Ten Years A Food Blogger

January 14, 2014 | By | COMMENTS

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Dear Me of Ten Years Ago,

Let’s see if I can remember the moment. You’re in your room of the apartment you share in Atlanta, Georgia with your friend Lauren, avoiding the stack of law school homework on your desk, and trying out potential blog names on Typepad. A week earlier, you posted a question on Ask Metafilter: “How do I become an internet phenomenon?” You asked that question in a manner that was both tongue-in-cheek and sincere. In a few months you’ll graduate law school, and then what? A career as a lawyer? Litigating toxic torts for the law firm where you spent your previous summer in L.A.? The folks on Ask Metafilter offer advice, but this nugget from Aaorn stands out: “Having a single, narrowly-focused topic (assuming it’s an interesting single topic) will draw people more consistantly than a hodgepodge of random things that interest you.” Until you read that, you considered just doing an Adam Roberts blog with bits about musicals and books and the occasional recipe; but, really thinking it over, you realize that food–a subject that’s fascinated you ever since, two years earlier, you started watching Sara Moulton and Mario Batali on the Food Network–is something you’d enjoy blogging about on a regular basis. You type the words “amateur gourmet” into the HTML box and hit publish. A few minutes later, you write your first post–“The Birth of An Amateur Icon”–and send it out into the ether. You then frantically wait for your first comment. It comes from your friend Josh who, along with his wife Katy, urged you start the blog in the first place. Katy, I’d soon learn, would be my first troll, with comments like: “OMG!!!! You are HILARIOUZZZ!!! Are you singel seriously because I LOVE GUYZ WHO ARE FUNNY AND ALOS I LOVE FOOD!!!!”

The blog takes a while to get going. You make Martha Stewart White Chocolate Chunk Cookies and don’t include the recipe. You debate your friend Lisa about olives. You write your first restaurant “review,” of The Silver Skillet, saying of the biscuits: “[They] melt in your mouth and stay there in your dreams.” It’s an inauspicious beginning, you don’t really win a new following (Josh, Katy, and your parents are your biggest commenters) until Janet Jackson shows her boob at the Superbowl and you make your, now notorious, Janet Jackson Breast Cupcakes.

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CNN comes over and does a story. The post is featured on CollegeHumor and Instapundit. Your traffic surges.

Then it wanes. It picks back up again with Condoleeza Rice Pudding with Berries of Mass Destruction; also, the ur-blogger, Jason Kottke links to you and that helps too. Meanwhile, you’ve written a play that you submitted to grad schools and, lo and behold, NYU accepts you to its dramatic writing program. Right before you leave, John Kessler–the food critic for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and one of the country’s best food writers–publishes a profile of you in the AJC. The picture, taken with a fisheye lens, makes you look like a walking nose with glasses. Still, it’s exciting. Soon after, you move to New York and start blogging about New York things. Like bagels.

Then in November of 2005, it happens. You meet a literary agent (Michael Ruhlman’s literary agent, at the time), develop a proposal and sell a book! Suddenly you’re an actual, real-life food writer. Two weeks later, Google drops you off its search results and your traffic plunges. You can’t figure it out. Then you do: people are Googling “cupcakes,” and Janet Jackson’s nipple is a top result. You erase the nipple from the top of your post and all is well.

In December of 2005, you journey with your friend John to Paris and eat everything in site. You go to a Parisian market and a bistro with the one and only David Lebovitz. You have a sophisticated Parisian dinner with Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini.

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Back in New York, you attend a taping of Iron Chef America and, soon after, move with your friend Diana to Brooklyn. (These things are unrelated.)

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Also, around this time, you meet an NYU film student named Craig, who you start dating, and you casually slip that into a post. Your readers are all like, “We knew you were gay.”

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Soon, your blog (and book deal) give you some credibility. You go to lunch with one of your heroes, Ruth Reichl. You get to interview Mario Batali for Serious Eats. Best of all, you somehow score tickets to Calvin Trillin’s “Come Hungry” tour; he’s the food writer that got you interested in food writing in the first place.

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In September of 2006, you have your first controversy: your parents take you to Le Cirque and you’re all treated like chumps. You write a post, Only A Jerk Would Eat At Le Cirque, and start a whole fracas. Sirio Maccioni writes your mom an apology letter. You go back. It’s not that great. You say as much.

That November, Restaurant Alain Ducasse (no longer in existence) begins pestering you with e-mails about their white truffle menu; an obscenely expensive white truffle menu. At some point you reply, “I can only write about it if we can experience it for free.” (Now we know better, but you were still pretty green back then.) To your shock, they write back and say: “Come on in!” So you and Craig go and, afterwards, you craft a comic book post about it. That post ends up winning an award for Best Food Blog Humor and Guy Kawasaki calls it “one of the best blog postings I’ve ever seen.”

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In April of 2007, you travel to San Francisco for the first time as a food person and eat your heart out with lots of your favorite bloggers. And then, in August of 2007 your first book comes out.

You go to a book store–the Barnes & Noble in Union Square–and stalk the table with your book on it. You hide behind greeting cards and make a rule for yourself that you can’t leave until someone buys your book. You soon change that rule to “until someone lifts up my book.” That becomes “until someone glances at my book.” Finally, someone does and you go.

A month after your book comes out, someone from the Food Network asks if you’d be interested in blogging about the Next Iron Chef for the Food Network website. You say, “Sure” because that’s a lot of eyeballs looking at your writing. That goes well and soon leads to a meeting with a producer who’s launching a new web show on FoodNetwork.com called The FN Dish and she asks if you’d like to host it. You don’t bat an eye. This is big time (or as close to the big time as you’ve ever been). “Um, yes,” you say.

It all begins with the taping of a pilot on an actual Food Network soundstage with an actual Food Network crew. Michael Symon is flown in from Cleveland to be your guest. The night before, you’re so nervous, all you can do is watch “Mary Poppins” to console yourself. The day of the taping (back when the show had a Daily Show style format), you sail along with all the jokes, though you flub one of your monologues. And flub it again. And flub it again. The crew gives each other looks. You start to worry.

Then a month later, you see the first cut of the pilot. It’s totally awful. You think, “Well, that’s it…no Food Network show for me!” But instead of firing you, the whole concept is changed; now it’ll be you on the fly, interviewing Food Network celebrities at big events. In fact, a big one is coming up pretty fast: the South Beach Food and Wine Festival. Soon you’re on a plane with your new director, Matthew Horovitz, and then you’re in Miami and it’s go go go. Paula Deen’s poker night, Rachael Ray’s burger bash. On your last night there, you decide to take it easy with Matthew at Danny Devito’s restaurant, only when you spy Giada DeLaurentis going into the kitchen, you decide to follow her; there you discover Jamie Oliver, Mario Batali, Rachael Ray, and–most notable of all–Anthony Bourdain. You ask Bourdain if he’d like to trash the Food Network on camera. He says, “Gladly” and gives you a killer interview.

That video causes a controversy at Food Network: the higher-ups are up-in-arms about it; the web people are like: “This is what goes viral.” Immediately, you start to realize the tough position you’re in. Your 23 Awkward Seconds with Rachael Ray doesn’t help.

Everything comes to a head in Las Vegas. You’re there for Vegas Uncork’d and the entire thing is surreal. You’re treated like a “celebrity” and pitted against Lorraine Bracco and Todd English in a cactus-cooking competition judged by Andrew Knowlton and Alan Richman.

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At a “V.I.P. Cocktail Party” you’re the guest of honor with a drink named after you. You suddenly realize how arbitrary food fame is: if people tell other people you’re famous, you’re famous. And just as quickly you’re not. When you get back, your show is kaput.

Meanwhile, you continue meeting fascinating food people. You go to dinner with Frank Bruni while he’s still the food critic for the New York Times. You go to lunch with the irascible Regina Schrambling. You discover that Pulitzer-prize nominated playwright Jon Robin Baitz is a reader of your blog and you join him for lunch at Brooklyn Fish Camp.

You do your first cooking demo at the Baltimore Book Festival. Your book comes out in paperback. Then, in November of 2008, you toss a recipe on to your blog with the hyperbolic title: The Best Broccoli of Your Life.

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Even though you’ve used that phrasing before (notably with The Best Cookies of Your Life), this post catches on like crazy. It’ll be Pinterested (you’ll soon learn what that means) over a million times and remain a top result when people search “broccoli recipe.” In any given year, it comprises over 50% of your traffic.

Every year, sort of as a joke, you apply for a table at one of the hardest-to-score-reservations in the world: El Bulli. Every year you get rejected. But in December of 2008 you find out that you have somehow attained a table for two in July 2009 at 8 PM. You go nuts. Grub Street makes fun of you. When you do go, several months later, you start out in Barcelona–eating your way through it–and work your way up to Roses for one of the most extraordinary dinners of your life. You also document it as a comic book-style post. Slate makes fun of it. But it remains one of your favorite posts you’ve ever done.

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Various projects come and go. You host two more web shows for Food Network. You try to develop a book about food and religion and travel to Elberton, Georgia with your friend Shirin for an Eid-Al-Adha feast. You eat a chicken cooked in a pig’s bladder at Daniel and make asparagus with another one of your food heroes, Amanda Hesser.

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Then, something huge happens. Your friends Matt and Renato, who own Baked, introduce you to their cookbook agent Alison Fargis of the Stonesong Agency. She helps you develop a cookbook proposal that you pitch to various publishers, including Artisan which publishes all of Thomas Keller’s cookbooks. To your total shock and surprise, they’re interested; you go into a meeting and there develop the concept for a different book, one where you’d travel the country and cook with 50 chefs and adapt their recipes for the home cook. A deal is reached. You’ve sold your second book.

Fun things continue to happen. You cook dinner for The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck guys:

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You start a web series called “Someone’s In The Kitchen With” and interview the likes of Ed Levine, Ludo Lefebvre and Anita Lo in your West Village apartment (oh, I skipped the part where Craig and you move to the West Village and paint the kitchen orange).

In April of 2010, Craig’s parents come to town and your parents come to town to meet them. You write about that night as an It Gets Better post and Dan Savage reaches out to you to ask if he can include the essay in the It Gets Better Book. Of course, you say yes.

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In June 2011, you travel to New Orleans with a bunch of bloggers and eat like crazy. You also go to Puerto Rico. Then, around that time, Craig is offered a job at 20th Century Fox in L.A. and you let the cat out of the bag: you’re moving to the west coast. You cross the country in August and go food shopping for the first time in California.

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In December of 2011, you have an article published in Food & Wine. Then, in May of 2012, you surprise your friend Diana for her 30th birthday with dinner at the French Laundry. Another comic book post ensues:

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A few months later (in fall 2012), your cookbook, SECRETS OF THE BEST CHEFS, arrives on shelves.

You’ve worked like a maniac to make this book happen, traveling all across America with your fearless photographer Lizzie Leitzell, and testing over 150 recipes in your kitchen with the help of various friends and neighbors. Then, you go on a book tour. Your first big event is a dinner at Eataly with Lidia Bastianich (pictured at the top of this post) that’s pretty much the most amazing night of your life. You host a panel with Jonathan Waxman and Amanda Hesser at the Greenlight Bookstore:

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You go to Austin and San Francisco and Seattle and host all kinds of dinners and events. You do a Google Talk and wear a dorky bow tie. You even cook on T.V.

Meanwhile, while all this is happening, Craig directs his first feature–TRUE ADOLESCENTS–which debuts at SXSW to great acclaim. Then, in 2013, he shoots his second feature, THE SKELETON TWINS (with Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader), which in the fall of 2013 is accepted into the Sundance Film Festival.

Which brings us to the present moment, ten years after you hit that “publish” button. You’ve recently traveled to Australia as a guest of the Eat Drink Blog conference. Oh, and you and Craig got engaged at a restaurant called Rustic Canyon. As you sit and type these words, you’re two days away from flying to Utah for the big movie premiere.

And what of your blog? This thing that’s taken you on so many strange, unlikely journeys over the past decade? That’s introduced you to so many unforgettable people? That’s given your life shape and meaning?

Well you start to question things when Jason Kottke, the previously mentioned ur-blogger, publishes a post: “The Blog Is Dead, Long Live The Blog.” The tag on the toe of blogging is dated December 19th, 2013. You are writing these words on January 14th, 2014 and you’ve done a lot of soul-searching.

At dinner with your friend Zach Brooks of Midtown Lunch, you talk about the inevitable decline that awaits us and our fellow bloggers. The end is nigh. Soon, we’ll all be spending our days on Snapchat and dating our computers like in the movie Her. Bloggers will be embalmed for all to study at the Museum of Natural History.

Still, while typing these words, you resign yourself to this knowledge: as much as the world might be moving on without you, those initial instincts that led you to start the blog in the first place–the desire to connect with a bunch of strangers over a shared enthusiasm for food and cooking–are the same instincts that will motivate you to keep it going. You won’t be able to resist the urge to share pictures of the spicy chicken soup you made recently to fight a cold or the escargot with a puff pastry topping that you ate at Republique.

Or maybe, inevitably, you will. It’s hard to say. But I can promise you this: as you hover your finger over the mousepad, ready to click “publish” on this new blog of yours, you’re about to set yourself on a course that’s far superior to any other course you have available to you at this point in your life. Ten years later you’ll look back and be unable to fathom a life where you don’t hit that button. So go ahead and click: a great adventure is in store.

Sincerely,
Me Ten Years Later

Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: Blog Business

  • Marcy

    Happy Anniversary, Adam – it’s been a joy to follow you all these years!

  • TK2

    It’s posts like this that, ten years later, keep me, and so many others, returning for “more”. As for the future of blogs: while my own attempt, many moons ago, yielded few posts, and even fewer readers/comments, thanks to people like you, the inspiration “to click publish” endures, and I sincerely hope the opportunity to see what can happen afterwards remains for many a day to come. Congratulations!!

  • Jessica

    I don’t post often, but I have to say I sure am glad you press that button when you do. Thank you for sharing with us not just your cooking tips, but yourself.

  • Sarah Spigelman

    lovely. Mazel tov to one of my all time favorite writers!

  • Amy *v.

    I’ve only been here for nine years, but I do (and WILL) keep coming back for more! Thanks for being awesome!

  • Matty

    That was beautiful. Cheers on 10 years, Adam. You keep writing, we will keep reading.

  • Karla

    Congrats Adam! You inspired me to start my own blog and this inspires me to keep it up.

  • http://koloadeb.typepad.com/blog/ Deborah

    Bravo & congratulations! As long as you write, I will read. Thank you for taking us along on your great adventure.

  • Kirk

    Thanks for the memories.

  • Stephie

    Congratulations on 10 years! Lets hope there are many more.

  • http://theroserecord.blogspot.com/ Katie Rose

    You were the first food blog I ever read and continue to be a “must read” for me daily. Congratulations on ten successful and eventful years!

  • http://gamenightguys.com/ Brian Gregory

    Of all the blogs I read 10 years ago, yours is the only one I still do. Congratulations on your success, Adam!

  • http://www.thepickygirl.com Jenn

    What an absolutely fantastic post. Thank you so much for sharing it. I initially discovered you with the “It Gets Better” post, and I’ve been a constant reader ever since. I love your writing, and I love that you share so much of your life with us. Congratulations on a phenomenal 10 years.

  • Cindy

    I confess, I am late in discovering who you are Adam, but as Craig’s former pastor — I am enchanted and delighted to hear of your 10 year journey to get where you are now. With your sense of humor and dedication to your craft I can see why Craig fell in love with you. Congratulations!

  • Louise Marston

    Congratulations on 10 great years – but I object to the post. The way you’ve written this makes it seem like it all just ‘happened’ to you – but it didn’t. The hard work you’ve put in, and all the opportunities you went after is what made it happen – you created all of this. You’ve done a great job, and I hope you keep writing, whether ‘the blog’ is dead or not.

  • Anonymous

    Happy anniversary, and thanks for being one of our first and most enduring inspirations!

  • Janice

    I first saw you interviewing Next Food Network StR, I believe. Followed you ever since. And my friends still rave about the BBE.

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations on 10 wonderful years! It was great reading back through your old posts. I hope that you continue blogging so long as it is making you happy!

  • WendyR

    I always look forward to your posts. Maybe blogging has reached it’s tipping point, but that doesn’t mean YOUR blog has. I hope for many, many more posts to come. I can’t wait to read about Sundance!

  • Anonymous

    It’s too bad blogs are dead. Now I won’t be able to include “Being namechecked in Amateur Gourmet’s 10 year anniversary post” as a listed accomplishment in my 10 year anniversary post!

    In all seriousness, though, congrats. This post is ridiculous. Makes me feel like I’ve wasted the past 10 years of my life in comparison…

  • michael shen

    Congrats adam! It’s probably been about 8 or 9 years since I found your blog. I don’t remember how I came across it but I never forget to read it regularly.

  • http://www.blueapocalypse.com/ Ai-Ling@blueapocaypse

    Congrats on 10 years of blogging and awesomeness!

  • kak

    I love your blog and the amazing story of its evolution. Wishing you many more years of success

  • Chung

    Keep writing, man.

  • Chung

    Keep writing, man.

  • Chung

    Keep writing, man.

  • Chung

    Keep writing, man.

  • Chung

    Keep writing, man.

  • niche

    Started reading your blog when the El Bulli post got a lot of buzz. You are one of my favorite food blogs. Congratulations on 10 lovely years.

  • ATG

    Thanks for sharing! I’m a 2L who’d rather be cooking than doing law; I actually prefer doing almost anything pther than law. Funny thing is, just last night, i texted my brother asking for advice on purchasing a domain name. I don’t see myself doing what you did, but I hope to soon find my voice and a career that makes me happy.

  • Karen in Dallas

    Congratulations! I ‘ve been meaning to tell you I think you are wonder-full and really quite amazing (overused word, sorry). Smart, quick, clever, kind and with a real interest in people and community. I have no doubt that you would have been successful on any path you had chosen. I’m just lucky you chose food. Thank you for the wonderful posts, the thoughts, humor, pics. They make me feel like a friend. Congrats again Adam :-).

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for inspiring us all, Adam. You rock!

  • Ttrockwood

    Congrats! Your clever writing and unique point of view keep me coming back after all these years.
    But how did i ever miss the broccoli recipe?!? Making this asap.
    Ttrockwood

  • Dana @ Foodie Goes Healthy

    Congratulations Adam. I enjoyed your 10 year perspective and your sense of humor, as always. I look forward to reading more posts as you always manage to write about things that pique my interest or mirror my food experiences. Glad that so far you are still enjoying the food conversation because I am too.

  • David L.

    As long as people write great posts like this, I don’t think food blogs are going away as quickly as folks thing. Happy 10 years ~

  • Kimberly O

    Didn’t think I was going to read yet another “looking back over the past blah blah blah years” post, but here I am, at the end of your post. I shouldn’t be surprised. Love the blog and your unique voice. Thank you.

  • cybercita

    Here’s to ten more years! I love your blog.

  • Eleana

    Congrats!! I’ve read every single post in your blog and love it … and commend you for keeping it up!

  • Tosha

    I am grateful for you. Keep going. :)

  • ileen in houston

    Really enjoy your blog – it’s on my must read daily! You are very talented!

  • Meghanssj

    What an awesome adventure. You have so much to be proud of, and you have inspired many. Also, for someone whose only been a reader for the last few years, there was a lot to learn from this post. I have just always accepted the fact that you are out, your family loves Craig, and you have landed lots of cool foodie meetings, tough to land reservations and book deals. It is good to see the very human path that brings a person to 10 year mark. Way to go and keep it up. I highly doubt the snapchat generation is your target audience anyway.

  • I’m Gonna Cook That

    As a fairly new food blogger, this beautiful post inspires me to keep going. Thank you so much!

  • Erica Kim

    So lovely! I teared up over a bowl of pho during lunch while reading this post. This is what I love about your blog. Honesty and warmth. Thank you.

  • Karen@Mignardise

    Congratulations – what a ride! So glad you’ll be sticking with it. So much better than that law thing…

  • lizzie

    congrats again, great post!! and p.s. the world is not going on without you….i have a feeling that no matter what happens in the blogosphere, a lot more exciting things you can’t even imagine yet are just around the corner! rock on Adam.

  • Janice Hong

    Happy Anniversay ^_^ I just want to say that I truly enjoy reading your blog, and while things like this don’t last forever, I can only imagine good things in store for your future! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, you’re truly inspiring.

  • The Lighthouse Cookey

    I was here from the beginning and I’ve enjoyed taking this wonderful ride with you! Happy Anniversary and please don’t stop blogging! Can’t believe it’s been ten years

  • jeri

    Congratulations.

  • jeri

    Congratulations.

  • Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy

    Happy Anniversary! One of the highlights of my time writing a food blog was meeting you last year. Congratulations on everything you have achieved!

  • http://otm-inthegalley.blogspot.com/ SeattleDee

    Years ago I clicked in for a recipe, and then returned weekly for the stories. “The Blog” may or may not be dead, or in decline, or merely changing…whatever. You have established a special presence so please, keep on clicking “publish” for as long as you enjoy the writing. Happy Anniversary.

  • Ross Long

    Absolutely fabulous! Keep writing we’ll keep enjoying. Mazel Tov

  • Anonymous

    Happy Anniversary, Adam. May you have continued success!!!

  • Joe

    Happy anniversary, Adam. I love what you write and the photos you share. Great new banner!

  • Karen

    Congrats Adam more success to come this year! Cheers!

  • http://scrummylane.com/ Helen Schofield

    An absolutely wonderful read!! I’m one of those bloggers who has just hit ‘publish’ for the first time, but I have to admit I don’t have as high aspirations as this!!

  • Anne

    Congratulations on this incredible milestone and everything that has happened over the last decade. I’ve been along for the ride for the last 9 years and am always eager to read the newest post. Thanks for the laughs, ideas, recipes and inspiration.

  • http://www.confessionsofachocoholic.com/ Bianca Garcia

    What a wonderful journey. Happy blog anniversary, Adam! You’re an inspiration and will always be one of my very favorite food bloggers of all time :)

  • http://www.confessionsofachocoholic.com/ Bianca Garcia

    What a wonderful journey. Happy blog anniversary, Adam! You’re an inspiration and will always be one of my very favorite food bloggers of all time :)

  • http://www.confessionsofachocoholic.com/ Bianca Garcia

    What a wonderful journey. Happy blog anniversary, Adam! You’re an inspiration and will always be one of my very favorite food bloggers of all time :)

  • http://www.confessionsofachocoholic.com/ Bianca Garcia

    What a wonderful journey. Happy blog anniversary, Adam! You’re an inspiration and will always be one of my very favorite food bloggers of all time :)

  • http://www.confessionsofachocoholic.com/ Bianca Garcia

    What a wonderful journey. Happy blog anniversary, Adam! You’re an inspiration and will always be one of my very favorite food bloggers of all time :)

  • http://pieceynumnums.blogspot.com.au/ pieceynumnums

    Love, Love, Love this post. As a fairly new reader of your blog I can’t wait to go back and click on all the links. Congratulations on 10 amazing years.

  • NancyRing

    I have kept this post open for days and am enjoying reading the referenced posts – so much fun!! You have made a great life for yourself; thanks for sharing some of it with us! I hope you continue this blog for a very long time! Congratulations!!

  • http://www.arthur-in-the-garden.com/ Arthur

    Congrats!

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations! Job very well done.

  • pascale

    What a wonderful post. Thank you. I can’t wait and explore all the links. You have worked so hard and we (your fans) are the ones that benefit. Don’t ever stop writing. It is such a gift to the world.
    Congratulations – you are a ROCK STAR.

  • http://www.musichef.com/ Musichef TJ

    Congratulations Adam, I’ve been following your blog for a year now (you were and continue to be one of my first inspirations to start my own food+music blog) and I’m so happy for your 10th year anniversary and all your achievements! Recently I’ve been busy improving my pastry skill so haven’t been updating my blog much but after reading this post, I want to get back to blogging full-time. Thanks again for your inspiration and sharing your passion for food with all of us. I’m also very glad that 10 years ago that you decided to press the ‘publish’ button! If you ever make it to Seoul or Beijing, let me know, I’ll give you a culinary tour! :) cheers to good food and good life! @Musichef_TJ (do you use instagram?)

  • Faggot hobo

    FAGGGGOOOOTTTT

  • Faggot hobo

    Ima gone eat you up u so yum mm mm mmm

  • http://doublejenandtonic.com Jen

    I was originally searching for any information I could find about starting a food blog, and I stumbled across this post entirely accidentally but (I’m about to sound a little crazy) I am so glad I did. This kind of moved me. I’ve never read your blog before but this totally got me a little teary-eyed. It’s no surprise you’ve done so well, you’re excellent.