At first I wanted to call this post “A Year in Reflection from a Male Food Blogger.” Then I thought about the experiences I’ve had this past year since I really took this food blogging site seriously, which led me to title this “Observations and Challenges from a Male Food Blogger.” Then I changed my mind one more time as the writing evolved.
In a female dominated environment where single, married, both working and stay at home mommy bloggers rule, I’ve felt like an outsider and a minority. I have found several male food bloggers out there and follow them closely. I want to succeed and am watching a lot of food bloggers. How they post, how they photograph, how they work social media. Mind you the opinions expressed here are my own, but I am sure you may relate to some of what I am about to write if you too are a food blogger. Also, I realize I will be opening myself up to all sorts of comments and criticisms, but this has been my own experience and life on the food blogging journey.
So let’s start where every story does, at the beginning. My name is Kevin and this site, KevinIsCooking, started with the intention of digitizing my mom’s and some other long since gone family member’s recipes. When my mom passed away years ago, my dad had asked if I wanted anything and I asked for the treasured box of recipes. I kept them, dusted some off now and again and pulled out favorites for holidays and other times to hold on to memories and keep my mom alive in my own way.
I decided it might be a good idea to make a cooking site and post them as well as share my favorite recipes that I’ve been creating, adapting and collecting on my culinary journey. I like to call my style of cooking International Modern Comfort Food. The dishes I love and create are inspired from around the world, as I love travel and the many different ethnic flavors I’ve encountered along the way.
To give a little history to my passion for cooking let me step back a moment. When I was young I always loved to help my mom bake and cook, it seemed like alchemy to me. I remember the patience she showed in explaining my endless “why this first?” or “how does this, do that?” I continued to learn from my mom and grandmothers, although many a Saturday morning were solo experimental outings and many a catastrophe!
“why this first?” or “how does this, do that?”
As a teenager I took a part time job at a French bakery called La Boulangerie in San Francisco. I believe it was at the end of Clement and Arguello Blvd, but it could have been off Union Street, too. Anyways, let’s just say it was somewhere in the Richmond district. I remember doing the bakery’s kitchen dishes and was always given things to taste and try from the owner and the pastry chef. I remember her speaking French, and at the time I was taking it in my high school too because I wanted to get into the cooking field. The female owner, I unfortunately have since forgotten her name, would always be smoking Parliament cigarettes, but would always take care to wash her hands before rolling out the croissant, bread and pastry doughs.
It seems a lifetime ago that smoking was allowed everywhere, even on planes and in kitchens. To this day it is a memory I hold dear – her in a cloud of smoke, cigarette dangling from her mouth and her saying “Kevin, try this.” They were the best croissants I can remember. I mean, who doesn’t love a fresh baked croissant, right? She would cut copious amounts of cold butter into the dough; fold the dough over time and again, building up the buttery pastry and then cutting, shaping them into the crescent shaped pieces of heaven. My favorite part was the crispy tip on top of the croissant and the two crunchy, pointy ends. Then you would pull apart the dough and see the layer upon layer of tender, buttery baked yeast-leavened dough inside. HEAVEN. Ahhh, times flies and I have not lived in San Francisco in quite some time so I might have the wrong street where the bakery was, but the memory will always be tucked away for a pleasant and fond remembrance.
“Kevin, try this.”
At seventeen I had the opportunity to train at a cooking school in Terra Linda, California with a red bearded Frenchman named Gérard. He taught me the basics of making a roux to soups, salad dressings, beurre blancs and other beginner classics and baking techniques. It peaked in me a secret talent and a way to express myself.
My hidden passion continued when I moved to San Diego in 1981 from San Francisco. I worked for several catering companies as what they termed a “chef” and waiter and then went to the famed La Valencia in La Jolla, California to work in the kitchen and later wait tables. Soon thereafter I left to sous chef at the now defunct Piret’s, also in La Jolla. Great memories, but the best times are always the experimentation in my own kitchen. Cooking and creating is relaxing to me and I find it therapeutic.
OK, moving along. I have had several career changes since then and cooking and baking have always remained my passion and outlet for creativity. Who doesn’t like to make people smile, fill bellies with wondrous food and create things that get you kudos and applause? Well, I do.
It was a little over a year ago my boss came to town and I had her over for dinner. We had a blast cooking and she wouldn’t let me serve the dinner until she put a lemon garnish she had peeled and made into a rosette on the plate first, too fun. Chatting away and from previous conversations, she knew I had a small side project of the cooking site. She had been in marketing for quite some time and mentioned that with a more updated look and feel, a little more length to my writing and researching food photography techniques my site had the potential to be something. In other words, in reading between the lines, I needed to put some effort into the site if I wanted it to be something. She knew of my passion for cooking and baking and it invigorated my lackluster approach to the site and hence I feel KevinIsCooking came alive on that June evening in 2013.
I starting subscribing to other food blogs for daily updates, found some books on photography, read and practiced food shots. I would no longer just use my iPhone for the images, even though the shots were nice and definitely easy to take. My partner of 33 years, Dave, had a Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR Camera with a 100mm and 50mm fixed lens and I would start to use it and experiment for my photos. I went around to different flea markets and picked up different food props of plates, bowls, trays and utensils. Placemats, linens, etc. I submitted my site to Google AdWords and started ad placements to see what kind of monetization could happen. I looked into Google Analytics to review, tweak and fine tune my site. Where were my readers coming from? What recipes were the ones that were getting read the most, what were my demographics? All of it. I looked at a lot of food blogs out there to see who were the heavy hitters, who was prolific in content, who was into quality over quantity, who took the best photographs, whose writing grabbed my attention.
” it would be nice to see the step-by-step images”
I decided I wanted my site to be one where, as a reader of recipes, it would be nice to see the step-by-step images. I didn’t see many out there that showed that, just the beautifully staged money shot of the finished recipe. I mean, many a time I would follow a recipe and think – is it supposed to look like this, did I read that correctly? So I set out to do just that in my postings and images. It is hard work though to stop and set up a shot mid recipe. I plan ahead and think, think think. Is everything prepped? Is my mise en place set up? OK, let’s do this! I love all of it.
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