end, so that it doesn’t just stop at search or just stop at finding a recipe.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah, it’s interesting. One of the things that I’ve been thinking about as it relates to the work that we’re doing with Pinch of Yum, Pinch of Yum being… we have Food Blogger Pro, where we speak to bloggers, and then we have Pinch of Yum, where we’re speaking to essentially people who are interested in food, the vast market. But one of the things for Pinch of Yum that we’re thinking a lot about is, what does it look like for us to distribute the content that we have into multiple places? So we create something… we’re still very blog-centric at Pinch of Yum, it’s the primary way that we’re creating income, we create income from ads.

Bjork Ostrom: Secondary would be sponsored content, so on Instagram primarily, and then if a brand wants to sponsor something that we’re doing on the blog, we get income from that. But we’re starting to see some other recipe-specific platforms that are offering creators the ability to kind of… not rebrand, but it’s essentially syndicating, in a way, the content that they have into other places. And there’s a lot of considerations and a lot of questions, and a lot of potentially concerns that creators would have when they think about what that might look like, to put their content into other places, and would love to talk about a few of those things.

Bjork Ostrom: So at a high level, if I’m a food blogger, if I’m a creator, what does that look like for me to consider the potential of putting my content onto SideChef? What does that mean, and how does that work?

Sandie Markle: Okay, cool. Yeah. So, when partners think about joining with us, or we reach out to them, usually partners license their content onto our platforms for greater exposure across a wide array of platforms outside of web and their blog. So, like I mentioned before, through our grocery integration, we have grocery revenue based on the shoppable recipe engagement.

Sandie Markle: So initially, we launched with Amazon Fresh, and we’re rolling out with new grocery partners very, very soon, just to widen the pool of diversifying this passive income stream. I will say that in 2018… actually, when I first started in 2014, we always wanted grocery delivery because it’s a part of the end-to-end process, but the market wasn’t ready for it. Here in China, grocery delivery is very democratized. It’s like a way of life. But a lot of people in America before 2020, they just thought it was super niche, also, even the brands that were doing grocery delivery, they just weren’t doing it at the volume that they needed to do it right now.

Sandie Markle: And so, a lot of people, they liked going to the grocery store, they felt like they were in control. They wanted to see the products that they’re buying.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s almost experiential for a lot of people. They want to pick up the mango and see, is this a good mango? I don’t want somebody else to do it.

Sandie Markle: Exactly. So early adoption was very slow, but as we know, a lot of people are trying new things this year, and it really has revved up people’s willing to try grocery delivery this year. So it was kind of a slow uptake, but we always knew that there would be a moment where the tides would turn. Unfortunately, the reason is not super positive, but nevertheless, it really gives people a cool entry point to try it out and to retain. So we’re seeing an uptick of people really engaging with this recipe. So this is a cool passive income stream that has already been embedded into our recipes, and all of our partners have an opportunity to participate in that.

Sandie Markle: And so, also, as our company has grown, opportunities for our partners have also grown. But we don’t pay an onboarding initial licensing fee for content, there are advantages to sharing recipes on SideChef from the start. So, for example, when you think about licensing, just in general… licensing onto SideChef has a more accessible entry point to publishing your recipes, more so than the traditional way like from your blog or social channels, like for example if someone had aspirations of being commissioned to be a contributor to a food digital publication that has worldwide influence and leadership, a lot of these publications receive hundreds of pitches, and they do a lot of their own content as well. And so, often, it can be about who you know, or where you’ve previously published, or how high your social following is.

Sandie Markle: But at SideChef, we’re really inviting nano and micro-influencers to really let us be the first step in publishing outside of their channels and to grow with us. And that’s kind of one of the biggest ways we provide… because we actually have really grown, and the opportunities have grown too. And so we’re providing that opportunity, not just in the mobile app, I think, we’re trying to provide greater awareness about the different platforms that SideChef is in now. So we are not just the app, we’re on the Amazon Alexa, we’re on Samsung Bixby, we’ve had different partnerships with different large kitchen appliance brands, and we’re on Facebook Portal right now.

Sandie Markle: So all of these different types of platforms have a different way to optimize your content, just like, for example, on your blog you optimize your content to be as engaging for followers, home cooks to engage with the content on that platform, and through search optimization, right? Everybody’s trying to slay the Google algorithm and try to be found, so you try to optimize your content for that. Well, we optimize the traditional recipe into our signature format as well, and so when we bring on partners, it’s not a one-to-one thing, we do optimize their content.

Sandie Markle: The bulk of it is the same, we’re not changing anyone’s recipes or anything like that, but the platforms are different, and the way people engage with the content is different, and it’s really creating greater opportunities to diversify income opportunities through these different platforms, platforms that maybe they’re not super familiar with.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah, it’s interesting. I’m going to see if I can break down some of that, and let me know if this is accurate, kind of accurate, or completely off. So one of the things that you had talked about is your signature… I forget what you called it, but like signature type of content…

Sandie Markle: Recipe format? Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, the format. And by that do you mean, essentially, very much so step by step direction-oriented, as opposed to maybe just writing, or just photos? Like, it’s step one, here’s a picture. Here’s the directions. Step two, here’s a picture. Here’s the directions. In super simple terms, is that what you’re getting at?

Sandie Markle: That’s one part of it, which is one part of the, we call it the smart recipe format. The reason why we call it that is because it’s not just step-by-step photos, which a lot of great bloggers do, but also when you talk about smart, it’s not like the recipes were dumb before, but the idea of smart in the modern age means connected. So what makes our smartphone smart is that it’s connected. We have location, we have a lot of data associated with it. And the same is true with our recipes, so once we optimize partner content into our format, it’s not just transposing information. Now it’s full of data about the way home cooks engage with the recipe, it’s full of data about what everyone’s intent is, as well.

Sandie Markle: And then it’s also, through our small kitchen appliance integration, it’s also connected to appliances as well. And then it also makes the guided experience very holistic. So over the years that I’ve been at SideChef, we really work very hard to refine the guided cooking experience, also to remove barriers to the cooking process.

Bjork Ostrom: When you say guided recipe experience, what does that mean? Because I think that’s a really interesting change that’s happening, and you can see that within the app, but I’m guessing that plays out in other ways as well.

Sandie Markle: Absolutely. So I did a really intense research around that, just because that’s what I’ve been doing for the last six years. But about like what it means, that guided experience. So when you think about cooking in general, when people cook together, or how you learn to cook, it’s really about building intuition. And so how do you build intuition? You learn, you get tips. But people don’t want to feel like they’re working with a device, so we really have really personalized the experience with voice guidance. Hands-free voice guidance is something we’ve had from the start, which has always been really cool.

Sandie Markle: So through the app you just say, “Okay, what’s the next step?” And then it goes to the next step. Also, there’s recipe-specific tips, like step tips, but also there’s tips about the ingredients, like how to store it. And these are things of course you can find everywhere, but when it’s like when you need it, that’s really the trigger that can really make people feel like they can make something happen with this recipe. Like the worst thing that can happen is you’re in a recipe, it says take the pot out of the oven, and it never told you to put it in there to begin with.

Sandie Markle: So we’re really removing barriers and building that intuition, because we want to build confidence as well, and also make people feel like we’re right by their side. We’re there when they need us. So everybody’s cooking level is different, everybody’s cooking needs are different. So if you don’t need kind of the step by step guidance, we have overview, we have animated GIFs, because you need to see what things are supposed to look like. A lot of the times you have this experience where you’re like, is it supposed to look like this?

Sandie Markle: And so in think that’s why, from the very beginning, we knew that having the step by step experience is important. And even when it comes to integrated or connected devices like the home hubs that are coming out, GE, and the connected microwaves, and et cetera, there’s a learning curve associated with those things as well. And so as these appliances start to be democratized and they start coming into small domestic appliances, people need that guidance. And one thing I always say… why people cook will never change. How they cook will.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah, and you can imagine that as a really obvious example, how many recipes people get from the internet now versus how many recipes they got from the internet 20 years ago. It’s easy to give those kind of extreme contrast examples over a large amount of time like 20 years. But to say, what does that look like to think now, strategically… 10 years ago, Pinch of Yum started. Probably at a point where it’s like people were making recipes online for sure, but probably not as much as they are right now.

Bjork Ostrom: And to your point, people will be making recipes off of a device, an Echo, a Google device with a screen. A screen on their refrigerator, a screen on their microwave, whatever it might be, much more in 10 years, or even in five years, than they are right now. So that makes a lot of sense. I think people can understand that kind of track along with that. One of the questions that I have as it relates to that process is, other than exposure, which is still an important thing, what does that look like for a creator to, let’s say, rank number one for a search term on an Echo device? And I’m not saying the full name so everybody’s device doesn’t trigger, but what does that look like on a Google or an Amazon screen device that is in your house, to rank for that keyword? Does that do anything from a monetary perspective? Can you run ads? Is that coming down the line? How does that work?

Sandie Markle: Yeah, great question. So, the cool thing about being at SideChef is we’re innovating as our large partners are innovating as well, and so one of the cool things about, for example the Amazon Echo… here’s an interesting stat. When gen one of the Amazon came out, it did not have a screen. It was just like a speaker. So after the first year or so, after their data came back, they noticed that a majority of users were using it in their kitchen.

Sandie Markle: And so we were approached by them to be one of a few selected partners to be the first recipe content, kind of really early adopting into this platform. And so we optimized our content, the content on our mobile app, to now appear on the Amazon Echo. And so the data around that is still kind of coming in as far as engagement, because they’re also rolling out with new skills, now we have the SideChef skill as well on the Amazon Echo. So I think one of the cool things about being a partner as well is we provide data insight to our partners that are specific not only to the platform at large, but also because we really want to empower people to make better decisions using data.

Sandie Markle: And I’m not a data analyst, but just familiarizing myself with how recipe engagement works in these different platforms, you really can decide… because the way people engage maybe on blog sites may not be the same audience for the different platforms, and could you potentially share a certain recipe that’s more successful on this platform? And as far as monetization opportunities, we really encourage people to early adopt, because in the past, that’s been successful for other platforms like YouTube, for example. In the beginning, people just went on YouTube like, oh, this is fun, I can show myself. But then a monetization model was embedded where now everybody’s going on YouTube to make money.

Sandie Markle: But the people who early adopted to it kind of have seniority, and they had already built a following, so once the monetization model came about, boom. And so, I think a lot more platforms that have fully started, like Facebook Portal, definitely Amazon Echo there will be income streams in those things. So I think that as we’re providing data insights to our partners, we’re trying to help them to understand how to increase their engagement so that when more opportunities come… because once the monetization model comes on, then boom, the market’s going to be saturated. Everybody’s going to jump on board, as we see now with grocery delivery.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s a really interesting observation in economics and risk. And as a creator, being bandwidth time limited, there’s an analysis of, hey, is there an area that I want to take a risk on betting that this is going to be an opportunity? And if you bet on an area that you deploy time and energy against to build an early following and scale, then you’ll be at a strategic advantage when there is a point where it turns on monetization, because as you said, economically, once there is margin, or profit, or revenue, then suddenly the supply changes, and if there isn’t an incentive, people are going to be less incentivized to create, and so you kind of are taking a risk there in creating that early content.

Bjork Ostrom: And if you bet on that and get ahead of it, then you’re going to be at a strategic advantage, especially if you’re able to create really good content for that platform. It’s not just like throwing something up there will suddenly get you traction. So as it relates to that, is there anything different around kind of the step by step process content creation that is really specific to SideChef versus how many people might be approaching content, or at least how we would approach content, which is like, hey, we’re going to have three to four pictures and a blog post, we’re going to have the recipe, maybe we’re going to have one on Instagram, and then Instagram Stories. How do you have to shift your concept mindset in order to create good step by step content for an app or a platform like SideChef?

Sandie Markle: Okay, cool question. One of the things that, I think a few years ago, we really overhauled kind of our recipe guidelines. We kind of just were doing it along the way, but we never really said okay, this is the SideChef standard, which we did a few years back. So we really try to think about, like I said, these barriers and triggers to cooking, and a lot of the times when we get partner recipes… the recipes in a cookbook or a blog post, sometimes for brevity’s sake it’s kind of condensed in maybe a few steps, because people don’t want to be reading a bunch of stuff… and then you have all the beautiful pictures and stuff like that.

Sandie Markle: But we found out is it was not actually step by step. And so, sometimes when we optimize our recipes we break the steps down because it’s almost too much information in one step to really make it step by step. And that’s okay for the website because sometimes people look at the recipe. But when it’s really on a device like an Echo, or a mobile device, or the Facebook Portal for example, that’s something that we really look at. And also, one of the things we ask ourselves is… because in our company, we’re totally foodies, so we’re not just workers, we’re fans of all the people we have on and beyond.

Sandie Markle: So we cook the recipes, we’ve always had a kitchen, from our 12 person startup that we started at to now in our office, we’ve always had a kitchen. So one of the things we cook, like partner recipes or like recipes that we love, one of the questions we always ask ourselves is… if we asked ourselves, “Is this what it’s supposed to look like?” Already, that’s a trigger right there.

Bjork Ostrom: Essentially saying, if the question comes to mind, is this what it’s supposed to look like, something has been miscommunicated along the way.

Sandie Markle: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: And is that with the recipe itself, you mean? Like if people get to a point where they’re like, is this where I’m supposed to be?

Sandie Markle: Yeah, I think also visual cues are really important, especially if it’s something someone’s never made before. I did a workshop last year about sensory receptors, and what is it supposed to taste like? What is it supposed to smell like? What is it supposed to look like? Those are also the things, those cues, that also help guide people along the way. And so we’re really, even as we develop our own original content, we kind of really are in tune with that too, because whenever people are not successful in a recipe, it’s never about them, it’s about the recipe.

Sandie Markle: This is not a good recipe, right? And so when we optimize the content on our platform, we want to make sure the recipes are quote-unquote good for the platform, because we want them to go through the entire session of the recipe and feel like they’re confident. The ultimate goal really is for your recipe, my recipe, whoever’s recipe to become their recipe. Because once they become their recipe, your macaroni and cheese recipe is going to be my macaroni and cheese recipe at the company picnic. You know what I mean?

Sandie Markle: So that’s how you know you’ve won, you got them. And so if there’s any blocker, we try to eliminate those, and a lot of it is along the way. So that’s a big thing.

Bjork Ostrom: This is my tangent story on that, and my one claim to fame with recipes. For context, I have zero credibility when it comes to developing recipes. That’s 1000% credit due to Lindsay and the Pinch of Yum team. But there’s one recipe that I had, I originally got it from AllRecipes, made a few little tweaks and changes, and developed it as my pancakes recipe. And Lindsay posted it to Pinch of Yum, said “Hey, Bjork’s been making this recipe lately,” tied back to AllRecipes as kind of the source of it, but it was my one like, hey, I just want to have a little slice of the smallest slice possible of Pinch of Yum…

Sandie Markle: A Pinch of Yum pie.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, exactly. And then, somebody’s like “Hey, just a heads up, Chrissy Teigan and John Legend were doing a live video, and they’re like, ‘Here’s the pancake recipe we use.’” And I was like, yes! John Legend referenced the pancake recipe. But, point being with it, you can have these recipes that you kind of can say, you know what? For him, he’s like, this is the recipe that we make every morning. And you can kind of… that comes from feeling confident making it. You have an understanding of what it should look like along the way.

Bjork Ostrom: My question to you is, what are those indicators of a recipe that people easily understand, that’s clear, that people feel successful when they make? Is there advice you’d give creators around what needs to be included with that?

Sandie Markle: I’m not also a recipe developer with decades of experience, but I think actions that are really clear and concise, and also not putting multiple actions in one step. And I think also setting people up… head notes are really important in a recipe, because a lot of people use it just as a description, sometimes people use the term interchangeably, but the traditional recipe concepts are really important to really lock down, because it really tells people a lot about the recipe as far as maybe diet things, or special things about the recipe.

Sandie Markle: Also, what they need. So another annoying thing that I found that really is a big barrier, a blocker, is like when people don’t know what they need in the beginning. Like the tools and resources they need, like oh my goodness, I needed a dutch oven? I’m like halfway through this thing. And I don’t have one. Because people want the recipe to look like yours. That’s the ultimate thing, you know? They connected with you as an influencer, and they want to emulate you, and they want to have that humble brag moment where they can share, and they want their recipe to look like yours.

Sandie Markle: You see on Google all the time, hashtag kitchen fails. They don’t want that situation. So, also giving everybody the heads up in the very beginning. People scan to see… that’s the first few seconds where you got them or you don’t. And if you don’t tell them from the very beginning what they’re going to need, that’s already a disappointment for a lot of… and you lost maybe some people there.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. I kind of rabbit-trailed us off into this direction of talking about recipes and what success looks like, but I’m interested to come back to where that started, which is talking about these different ways that creators can create an income. We talked about the potential of being an early adopter on a certain platform, like some of the home devices that you’re seeing, the potential to figure those out before everybody else does, and those brands or companies turn on monetization, having an edge.

Bjork Ostrom: But one of the things that you talked about is this idea of… if I’m able step back a little bit, it’s essentially like people who are really early on, and want to create recipe content, but maybe are overwhelmed with doing that on their own blog, or want to have some earlier traction by having a place where they’re publishing that and there are already people there, versus trying to get people to show up to your blog. And this idea of being able to go to a platform where there already are people and create on that platform. Is that a fair assessment of how you’re looking at creating content on SideChef? It’s like hey, you can get some of that early traction my coming somewhere where there’s already traction, as opposed to trying to build that on your own blog. Or would you describe that a little bit differently?

Sandie Markle: I would say it’s kind of a shared experience. We don’t see it as either or, we just created another opportunity, another platform, that’s kind of running in tandem. And we make sure that whatever they share on SideChef is not competing with what they’re trying to do on their sites, because it’s like there’s enough to go around, we think. So it’s just more exposure. We’re really giving just new opportunities to share in more places.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So, let’s say that you are a blogger, you’ve been working on building your traction for five to six years. You have some content that ranks well. If you’re putting that content on SideChef, I think one of the concerns that people would have… I’m sure you get this question all the time… is what happens if SideChef is really established, and then they take over on search, or maybe take over on Pinterest for my recipe? What does that look like, and how does SideChef handle that?

Sandie Markle: Yeah, we do get that question a lot. When we first started SideChef, we were the app. And we didn’t really have a web presence right away, we just focused on the mobile app. But for functional reasons, we had to create a website, and a lot of the technology that we created in SideChef is DIY. Literally, with our engineers, we build along the way, and so we’ve kind of been building and refining the process. So when we first rolled out our web, it just kind of duplicated everything. And as you know, we’re learning syndicated content, everybody’s learning about it.

Sandie Markle: It was never to compete. To be honest, we weren’t paying a lot of attention to that. We were just trying to kind of create the things that would build up the company. But we always wanted to put our partners… bring awareness. That was always our goal. So we’ve actually been working a lot on our website over the last few years, and we’re finally able to now create the situation where we show partial recipes on the web, because we really want to kind of focus the guided cooking experience on our mobile platform, so we really don’t need the full recipe, and we do know syndicated content is actually damaging in a lot of ways to our partners and that’s not what we’re trying to do.

Sandie Markle: So now we have this situation where, through our great engineers working on this, we can show partial recipes. So I think it’s like only the ingredients, and then there’s a link back to the partner’s website. And we’ve been rolling out this slowly. With tech you have to test it out and see if there’s any bugs or weird stuff going on. So we’ve been rolling it out, just telling a few partners here and there, but we feel like it’s really strong right now.

Sandie Markle: And we’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the people we’ve been testing it out with, that it actually has brought more traffic to their site, which we’re happy about. I think some brands are like no follow links or something, we don’t do all that. We just straight, we get the link, put it in there, from your site, and then, say for example they search a recipe, and it may be SideChef, and then the partner. If they click the SideChef and they see your recipe, and it says click here to see full recipe, when they click in there, they’re going to your site.

Sandie Markle: And so we’re really excited that that’s kind of up and running, and another we can really add more value to their partnerships, because we do know how important that is for the web platform, that they get that kind of traffic, which we’ve been really wanting to do so much more over the last few years. So that kind of how we’re…

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. It’s kind of the sweet sauce, or the sweet space, or the sweet spot, whatever alliteration you want to use. But it’s finding ways to syndicate your content to other places that create additional revenue without cannibalizing existing revenue. And it sounds like as SideChef kind of navigates that continually is figuring out what that looks like, while also giving the opportunity for someone who doesn’t want to create their own branded blog to get traction and followers and to build on the platform.

Bjork Ostrom: So for somebody who doesn’t want to create their own site, but wants to publish their recipes, they might have some potential in having a strong search presence, because there’s going to be more kind of authority with a site like SideChef that’s been around for a while and might not have to do as much work building that up, and the ability to create revenue from other places as well, which is, I’m guessing, one of the things that people are most interested to hear you talk about is, how does that actually work?

Bjork Ostrom: So, if you are a content creator, whether you have your own brand, or you want to build on a platform like SideChef, how do you actually create revenue? And are there any even just kind of general case studies or numbers that you could share around what creators could potentially expect from the different revenue sources for SideChef?

Sandie Markle: Yeah, I do want to get a chance to kind of intro… because I feel like it’s related, our new micro-influencer program. So, it’s called the SideChef Collective. We just launched it at the beginning of this year. And the inspiration for this was… I don’t know if you’re super familiar with this, but it’s a beauty box service that was launched by Michelle Phan, who was kind of a YouTube beauty blogger, Ipsy. So, Ipsy’s strategy is really cool because there’s a lot of beauty box services out there, but Ipsy really sought out influencers with their own personal brand that audiences and traction who were also beauty bloggers on YouTube, and bringing them into the fold of Ipsy through their open studios concept, which was basically the company’s in-house creator program.

Sandie Markle: So what they did was they offered production resources, product samples, educational opportunities, to help bloggers grow their own followings. And so they strategically placed themselves as a connector between brands who want to hit a micro-audience and work with those creators who are really, truly impacting buying, because I watch, follow YouTubers too with like hair and stuff like that. So I feel more connected to them than a brand, so Ipsy did the same. People who are really impacting buying instead of just putting a beauty ad in a subway, for example, and really allowing influencers to connect with those brands and vice versa.

Sandie Markle: So, the mission of the SideChef Collective, our micro-influencer program, is to acquire more equitably, create revenue opportunities for our partners, provide resources for more content, and provide education and network opportunities. So, I mentioned this in the beginning, when it comes to acquiring more equitably, from our point of view, from a business point of view, to acquire and nurture relationships of all sizes is really important. So sure, reach and following is important. It’s great. Of course, if you’re a mid-tier or mega influencer and you share your content on sites and you tell people about it, obviously that’s a win.

Sandie Markle: But we don’t just limit ourselves to those types of influencers, because we want people to grow and learn from us and with us, just as we grow and learn from them. And I think casting a wider net keeps us from focusing on a lot of barriers that new bloggers might experience, which is like needing a certain amount of followers, needing prior publication of a recipe… we don’t limit ourselves to that, because there’s a lot of great people who are doing some great stuff. And in the end, we’re trying to get people to cook. That’s really your goal.

Sandie Markle: Our second mission with regard to revenue… so we don’t pay an initial licensing fee up front, besides the passive income revenue that can be earned through grocery, we don’t require exclusivity. It’s not like you’re like, okay, you share on SideChef and you can’t share anything else. We want to build a program that would ensure even greater potential revenue earnings for our partners also through our work on our B-to-B side, like we’ve really strengthened that over the years. So we bring partner recipes to brands like LG and et cetera, and those initial relationships often turn into more specialized content production relationships and tech builds where we can directly commission new and exclusive paid content for culinary partners. And we really want to reach out to our micro-influencers first.

Sandie Markle: So when you think about old kitchen brands like LG, or Samsung, or Frigidaire or something, a lot of the times they have an oven but the smart kitchen spaces are a really new space. And having recipe content is what they’re missing. And so they’re just trying to get content that the products fit for this new product that, maybe it’s niche now, but it’s not always going to be. And so they need recipes that people are going to actually cook.

Bjork Ostrom: So point being, there’s these companies, LG or whatever home company, and they need content to backfill some of these new smart devices they’re creating, but they need somebody to help create those. And SideChef Collective sounds like it’s potentially helping to fill that gap by connecting brands and creators.

Sandie Markle: Yeah. So one of our best test cases was… we recently had launched a partnership with Panasonic, and Panasonic is a huge brand, obviously. It’s a Japanese brand that’s global. And we activated a really cool partnership with one of our culinary partners, Belqui’s Twist. So, I met Belqui last year at the Everything Food conference, and I just really feel like she has a great vlog, kind of Dominican, Latin, classic recipes. And she’s really growing her brand, and I kind of label her as the partner with potential. And so Panasonic launched this new series of microwave ovens, and were really looking for a vibrant and relatable culinary partner of SideChef to really develop recipes for their new product.

Sandie Markle: And so we were able to launch this week 14 recipes using this Panasonic device, and you can find the recipes on SideChef, and this is a really great situation where we were able to put a micro-influencer with arguably one of the largest brands in the world and put them in front because they were a great fit for this project. And so we wanted to keep doing more of those things, we are doing more of those things. We’re looking for opportunities for people, our partners… some people have been with us since the beginning, and so now that these opportunities are coming to us we want to share back to them and make it a win-win.

Sandie Markle: Because I think everyone wins in that situation. Also, in line with the Ipsy model, we do also want to create more resources for content because it allows us to help people grow, and also provide education and networking opportunities. Like I said before, really giving people data insights. We are offering more and more, we’re sending out newsletters, we’re really helping people understand what engagement is like. Who is the SideChef home cook? How do they approach recipe content? What do they like more, what do they like less? Why are they making cocktails on a Saturday morning? And also create a forum where we have candid conversations about what their needs are, what their pain points are, and really try to give them the resources that they need to handle that.

Sandie Markle: With COVID a lot of people had a lot of setbacks, and so we also want to put everyone in a situation where no matter where they are, they can continue to create great content. And so we’re looking at ways of creating more opportunities for that, and so we want to create a dialog as well. Because it’s a community, I think when you’re sharing recipes, there’s an inherent willingness to share. And we help people… there’s so much experience… our partner network is also global, our food influencers are from all over the world, from Egypt, to San Francisco, to South Africa. And a lot of people there are a business of one, and so that supported environment, that’s kind of the idea of the SideChef Collective as well, just sharing resources between them, even if that’s just knowledge. They really empower them as well. So creating a space where that can exist.

Bjork Ostrom: That is awesome, and it sounds like something that a lot of people who listen to the podcast might be interested in. Sandie, as we come to the end here, can you share for people who want to dig in a little bit more, who want to learn a little bit more about what that is, where they can go to find out more, and then we can link to that in the show notes as well?

Sandie Markle: Yeah, you can learn more at sidechef.com/content-partners. And if you want to know more about becoming a culinary partner, you can send an email to me at [email protected].

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Well, like I said, link to that in the show notes. Sandie, you are a saint for showing up at 5:00 AM to do an interview. So appreciated, and hope that today you can go to bed early, work in a nap, or drink lots of coffee, one of those things. But thanks so much for coming on and sharing a little bit about SideChef. I know that people have mentioned it, it’s come up before, so it’s been great to dig into that a little bit more, and obviously if people have more questions they can reach out to you. But really appreciate you coming onto the podcast, Sandie.

Sandie Markle: Thank you so much, this was so much fun at 5:00 AM. It was a wake up.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s the most fun you’ve had at work at 5:00 AM, which I would say probably is a pretty low bar. But we’ll take it nonetheless, so thanks, Sandie.

Alexa Peduzzi: And that’s a wrap on this episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Thanks again for tuning in. We hope you enjoyed this interview with Sandie and that you learned a little bit more about SideChef. Any of the resources that she mentioned in today’s episode will be linked in the show notes for this episode at foodbloggerpro.com/280. I also wanted to let you know about a really exciting sale that we’re having on Food Blogger Pro next week. It starts on Monday, Cyber Monday, and goes all the way to December 3rd, which is that Thursday. So it’s a four-day sale, and it helps you get a Food Blogger Pro membership for less than a dollar a day.

Alexa Peduzzi: It’s a yearly membership for 279. Right now, our price for a yearly membership is $350, so you’re saving over $70 with this deal, it’s a fantastic deal. And if you want a clear, mapped-out strategy, step by step directions, instructional videos, and an awesome community who will help and support you along the way, we really encourage you to check out Food Blogger Pro and this deal. You’ll learn more about this deal in next week’s podcast episode, but you can also join our email list to get information if you’re interested in signing up.

Alexa Peduzzi: If you go to our homepage at foodbloggerpro.com, there’s a big email option right there in the middle of the page where you can get a free download, it’s actually 16 Ways You Can Monetize Your Site. And if you do that, you’ll be put on our email list, and you will be notified first thing on Monday when the sale goes live. We are so excited, and if you have any questions, feel free to email me personally at [email protected]. I’ll be happy to answer any questions that you have. But I wanted to give you a quick little sneak peek for being part of our Food Blogger Pro podcast community. It’s the best deal that we offer all year, so we’re super excited about it, and we hope you are too.

Alexa Peduzzi: On that note, that does it for us this week, my friend. For all of you in the US, we hope that you have a very happy and safe Thanksgiving. It’s going to be different this year, but we hope that you enjoy it nonetheless. And we’ll see you next time, which is next Tuesday, and until then, make it a great week.

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