When Saveur magazine names your online food obsession the first-ever best food blog, you know you're doing something right. That's exactly what happened this year to Canadian Stephanie Le, creator of I Am a Food Blog - a relative newcomer to the online food scene. Her site explores all the tasty food she finds in the real world and endeavors to recreate at home. And while you're at it - she'll also show you how to make your food cute too. Stephanie even has a book on the way this fall which could also be the tagline for her site: Easy Gourmet - Awesome Recipes Anyone Can Cook .
Stephanie and her site are new Say Media content partners. We took the occasion to catch up and find out what her readers love most, where she gets her recipe inspirations, and how she likes to work with brands.
How did you get started with food writing? I've always loved writing (when I was a kid, I wanted to be a published author), so writing is something that I've always done. Food, on the other hand was something I definitely grew into. As a kid, I was the pickiest eater you could imagine. But eventually food started tasting good to me and it became something that I associate deeply with happy memories.
I started writing about food in 2010 when I started my first blog, www.momofukufor2.com. I was at a sort of crossroads in my life - I had just graduated from university and was trying to find my feet. My husband, Mike, gave me a copy of the Momofuku cookbook and it was the first cookbook that I actually read through. The writing (Peter Meehan co-wrote it) and David Chang's voice were a balm. Here he was, a regular dude, just doing it for himself. I loved his story, partly because his beginnings were so close to mine (Asian, "useless liberal arts degree," abiding love for noodles). I decided to cook through the book. I learned a ton about cooking, photography and blogging, but most of all, I had a lot of fun.
What are your most popular posts to date - and what do you think that say about your readers? I'd say my most popular post is the grilled egg and cheese. It's a combination of the ubiquitous egg-in-a-hole and a frico grilled cheese. People love updated classics. In a way, I think everyone has nostalgic memories of childhood food and we're all just figuring out how to improve and enjoy what's been deemed "kid food."
What was your breakout post - or what was the breakout event that put you on the map? I'd definitely say that my breakout event was winning Saveur Magazine's first ever Blog of the Year as well as Editors' choice for Best Cooking Blog. I was thrilled when nominated, so winning was a huge, happy surprise!
What's your unique point of view or take on food that keeps your readers coming back? I think it's my fun, unfussy take on food and eating in general. I'm not snobby about the food I love and it reflects in my recipes. I eat things like spam and store bought donuts. It's always fun to make things from scratch and spend all day on a food project (like my oxtail pho or porchetta), but sometimes I just want to eat. I think it's that very real combination of high and low, new and old. People are pleasantly surprised by the twists I put on everyday foods that everyone eats - think crab rangoon deviled eggs or waffled donuts.
Your photography is stunning - is that all you? Thank you! Yes, primarily it's me, but my husband definitely helps out on a rare occasion. He's excellent at capturing action shots and has a fantastic eye.
How do you like to work with advertisers? I love working with brands/advertisers that I feel a connection with and authenticity is key. Ideally, the brand is a good fit with both me and I am a Food Blog readers, be it ingredients, kitchen equipment or lifestyle products. It's always fun when there's room for creativity with recipe creation and photography.
Recipes, stories, beautiful food photos… what engages your readers most? I'd say all of the above! But if I had to choose, I'd say the images are what initially capture interest. When you land on the site, they're the first thing you see. They're super-sized, in your face and almost hyper realistic.
Where do you get your best inspiration for your recipes? This varies - sometimes I just go to the market and wander around until inspiration strikes, sometimes I look in the fridge and create something from all the random produce I have, sometimes I'll be inspired by a dish at a restaurant. Of course, I love looking at other blogs and sometimes riff on their recipes. There's so much creativity out there! But, if I had to say "best inspiration," it would probably be the innumerable conversations Mike and I have about food.
What's a food thing you're particularly excited about right now? I always get excited about cheese. That's not a particularly sexy answer, but I just love cheese and I think it goes well with practically everything! Also, breakfast foods, noodles and potatoes. Oh, and I LOVE miniaturized food. I could go on and on...
What are some other food sites that are doing it right - any favorites our soulmates? There are so many food sites that I love, I couldn't possibly name them all. There are so many lovely folks out there doing fantastic things! The creativity and talent of the food blogging world boggles my mind!
How would you finish this sentence: When in doubt cook … eggs. Eggs are incredibly versatile and are used in practically every type of cuisine. They can be fancy - think double baked cheese soufflés - or they can be as simple a a perfectly fried egg. Eggs are perfect for both accenting dishes or standing in as the star.
I Am a Food Blog is a Say Media content partner. Follow Stephanie on Twitter at @iamafoodblog.
[All photos via I Am a Food Blog]