Welcome to episode 295 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews our Member Success Manager, Leslie Jeon, about developing consistent, standardized recipes for your food blog.
Last week on the podcast, Alexa chatted with Erika Kwee from The Pancake Princess about the Bake Off series on her blog. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Writing and Developing Recipes
As food bloggers, we sometimes get caught up in the importance of photography, SEO, and monetization, but we forget about the actual product we’re producing day in and day out –– recipes! While those other elements are important as you’re working on growing your blog, writing and developing incredible recipes is a crucial foundation of running a successful food blog.
That’s why Leslie, our incredible Member Success Manager here at Food Blogger Pro, is here today! In this interview, she talks all about her culinary school background and offers tips to bloggers who want to develop better, easier-to-follow recipes for your blog.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- What culinary school was like
- Why you might want to include volume and weight measurements on your blog
- How to write standardized recipes for your blog
- How to test recipes for your blog
- Why having recipe testers are important
- How to properly credit recipe inspiration
- If you can over-communicate when publishing recipes
- Learn more about our How to Write Recipes course
- International Culinary Center
- The Great British Baking Show
- The Importance of Measuring Ingredients by Weight for Your Recipes
- King Arthur Baking Company’s Ingredient Weight Chart
- The Flavor Bible
- Mr. Beast
- Sally’s Baking Addiction
- Emma Duckworth Bakes
- Ira Glass quote
- Recipe Attribution from David Lebovitz
- 129: Forging Your Own Path with David Lebovitz
- Danielle Liss’ content on Food Blogger Pro
- Get registered for our Writing Recipes Live Q&A! –– for members only
- Check out the Food Blogger Pro blog
- The Baker’s Almanac
- Follow Leslie on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube
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!
Transcript (click to expand):
Bjork Ostrom: Hello, hello, hello. Your host from here. I haven’t done these intros for a while. I was having a conversation with Alexa, and I was like, “I feel like you have a lot on your plate. Is there something that I can do to help out?” She’s like, “How about the intros and the outros for the podcast?” I said, “Count me in.” I’m back. I’m officially introing my own podcast. It’s good to be back in the intro slot.
Bjork Ostrom: Now, I can pass it off to myself. I can say, “Bjork, take it away.” Then, I take it away for myself. Excited about today’s podcast. We’re going to be talking to somebody on our team. Leslie is new to our team. She has come on to support the incredible community of bloggers that we have over on Food Blogger Pro. We occasionally talk about the membership there, but not a lot, not as much as we probably should.
Bjork Ostrom: If you haven’t checked it out foodbloggerpro.com, it really is kind of the meat and potatoes or the vegan meat and potatoes if you are a vegan or vegetarian of Food Blogger Pro. It’s where we have conversations with the community forum. It’s where we produce video content. It’s where we do live Q&As. Leslie actually just created a course for Food Blogger Pro around the thing that we’re going to be talking about today which is writing recipes, how to write recipes really well and also some recipe development.
Bjork Ostrom: As you’ll see in this interview, she has a background in this. She’s extremely credible and not only is she able to give good advice, but she’s able to say I’m doing it myself. She’s somebody who’s in the mix day in and day out not only from a retail perspective where she talked about working in a bakery and what that process was like, but also from an online publishing perspective with her own site.
Bjork Ostrom: Really excited to share the interview. Excited to be doing these intros again and excited to pass it off to myself to do a little bit more of a deep dive with Leslie talking about her process for writing recipes. Here we go. Leslie, welcome to the podcast.
Leslie Jeon: Hi. So happy to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: Wow. We’re here. It seems like it was just yesterday we were using Zoom to do an interview. Now, we’re using Zoom to do a podcast. So, super excited to have you as a part of the Food Blogger Pro team. You come with many different skills and abilities. It’s been great to have you in the forums and interacting with members, but you also have a background in recipe development, food, culinary school. It seems like the work that you’re doing is a perfect fit. You actually just released a course on Food Blogger Pro specifically about recipe development writing recipes more specifically. Take us back to culinary school. What was that like? Where did you go? What was that experience like?
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. First off, I’m just going to say it’s very surreal to be here on the podcast because I told you in my interview that I’ve been listening to it for years. To be on this side of it is just amazing. Thank you.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome.
Leslie Jeon: But yes. I recently joined the Food Blogger Pro team a few months ago. Then, just to back up even more about my culinary school experience, so, I actually attended the International Culinary Center which is here in New York City. There’s a couple different big schools here, and that’s one of the bigger ones. I actually went at night, so like the night course. It was nine months. I was working my 9 nine-to-five job. Then, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I would go in-
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome.
Leslie Jeon: …and bake everything from-
Bjork Ostrom: Nice.
Leslie Jeon: … 5:00 to 10:00 PM. It was a crazy year of my life, but it was really fun. I did pastry school in particular. We learned the basics of French patisserie, so everything from cakes to macarons. We even made our own wedding cakes and got graded on them. That was fun.
Bjork Ostrom: Wow. When I say macaron, I say macaroon. Is that right? Is that how most people say it? How do most people say it?
Leslie Jeon: I think a lot of Americans say macaroon, but the French pronunciation is macaron. And macaroons with two O’s are actually a different type of cookie. It can cause some confusion.
Bjork Ostrom: Interesting. Okay. This is why I’m not giving any advice in a course or on a podcast on writing recipes because I wouldn’t have known that. You went through this process every night. You’re going in 5:00 to 10:00 o’clock or Monday, Wednesday, Friday. When you think back to that like when I think of in high school, I was a part of the Pit Band so I played bass guitar.
Bjork Ostrom: I remember we would have these kind of similar practice sessions it would be like from 5:00 to 8:00 or I don’t remember the exact time, but it was a really warm cozy feeling when I think back to that. When you think back to your nine months of doing culinary school, was it like, “Man, this is a grind. This is really hard,” or was it this thought of like, “Oh, this is like this great experience,” and you get to go and bake for five hours, but what is it like when you look back on it?
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. It’s a mixture of both. I really loved it. I’ve loved baking since I was younger. That’s when I really decided to go full on into it. Being there and getting to do it day in and out was so fun, but I always describe it as I felt like I was actually on the Great British Bake Off. Have you ever watched that show?
Bjork Ostrom: I haven’t, but all of our team always talks about it. I was like, “We need to cue that up.”
Leslie Jeon: Oh yeah. I love that show so much. Definitely recommend, but yeah. We would learn how to make all different types of cakes. Then, at the end of it, we would have a practical exam. We’d have like three hours. They’d say-
Bjork Ostrom: Oh interesting.
Leslie Jeon: … “I need you to make like an entremets. I need you to make this type of cake and this and go.” I remember just setting-
Bjork Ostrom: Stressful.
Leslie Jeon: .. a timer on my phone running around grabbing ingredients. It was just-
Bjork Ostrom: Pushing people out of the way.
Leslie Jeon: It was insane. I had so many things I had to remake and remake because I kept messing up. I don’t miss that part of it, but all in all, it was a great experience.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. I have a friend who grew up in the same hometown. He’s gone on to do these really incredible restaurants. Lindsay and I went one day. We were just sitting down. He came and talked to us. He was like, “One of the things I didn’t realize about owning a restaurant is there’s actually a lot of paperwork. I’m just behind the scenes doing paperwork.” Do you feel like there’s anything similar to that with culinary school where you thought like, “Gosh, I’m just going to be baking all the time,” but actually there’s a lot of additional like considerations that aren’t just like being in the kitchen. If so, what were those things?
Leslie Jeon: For sure. Yeah. There was actually a big aspect to it was like we had a big textbook and each week, we had readings we had to do and learning. A big part of it that I didn’t realize for our exams is you actually when you’re doing like a large-scale project like for the wedding cake, for instance, I wrote out three pages straight of breaking down each item I had to make, what supplies I needed to make it, which when you’re a restaurant, obviously, you’re writing down, “We need to buy X pounds of flour, X pounds of sugar.”
Leslie Jeon: You have to plan out how much you’re going to need to make it. That involves a lot of deliberating, brainstorming, and getting it like set in place before you even start baking.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. When you think of where you were when you started and then where you were at the end, do you feel like there’s a transformation there. What are the things that you didn’t have when you started that you did have at the end that would be worth pointing out is like, “Hey, these are valuable skills.”
Bjork Ostrom: For people listening, here’s how you could either just really quickly understand this as a valuable skill like, “Well, you always got to test a certain amount of times,” or something that if it’s not something people could learn really quick, what are the things that people should be focusing on to get better at, in your case, it was baking, but even like writing recipes and leveling up as a pro as it relates to being somebody who is a creator of food product?
Leslie Jeon: Yeah, for sure. I’d say for me the biggest takeaway that I had was so before going into culinary school, I was just a homemaker. I was doing it for fun, but there were a lot of different things I’d never tried making. For baking, for instance, you can make pate a choux or eclairs or macarons like things like that I’d never tried just because the technique involved in it is so complicated.
Leslie Jeon: A lot of it actually for baking in particular is like baking science. A lot of people don’t know that. I guess my recommendation would be if you’re going to start to try and master baking at home, it’s to like look into the science of it, really start to learn how things work. It applies for cooking as well. There’s lots of different reactions that are happening in the oven and the stove. I think that was one of my biggest takeaways, was learning all of that and just gaining confidence.
Leslie Jeon: The more you bake something, the better you’re going to get at it or cook something. You’re just going to develop those skills over time.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Part of it is like the pressure cooker of, hey, you have to make this. Here’s the time you have. It’s maybe not something you’d usually make. The more times that you’re in those uncomfortable situations, the more those are then just comfortable later on. It’s like exposure therapy to new ideas and concepts and pushing you into new areas.
Bjork Ostrom: But one of the things that is interesting, you talk about this in the course that you did on Food Blogger Pros just like the science of things and you hear that a lot like baking is science, cooking is an art. I feel like it’s maybe comparable to music where there are some people who just like play by ear, and they can hear music, and they can know what song it is. They don’t maybe know music theory very well, but I feel like the ultimate unlock is if somebody knows both music theory and can play by ear.
Bjork Ostrom: Then, they have this really deep understanding of how chords play together and what chords would fit in a family if you’re writing a song, but then can also just naturally understand it by playing for a long time. It feels like the same could apply for recipe development or for people who are trying to get better at picking or even cooking. Do you feel like do you have to be one or the other? Can you be a little bit of both of those things? I’m curious for you where you put yourself. Are you leaning towards science or do you feel like it’s a little bit of a mix of both?
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. I think it’s a mix of both. Something I mentioned in the course is that when I first started developing my own recipes, I honestly had no idea what to do. I remember actually going on Google and typing how to write recipes. I was like, “What are you supposed to do? How are you supposed to know what flavors pair well or if you don’t know the science, how are you supposed to know what percentage of flour you should have in cookies or things like that?”
Leslie Jeon: For me, I think as I’ve developed that skill and done it over time, I’ve gotten better. But for me, a lot of it still is the science side understanding why things work, what culinary ratios are and things like that. It’s developing a balance between the two.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Can you talk about one of the things that you had mentioned was the ratios and different places where you can find information about that like resources for people who are like, “Hey, in the US, we’re always writing in volume. It’s like a cup, but it’s a cup of flour if you smash it in.” It’s a different than a cup of flour if you are sprinkling it in and so like many things in the US system of ways of doing this. It’s not the great way whether it’s measuring distance or measuring food.
Bjork Ostrom: But there’s a resource that you shared that actually allows you to convert those over. So, interested to hear that. Then, what would your recommendation be for writing recipes? Do you pick one or the other like volume or weight or how do you go about doing that?
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. It’s such a cool topic. I actually posted a new blog post on the Food Blogger Pro blog about this topic. We can link that in the show notes-
Bjork Ostrom: Perfect.
Leslie Jeon: … describing it, but in general, I recommend including both weight and volume measurements because like you said, here in the US, most people use volume, but across the world and elsewhere, they only use weight. That’s things like grams or ounces. I think if you include both on your blog with your recipes, you’re accounting for all those different people. Anyone can make your recipes.
Leslie Jeon: There’s different ways you could do it. You could buy yourself a kitchen scale which I always recommend and actually weigh out all of the ingredients. Then, record that, but then there’s also online resources like King Arthur Flour, they have an online ingredient weight chart where you could type in honey, and it would tell you one tablespoon of honey equals 15 grams or something like that. I don’t think that’s right.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. You haven’t downloaded the conversions into your brain yet. That’s stage two. Yeah.
Leslie Jeon: That’s stage two. There’s some that I know, but not all.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. I love the idea of including both of those. When you are writing it out, it’s like, “Hey, great. Allow people to pick,” which do they want to focus on. Another thing that you mentioned that was cool and I actually as I was going through the course, this is a course on Food Blogger Pro that I need to get educated on. I was going through it.
Bjork Ostrom: You mentioned a book that talks about is a reference bible, so to speak, of different flavors. Literally called the Flavor Bible. I was like, “Oh, my gosh. That’s awesome,” and just bought it 15 minutes ago.
Leslie Jeon: Oh nice.
Bjork Ostrom: Lindsay probably won’t listen to this podcast. It’ll be a surprise for her when I give it to her, but can you talk about that, what that book is and how people would use that and why it’s helpful for people who are writing and developing recipes?
Leslie Jeon: For sure. Yeah. A little more backtracking, after I graduated from culinary school, I worked in a restaurant for a year. That book was one of the books that our pastry chef had. She referenced it every time she was developing recipes for the restaurant. When we’d have slow nights like Sunday night, you’d have 40 covers. That’s a number of people that come through.
Leslie Jeon: Whenever it was slow and you’re waiting on tickets, I would literally comb through that book and read through it just to get ideas. But yeah. Like you mentioned, that one is called the Flavor Bible. It’s essentially the encyclopedia for all ingredients. It’s broken down A to Z. It’ll tell you apples. Then, it’ll tell you every other ingredient that apple pairs well with in dishes like caramel or cinnamon.
Leslie Jeon: It takes the guesswork out for you. If you’re developing an apple recipe for your blog, you can know offhand exactly what ingredients to pair it well if you’re not just guessing and trying a thousand times to find something that works.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s really cool. Do you have an example of how you would use that? If you’re thinking about a recipe, you’re writing it out you maybe have, or in the development stage of it, are you being like, “Hey, I know fall’s coming up. I know that I want to do muffins and want those muffins to have apple. Then, do you reference then the flavor bible and say, like, ”Hey, what are the things that I could potentially put in here that would be complementary to apple muffin or apples,” I suppose.
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. That’s exactly the process. I was actually doing it for my own blog. I was looking for upcoming spring recipes. I was looking at which fruits are in season in spring. Then, like rhubarb, for instance. I’m like, “Oh, I want to do a rhubarb dessert,” but I don’t really know what to pair with it. That’s when I pull the book out and look at ideas. Then, that’s when you start getting in the kitchen and experimenting and just seeing what you like.
Bjork Ostrom: What was it for rhubarb? What did they say?
Leslie Jeon: Oh for rhubarb.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you remember?
Leslie Jeon: I know rhubarb pairs well with strawberry. You could do a strawberry dessert with that other ones. I honestly haven’t baked with rhubarb as much. That’s something I need to learn more.
Bjork Ostrom: I feel like rhubarb is one of those things where I feel like every grandparent I knew our grandparents or any of my friend’s grandparents always had rhubarb in the backyard. Maybe, it was a Minnesota thing, but it’s the ultimate random thing and like nothing else usually. It was people would have three rhubarb plants growing. We’d always have different rhubarb jams and things like that. That’ll be the first place I go to when I get the Flavor Bible.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that you talked about was standardizing recipes and just how important that is or standardized recipes, obviously, it makes a lot of sense in the restaurant world which is interesting to me, but what does that look for somebody who’s a creator, who’s a blogger who wants to make sure that the recipes that they’re writing out and communicating are standardized and are structured in a way where people know how to navigate them, and it’s not their own unique way of communicating recipe which isn’t bad, but for the most part, you want to communicate things in a way that people understand and can navigate it. What does that look like to standardized recipes?
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. If you go into a kitchen, for instance, or a restaurant, they have to write the recipes as standardized recipes like you said because it’s not just one person making it. The chef writes the recipe, but then all the cooks are making it every single day. If you aren’t writing it in a specific way, people aren’t going to end up with the same lasagna that the chef made.
Leslie Jeon: When you’re writing a standardized recipe, there’s lots of components to it. A couple of them include like you need to write the ingredients in the order that they’re used. If you’re going to make a bread recipe and you’re adding the eggs in, the eggs should be actually in the instructions in the order. Otherwise, they’re searching around for where to add them.
Leslie Jeon: You always need to specify the exact amount. You can’t just have eggs as an ingredient and not say two eggs. You have to specify that. You should always tell exactly what kind of equipment to use if you should be using a medium saucepan or a large one. That’s always helpful and just really being as specific as possible with the instructions and the steps. You don’t want there to be any guessing on the part of the person making the recipe. They should know exactly what to do.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you feel like the chefs that you worked with or when you were working at the restaurant, were they really good at writing out recipes, or are there some people who are not very good at it and then they have people they work with who are good at it? I’m curious to know your experience with that and what that looked in the restaurant world?
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. It’s such a thing that varies. I think some people are really good at it. I’ll just describe the process. When I was there, we had a couple of different pastry chefs. In general, their process, they’d be testing a recipe for several weeks. At that point, they’d just be scribbling everything down in their notebook. They would have different iterations of that. Then, when they finalize the recipe, they take all the notes. They go and type it up on the computer. That’s when they print it out. Then, we put it into a binder where all the cooks could make it, but there were definitely times when they would forget to write a step or an ingredient.
Leslie Jeon: We’d have to go back and be like, “Hey, what did you mean for this?” Then literally scribble it back in. I think the more you do it, the better you get at it, but the same thing will happen with your blog if you forget to write where to add the salt in the instructions, you’re going to have readers commenting asking, “Hey, where does the salt go.” You’ll learn to be more careful for that over time, I think.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting. On Pinch of Yum every once in a while, there’s a channel and questions will come up of like, “Hey, this just came out.” I’m trying to think of an example. You said add the butter here, but there wasn’t butter and the ingredients or something like that. Was like, “Oh, shoot. We got to go back and make sure that we add that in.”
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting to me because I’m going to pitch you, I’m going to shark tank pitch you an idea right now. You’re an investor. You have to tell me if you’re going to invest in it. This actually isn’t an original idea. It iterates off of MrBeast. Have you ever seen MrBeast’s videos?
Leslie Jeon: No.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. It’s like MrBeast and Dude Perfect which are target market audience of 10 to 13-year-olds in York in Minnesota. He’s the number one YouTuber, I think, has the most views. He does these super over-the-top videos. They always start out super quick, like, “We bought an island in in the Bahamas, and we’re going to give it away to one of these 10 people. The longest one who stays on gets the million-dollar island.”
Bjork Ostrom: But one of the things he did was like, “Hey, we took over a restaurant. We started our own burger chain. We’re giving away burgers to anybody who comes by and iPads, and lots of money.” That video, that 15 to 20-minute video was a promo for what he had as MrBeast burgers. There’s 60 locations around the US. The day the video is released, then you could do MrBeast Burgers. This is me entering into my pitch now. I’m interested in for a recipe blog, there’s these things called Ghost Kitchens or CloudKitchens. They’re essentially like, “We work for kitchens.” You can have a really tiny little kitchen area. Then, it’s only delivery, like DoorDash or Uber Eats. It hooks into all of those. You can just do delivery services through those.
Bjork Ostrom: I think they’re doing a version of that for MrBeast Burgers. I feel there’s an opportunity for bloggers to have like CloudKitchen locations where you could just order the recipe that is produced and published on the blog and on social. Then, it could say like, “Hey, these cookies are here.” You can order them tonight and have them delivered to your door.
Bjork Ostrom: Then, that would be done via a CloudKitchen. I’m asking for a 10 investment at a $10-million valuation, $1 million, are you in, Leslie? No. But what’s interesting to me within that is the standardization of recipes and making sure that you have to be really good at it. In order to distribute something that somebody could look at, read through and then be able to make.
Bjork Ostrom: In your experience, when you were working, doing at the restaurant, would you have to go through the process of testing the recipe that is standardized and written out yourself to make sure that it then works or was it you’d get this and you’d know like, “Hey, I can for the most part just follow this, and it will work,” because I think with my idea you, wouldn’t be able to train somebody in 10 different locations. I’m curious to know if you have any thoughts on that. How did that work when you were at the restaurant?
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. I think that’s something that falls on the actual creator of the recipe. In a restaurant, it’s the chef. The chef should be testing the recipe several times. That’s something that I cover in the course as well, is how many times you should be testing. And ideally, it’s at least two to four times for every recipe. That’s not to say you can’t test 10, 12 times. That’s even better.
Leslie Jeon: But for recipes in a restaurant, for instance, 76the chef goes through so many iterations of the recipe testing process that by the time he or she writes it down, it’s pretty much standardized and good to go. That’s not to say you’ll sometimes find things that flip through the cracks, but I think it should be the same way for a blogger. You should test it enough times where anyone making it is going to have success and then anyone making it in a cloud kitchen can also have success.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. There we go. I think what’s interesting just from a business standpoint, there are some restaurants like Cheesecake Factory where you get the exact same thing, but it’s probably because it’s some version of pre-made. I don’t know if that’s true for Cheesecake Factory, but the sweet spot is how do you get something that isn’t pre-made that still is standardized and whether that is a cloud kitchen or you’re just writing a recipe and having other people do it. That’s the ultimate, ultimate goal.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting when you talk about the testing two to four times. I remember having a conversation with Sally from Sally’s Baking Addiction. She’s like, “I don’t think people have any idea how much goes into a single recipe,” when she gave the example, I don’t remember what it was, of six, seven times going through and really perfecting a recipe. I think it’s one of the reasons why a conversation like this is really good is because we can talk about tactics, and we can talk about growth hacks and things like that which is maybe the growth SEO social business side which a lot of times we talk about.
Bjork Ostrom: But really at its core, the thing that we are talking about is really good content. And to get really good content, you have to communicate it really well. You have to ensure that people are going to have success with it. When you think for your own process, is that usually what you find that you’re doing is two to four times? How do you know this is okay, this is the last time I’m going to test it because it’s like I feel like you could always do one more. And maybe, it wouldn’t turn out if you continue to do it. How do you know the degree of confidence that you can get to when you put the seal of approval on it?
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. There’s so many things to keep in my testing recipes. For my own blog, it’s definitely a process that I do. I’d say I lean more towards on the four plus times. Just like you said because it’s scary to publish something and have it be out there in the world and knowing that anyone can make it and leave a bad review. Then, you’re like, “Oh, crap.” But something to keep in mind with testing is that each time you test, you only want to change one thing.
Leslie Jeon: For your second test, you could change one ingredient, but don’t change one ingredient and the cooking length. You’re making cookies. Don’t take the salt out and then cook it for twice as long because you’re not going to know what impact each one had. That’s why you want to change one thing at a time. That’s oftentimes why it takes so many times to test.
Leslie Jeon: For me, I’d say that I decide I’m done when I get to a flavor that I really love. I think it’s great. Then, I’ll do it one more time just to make sure I can get the same consistent end result.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That makes sense. Yeah. It’s interesting. Lindsay talks about in the first three years versus the past three to four years for a Pinch of Yum. She would make something for lunch and jot it down, take a picture of it and then publish it because it’s early stages. It’s scrappy. It’s almost documenting the things that you’re having to eat that day.
Bjork Ostrom: But now it’s at the point where somebody you might publish something in the morning and somebody might be making that for lunch. There’s a really quick turnaround with that and you know that people are actually creating the content. To your point in the course, one of the greatest ways to drive growth is to have a consistent reliable product that people can know that they can depend on because if you come and you have a 75% success rate, people probably aren’t going to come back.
Bjork Ostrom: They’re going to start losing trust as soon as one out of every four doesn’t work. Then, it’s like, “Well, there’s probably a better place that I can go.” In terms of a growth tactic, one of the best is being reliable and a trustworthy source. Another thing that you talk about is having recipe testers. People who then go and test it out, how do you do that? Is it just family and friends? Hey, can you try making this? Send them over the instructions and ingredients and see if they have success with it.
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. There’s definitely lots of ways you can go about it. I think having recipe testers is important because you don’t just want it to be you in your own kitchen testing something because, first off, your oven temperature might not be accurate. There’s also things to keep in mind like different altitudes can affect different baking and cooking processes.
Leslie Jeon: For my own blog, right now, I like to just have friends and family. My mom will test it or something like that. But an interesting scenario that I had was I follow this another baking blogger, Emma Duckworth Bakes. She is actually in the process of developing a cookbook. She posted on Instagram asking if anyone wanted to test recipes for her. I was like, “Yeah. Why not?”
Leslie Jeon: She sent me over two recipes. One for, I think, it was bonbons and then one for some biscotti. I actually tested those for her and then sent her back some of my feedback. Then, she took all of that information, did some fine tuning and then finalized the recipes for her cookbook.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. How do you know because I would imagine that there’s some people who just like to give feedback. I think about if we were house shopping and we walked through with all of our friends. I feel like everybody would have different opinions on what they like and don’t like about it.
Bjork Ostrom: I feel like the same thing would be true with recipes where people are like, “Oh, this is really good.” I don’t like rosemary. I’m like, “But there’s rosemary in here. There’s a lot because there’s some.” How do you know when to discard feedback where it’s just somebody’s opinion versus, like, “Hey, this pie turned into a soup and something should probably be done about it.”
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. I think that’s where it’s important to have maybe consistency in your testers. If your mom is testing for you, have your mom test all of your recipes if she can because you know her level of skill when it comes to cooking or baking, but you also know her dietary preferences and tastes. It also comes into play like the skill, for instance. If I have friends from culinary school testing for me, I know that they know how to make macarons whereas if I gave the recipe to one of my other friends, they might end up with soup.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Totally, that makes sense. It’s almost like you’re developing a little inner circle of people who you know and can trust and have an understanding of what their skill level is. We’re not using this as much, but there was a Pinch of Yum group, a Facebook group. I think it’s called Pinch of Yum VIP group or something like that and was used for stuff like that.
Bjork Ostrom: I don’t know if we ever actually did recipe feedback or recipe testing for it, but just as a note, it’s something that I think especially as people start to grow their site and want to make sure that there’s a certain level of quality that people can do is to develop this inner circle. Maybe, it’s 10, 20, 50 people who you can reach out to and have some structured way to do that. It could also be a separate email list that you email people to. Some thoughts around that.
Bjork Ostrom: Let’s say somebody’s new to it, you’re just getting started, they really the idea of they’ve had a long history with food recipe development, they feel confident in that regard, but maybe not as confident with the actual writing of recipes, do you have any advice around how people can get started with that and even the idea of voice and how that fits in just in terms of early stages for somebody who’s maybe a little bit hesitant to jump in?
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. For sure. I think a good way to do it is just to look at cookbooks that you love or popular bloggers. I know Lindsay with Pinch of Yum, she has such a strong voice in her recipes. That comes across even in the instruction steps. She always makes me laugh out loud when I’m reading through them because they’re actually engaging and funny, but that’s her style. Your style might be different.
Leslie Jeon: I think it just takes some different researching and find cookbooks that you like, see what different people are doing and then use that to hone your own style. That’s where the standardized recipes will come in. You’ll want to follow all of those steps to make sure you’re writing all of your ingredients and instructions correctly. But as you develop your own style, you can use that for all of your recipes going forward.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that’s one of those things where people don’t realize how or a lot of people don’t, myself included, realize how long it takes to get to a point where you feel really good about your art and your craft and your skill.
Bjork Ostrom: I think with using Lindsay as an example, it’s 10 years of writing and recipe development and writing recipes and just writing on a site and photography being the same kind of thing. There’s a couple different times that I’ve used the example. It’s one of my favorite quotes from Ira Glass where he talks about the gap when you’re a creator and you know good content like recipes. You know good recipes. You can see good recipes, but there’s a gap when you’re starting out.
Bjork Ostrom: I’ve referenced this before. We can put the full quote in the show notes, but the basic idea, do you know what? Have you heard it? Are you familiar with it? Okay.
Leslie Jeon: I’ve heard it from you. I’ve saved the book to check it out.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Good. Good, good, good. But the basic premise is he talks about all of us who do creative work have good taste. We can see where we want to be, but when we’re not there, we can feel that. That’s just a bummer to live in that gap, but as you continually improve, we talk about getting a tiny bit better every day, make those improvements.
Bjork Ostrom: You can start to shrink that gap until the point where you do reach that level that you’re excited about. I think maybe just a note of encouragement for people who are early stages to know that if you stick with it. Yeah.
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. Just to go off that too, I know for myself on my own blog I have some recipes that I made a couple of years ago that I cringe when I look at them, but the great part about a blog is that you can go back, and you can rewrite those recipes, maybe add your voice into them. It can be an ever-evolving process as you grow and improve.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s awesome. We’re talking about places that you can find inspiration, developing your voice. A lot of times, somebody develops their voice, use a music example again. It’s like you listen to four different artists. Then, the songs that you’re writing sound like the songs that you’ve listened to. Same with the recipe world where maybe you read cookbooks, you watch a show, you read other blogs. How do you go about attribution? What does it look like to make sure that you’re properly crediting another blog where you found inspiration whether it’s inspired by, you see people say like, “Adapted from?” What advice would you have around that?
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. It’s such a big topic. I feel like it’s so contentious in this world knowing what to do and knowing how to do it right. Something I mentioned in the course, but I use this guide that David Lebovitz has written. I don’t know if you’re familiar with his work.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. He’s awesome, but he has this really great article which I’m sure we can link. He basically breaks it down into three categories. Then, just before I get into it, something that is pretty standardized with recipes is if you change three things or three steps. That’s where it becomes your own. You don’t want to just find a chocolate cookie recipe, copy and paste it onto your blog and say it’s yours.
Leslie Jeon: The different scenarios he gives is let’s say you find a recipe online. It’s for, I don’t know, oatmeal chocolate cookies. You make it again, but you change one or two things. It’s still relatively similar to the original recipe, but you’ve adapted it. When you actually post it on your blog or website, you’d want to say adapted from XYZ kitchen. You actually want to include a link to the original recipe or cookbook if you can just to make sure you’re giving proper credit.
Leslie Jeon: Then, something else you can do, I want to mention, is if you take original recipe and you’re inspired by it, but you change more than three steps, you could say something inspired by XYZ just to give it, but if you change several different things and you add in a new fruit and a new way of cooking like instant pot and it dramatically changes, I think that’s where it becomes your own and you don’t necessarily need to give credit.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That makes sense. We actually did an interview way back episode 129 with David. We’ll link to that in the show notes and then link to that article that you referenced as well. Yeah. It’s one of the hard things with anything online is just the other day in Slack, somebody on the team reach out. They’re like, “Hey, somebody emailed us.” There’s this site who’s essentially, like, you scroll through and the pictures all are the same angle and the same styling as Pinch of Yum. They’re like, “What do we do?”
Bjork Ostrom: We had sent a nice email before and was just like, “Hey, people are telling us that this looks really similar.” The hard part is there’s not a lot that you can do if somebody is taking or finding inspiration and not crediting that which is one of the hard realities of things online, but I think on the flip side if you are somebody who is finding inspiration or have adapted a recipe, I think it’s a great way to shine a light for somebody else.
Bjork Ostrom: I think that it’s a great connection point as well to be like, “Hey, this is somebody I look up to somebody that whether it’s food or not. It’s one of the great things about the web is it’s a web. When it’s the best is when it’s links connecting to other links and other sites. That’s how it was built and why it was built, is to connect people to other places. So, obviously a hard thing, like you said, kind of contentious.
Bjork Ostrom: But at its core when I was thinking of this interview, it’s like, “Hey, if there was a recipe you’re looking at.” and you’re like “Gosh, this would be something that I would to do similar,” it’s like, “Well, that’s a version of being inspired by it,” and to your point unless there’s these major drastic changes with it.
Bjork Ostrom: We have a couple of great interviews. You mentioned this in the course with Danielle Liss from Liss Legal. She’s also a Food Blogger Pro expert and is in the forums occasionally talking through this stuff. There’s the spirit of the thing which is giving credit when credit is due. Then, there’s the legal side of the thing. That’s what Danielle specializes in. Be sure to check out anything that Danielle has mentioned in the podcast she’s done and also in the forum.
Bjork Ostrom: I’m interested to hear when you think about the process of writing and communicating when it comes to a recipe, so you’re putting it together, how much is too much? We know that we don’t want to communicate too little because if you leave stuff out, people aren’t going to know. You look back at our old church cookbooks. It’s like there’s nothing to go off of. It’s like, “How did anybody ever make any of this?”
Bjork Ostrom: But on the opposite end, my guess is you don’t want to go overboard with it. Do you have thoughts on the balance between those? And is it only writing, or is there additional media that you could use to help communicate when you’re writing a recipe?
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. Absolutely. I know from my own blog when I’m writing, sometimes, I’ll start typing away. Then, I’ll have a huge paragraph of instructions. I’m like, “Who in the world is going to read through this and know what to do?” I think there is something to be said about brevity and keeping it short, but making sure to include everything that you need.
Leslie Jeon: I think where you’re saying about other types of media, that’s where that comes in. You could actually, if you have the bandwidth, you could make recipe videos and have step-by-step videos for each area. Then, there’s certain recipe cards where you can have those linked to the steps. Then, people can watch those instead of reading through to know what to do.
Leslie Jeon: It’s definitely up to you. I try and stay somewhere in the middle, not too short and not too long, but give as much information as people would need to make the recipe.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that’s the key with anything online. It’s like how long should a blog post be? Well, it’s like it should be as long as what people need to have success with whatever the thing is. It’s like, “How long should a video be?” It’s the same thing. It should be as long as you need to communicate whatever it is that you’re communicating. It feels the same could apply to a recipe.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that I think a lot about they talk about like copy for pages. They say, “The more information you have, the less people read.” I feel like there’s that sweet spot with any type of communication where you’re paring it down to the essentials still making it engaging and interesting, but not going overboard which it feels like that is definitely an art, not a science that probably is developed over time as you spend more time with it.
Bjork Ostrom: Coming to the end here, anything else that you feel would be worth pointing out? One of the things that I want to mention for Food Blogger Pro members, we have a live Q&A coming up where we’re going to be talking about this. If people have questions, jot those down. Bring those to the live Q^&A. We’ll be sending out more information about that in a little bit, but anything else that you feel like would be an important topic that we cover or things that we hit all around the topic of recipe writing?
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. I think the only thing I would add is like we mentioned before when you are developing your own recipes, it is a skill that you’re developing over time. You will get better the more you do it, but I think for recipes, the most important thing to do is just always be trying new things. If you’re ordering take out, try a new dish on the menu or something like that and expose yourself to different flavors that you’ve never had because if you’ve never tried something, how are you ever going to make a recipe with that particular flavor?
Leslie Jeon: It’s always about exposing yourself to new things and finding inspiration. When it comes to finding inspiration, I like to go to various places. I like to browse around on Pinterest and see what recipes are trending. Then, think about, “Oh, I found this really cool biscotti recipe with raspberries.” I’m like, “Oh, maybe I can do my own biscotti recipe that has a different flavor.” Just always be researching and learning and find new ways you can do things just to keep developing that skill.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. The inspiration piece, I think, is so important. I was thinking about that today as I was driving over to the office. I was like, “I just take the same route every day. I look at the same things every day. I think that’s where we are drawn like creatures of habit.” I think most of us, not all of us, but to be able to break out of that. It’s one of a great excuse that’s hard in a season when you’re having a global pandemic, but one of the great benefits of travel is you’re in different places and seeing different things and trying different foods.
Bjork Ostrom: I know for Lindsay she talks about that a lot as a place of inspiration. It’s like any time that we travel and we’re able to get out of the routine of ordering from the same sushi place and Indian place. It’s like the same three places that we order every month, but the idea of inspiration being so important and in some instances, I would say check with your accountant on this, but some of that could be considered like, “Hey, this is a business trip.” I’m a creator. I do food and recipe development.
Bjork Ostrom: The purpose of this is for me to have a creative experience to broaden my horizon in regards to recipe development. So, something that would be worth looking into as well. I think it’s a great takeaway. Obviously, if people are Food Blogger Pro members, they can check out the course. We have the live Q&A coming up.
Bjork Ostrom: Then, you had mentioned a bunch of resources as well that we’ll link to in the show notes to make sure that people can check those out. One of the things that you mentioned a couple of times, Leslie, is your own site. We’d love for you to get a little shout out for that if people want to follow along with what you’re up to and then maybe where people can connect with you within the Food Blogger Pro community.
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. Thanks so much for mentioning that. Yeah. I have my own baking blog. It’s called the Baker’s Almanac which you can find just the bakersalmanac.com. I share mostly recipes and baking tips to help people get more confidence in the kitchen. Then, you can find me elsewhere. I’m usually on Instagram and Pinterest and Facebook, just the Baker’s Almanac as well.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That’s great. Then, Food Blogger Pro, you’re around hanging out in the forums interacting with folks there and on chat and intercom and all of those different places as well. Now, on the podcast officially. So, really fun to round that out and to have you on here. Leslie, thanks so much for coming on and for your work within Food Blogger Pro. Really, fun to chat here.
Leslie Jeon: Yeah. This is so great. Thanks for having me on.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap for the interview with Leslie. If you are a Food Blogger Pro member, you know Leslie. You’ve seen her in the community forums. Maybe, you’ve watched that course that she recently released. If you haven’t and you are interested in checking it out, go to foodbloggerpro.com. You can see all the other stuff that we have. It’s not just a podcast. We have a blog where we publish blog posts.
Bjork Ostrom: We have content around trending recipe topics which you can check out on the blog, and obviously everything that comes along with the membership as well. We appreciate you. If not for you, we wouldn’t do this podcast. Maybe, that’s obvious, but we need to say it because without you, we wouldn’t be able to do this. Whether you are a podcast listener, a member, or just somebody who randomly stumbled across this after searching for recipe content or blogging content in the podcast app or on Spotify or wherever it may be, we want to say thank you for listening. We will be back here again same bat-time, same bat- place. Until then, make it a great week. Thanks.