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Friday, April 15, 2011

To blog or not to blog

Recently I was approached to write an article for the second issue of Gourmet Rabbit, a boutique magazine with an emphasis on content from food industry professionals.

I remember when editor Denea Buckinghamfirst told a group of food bloggers about her plans to set up, produce and print a new food-focused publication. It sounded like the stuff of pipe dreams, but to her credit (and the stellar efforts of her graphic designer Lisa Manche), Gourmet Rabbit has just published its second issue - 140 pages long - and now available for sale in newsagencies and retailers around Australia.

I've reproduced my article below which includes my thoughts on food blogging and why I do it. Since I wrote this article, some things have changed. I don't publish posts fives times a week anymore - I'm trying to find a balance between work, blog and play. And oh yes, sleep. It's a difficult equation.

Let me know what you think of the article, and don't forget to check the end of this post for a Freebie Friday offer to win two tickets to the GourmetRabbit Baza'ar at Efendy Turkish Restaurant in Balmain.

To Blog or Not to Blog
Published in GourmetRabbit, Issue 2

My name is Helen Yee and I am a food blogger. I take a camera with me to restaurants, I photograph my food before I eat it, and then I write about it online, in gluttonous, appetite- inducing detail.

‘Grab Your Fork’ has been around for almost seven years now. When I started in 2004, I had no inkling this hobby would extend for longer than even six months. It was a random encounter with a Hawaiian food blog that made me realise self-publishing platforms were available, user-friendly and free. I set up Grab Your Fork three days later.

Who are food bloggers?

We come from all walks of life, but ultimately we are hungry and willing. In 2004 there were less than a dozen food blogs around Australia. By 2010, over 200 food blogs had sprung up in Sydney alone. Content ranges from home baking to backyard pigs on spits, restaurant reviews to overseas street food, and vegetarian fare to bacon worship. A brave few have opted to blog full-time, but most food bloggers are students or have day jobs.

Grab Your Fork receives about 140,000 hits per month but I’ve yet to find a way to make it pay for my mortgage. By day I work full-time in an office. At night I come home, switch on the computer and blog until the wee hours.

At the moment I aim to post five times a week, sometimes I manage to hit seven. I estimate I spend an average 30 hours a week on Grab Your Fork. It’s definitely a labour of love.

Why do I blog?

Personally I find it a happy intersection of my three favourite passions: food, writing and photography. My Chinese background has meant that good food has always been sought out and appreciated, a food-centric culture where fish is always eaten whole, where the best meat is on the bone, and no yum cha is complete without at least one order of chicken feet.

At university I studied journalism, fascinated at the possibility of using language to transport readers to a moment in time, or a faraway place. When it comes to food however, a picture always says a thousand words.

What I love about the ritual of photographing food is the brief moment it gives me to scrutinise its construction, appreciate its components and capture its solemn beauty before it is eaten and gone forever.

What’s so great about food blogging?

The community aspect of food blogging provides me with infinite rewards. I enjoy generating content but the real joy is what happens after you post it online.

The food blogging community is a tight-knit group of people who are supportive and friendly, and have provided me with a network of like-minded enthusiasts, many of whom have now become my closest friends.

And then there’s the engagement with readers – many of whom have been following Grab Your Fork for several years.

The blogosphere has been likened to an international water cooler; a place for food lovers to meet and discuss last night’s dinner, share tips and secrets, and revel in the fact that there are people out there just as food- obsessed as we are!

Is there a need for food blogs?

Anybody can start a food blog and this foundation of egalitarianism is part of the beauty of food blogging. You don’t need to be hired – anyone can register a blog and hit ‘publish’.

This has allowed a broad cross-section of voices and opinions to be heard, ones that may not necessarily be aired in mainstream media. This open forum has given rise to a cooking club devoted to celebrating Filipino cuisine, university students talking about their fine dining experiences, gluten-free recipe collections and international bake-offs based on a specific theme each month.

What do food bloggers know about food, anyway?

The scrutiny of food blogger credentials by some industry cynics, particularly those that focus on restaurants, ignores the broader implications of the food blog phenomenon.

Incessant chatter about food by a demographic that is predominantly young and upwardly mobile, is an exciting insight into the new dining generation.

Restaurants posts often include family-run eateries in the suburbs, ones that would never be included in the major metropolitan reviews, but offer a valuable insight for locals.

The intrinstic appeal of food blogs is in their personalised approach, and most bloggers will find their readers are from a similar age group or background. In the glorious multicultural tapestry that is Sydney, I find it refreshing and liberating to hear from a cross-section of its people, particularly first- generation Australians who draw on their cultural identity to publish an online history of family food stories.

What is the future of food blogs?

The growing readership of food blogs indicates that there is an insatiable hunger for diversity of content surrounding the food industry. An increasing preference for digitally accessible information, the influence of social networking and smartphones will only widen the audience pool for food blogs.

As the number of food blogs rise, quality of content will determine the difference between small and significant readership numbers, but for many bloggers this makes no difference. It’s all about the love of food, and good food should always be shared. Bon appétit!

Thanks to GourmetRabbit, you could win two tickets to the GourmetRabbit Baza'ar at Efendy Balmain.

Two tickets to the GourmetRabbit Baza'ar at Efendy Balmain which includes:
  • Turkish cocktail or exotic welcome drink
  • Turkish meze canapes throughout the the evening
  • access to tasting stations featuring salmon, cheese, antipasto, wines, beers and dragon beard candy
  • a copy of GourmetRabbit Issue 2
  • a take home goodie bag.
Date: Thursday 5 May 2011
Time: 6.30pm-10.30pm
Address: Efendy Turkish Restaurant, 79 Elliott Street, Balmain

All you have to do is fulfil the requirements below:

Option 1:
  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell us: What animal best describes your appetite?
  2. And then send an email to grabyourforkfreebiefriday@yahoo.com.au with the subject heading "Rabbit" and include your full name and a copy of your published comment from this post.
Option 2:
  1. Enter via the Grab Your Fork facebook fan page. Simply leave your answer on the event listing here.
The winning entry will be decided on honesty, creativity or entertainment value. Don't be shy! You've got to be in it to win it! Readers may submit multiple entries as long as each answer is different.

The Gourmet Rabbit competition closes on Thursday 28 April 2011 at 9.30pm AEST. The winner will be announced on Grab Your Fork on Friday 29 April 2011.

Thanks everyone for your comments and entries. This competition has now closed and the winner has been announced here.
42 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/15/2011 01:23:00 am


  • At 4/15/2011 1:52 am, Anonymous Jacq said…

    Brilliant article Helen! I love how you've so eloquently described why you like to photograph your food before you eat it. I do it for the same reasons, and perhaps also so I can look at the photos later and reminisce about how delicious something tasted :)

  • At 4/15/2011 3:56 am, Blogger shaz said…

    Sounds like a very interesting new mag, and thoughtful article Helen. Didn't realise you have a journalism background but it should have been obvious by the lyrical way you write. I didn't realise when I started blogging, how terribly addictive it would be.

    Hmm, what sort of animal is such a tough question, erm, I'm sleep deprived so don't laugh too hard if I say "goat" because I'm extremely curious and will eat (almost) anything at least once.

  • At 4/15/2011 7:32 am, Anonymous Ozmo said…

    About a year ago i came across pikelet and pie as my first food blog.Lili fascinated me with her vietnam food and lifestyle.Her site has a list of other food bloggers so i explored them.Was very impressed with the professionalism of grab your fork.i live in brisbane so i found the food images extremely important to me from a cooking experience and i guess the enjoyment of the lyrical writing style and intent study of the photographs make for great enjoyment.so keep up the good cause

  • At 4/15/2011 8:09 am, Anonymous Dumpling Girl said…

    Beautifully written and so well thought out. I really think the points came across well.

  • At 4/15/2011 8:13 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    Wonderful article and so eloquently put; it was a pleasure to read. It is always difficult to juggle blogging, home life, work life, and a social life. Sleep seems to be the odd man out, but I never let blogging get in the way of living a balanced life.

  • At 4/15/2011 8:21 am, Blogger muppy said…

    How interesting, I have never seen this magazine but i will look for it now.

  • At 4/15/2011 8:27 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    I thought it was a great article Helen, it was one of the first I flipped to when I got the chance to look at the magazine. LOL sleep always comes second to everything else doesn't it?

  • At 4/15/2011 9:03 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    hehe sleep? what sleep?

  • At 4/15/2011 9:06 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well written article, I think it captures the feeling that we all have. As for the contest question, I don't know if fictional animals are allowed, but my answer would be Garfield :)

  • At 4/15/2011 9:15 am, Blogger Dressed and Eaten said…

    What an interesting article. Also didn't realise you were from a journalism background. Been reading your blog for a while. Your blog was my very first introduction to food blogs back in about 2006 and I've been hooked ever since, although this is my first comment. The magazine sounds great. Will look out for it in stores.

  • At 4/15/2011 9:18 am, Blogger Mel said…

    This is a great article and captures a lot of how I feel myself about blogging. I particularly love the sense of community I have with other food bloggers, I feel "part" of something fun & exciting.

    As for the animal that best describes my appetite...Piggy, hence the name of my blog.

    Miss Piggy

  • At 4/15/2011 9:18 am, Blogger K said…

    Congrats and this is a very well written article. It's amazing the level of dedication you and other bloggers put in to your full-time hobby.

  • At 4/15/2011 10:01 am, Anonymous Mel M said…

    Great Blog today.. I keep being told that i (like the many 100's our there in Sydney that write about food) should start a food blog, but as you say finding 30 odd hours a week to write about my passion, I am not sure leaves me enough time to eat!!!

    The animal that best describes my appetite is the wolf - they are hunters, and are skilled at tracking, and they often work in a pack. I voraciously read food blogs and spend my days talking to chefs, hunting and tracking the best produce on weekends, finding the hudden gems to eat around Sydney, and I often have a pack of friends begging me to take them on my exploits! So yes... i am a wolf.. and as a wolf i love to eat MEAT! mmmmm


  • At 4/15/2011 10:32 am, Anonymous sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    What a fantastic article Helen, I think it sums up why we do blog. You are right the food blogging community is a great one, something I didn't expect when I started blogging. Beside my passion for food I think I keep going with my blog due to the people both readers and fellow bloggers.

  • At 4/15/2011 11:04 am, Anonymous Gastronomous Anonymous said…

    THis is a great article Helen! it sums up why I started a food blog - three bloggers inspired me and convinced me to start my own.

    I also do love the 'community' with other bloggers. Being a part of something fun and exciting and sharing the same passion - FOOD! Whether its eating, cooking or taking photos.

  • At 4/15/2011 11:13 am, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    Great article Helen! Blogging is truly a labour of love and you've summed up every aspect of it perfectly! I love how I've meet so many wonderful people through blogging and look forward to what the future holds. Bring on the feasting!

  • At 4/15/2011 11:17 am, Blogger sugarpuffi said…

    beautiful article helen! and it pretty much sums up what i feel about food blogging as well. Just to let you know, you were my inspiration to start a food blog. :)

    as for the animal question, i would say a bear. I enjoy my meats and fish but can eat vegetables/fruit when times gets desperate. After a big and satisfying feast, i hibernate, usually sleeping around 12-20 hours during the weekend then wake up being all hungry again. the cycle begins.

  • At 4/15/2011 11:21 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Diplomatic and well said as always! An encompassing summary of why you choose to and enjoy blogging as well as its unquantifiable rewards.

  • At 4/15/2011 11:58 am, Anonymous michaela said…

    What animal best describes your appetite?
    Definitely the teddy bear, the Winnie the Pooh variety!
    A bear, however hard he tries,
    Grows tubby without exercise.
    Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
    Which is not to be wondered at;
    He gets what exercise he can
    By falling off the ottoman,
    But generally seems to lack
    The energy to clamber back.

  • At 4/15/2011 12:30 pm, Anonymous GourmetGetaways said…

    I loved the article. You have voiced exactly why I blog. I love food, writing and photography and my blog is a personal challenge to produce quality material, simply for the lobe of it.

    Great read :)

  • At 4/15/2011 1:07 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well said, Helen. I have been reading your blog since 2005 and you are one of the inspiration I started my own.

  • At 4/15/2011 1:25 pm, Blogger Hungry Female said…

    Here here, you have summarised for yourself and for the rest of us exactly why we love food blogging and why readers enjoy it. You don't write for money (though it would help!), you write because you have something to say.

  • At 4/15/2011 3:00 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I'm skipping reading this. Want to know why? (Yeah you do.) I just received my copy of Gourmet Rabbit in the mail after winning it on Lisa's blog, so I'm going to read it in print form this weekend. Yay!

  • At 4/15/2011 8:02 pm, Anonymous Reid said…


    I love your blog and appreciate all the thought you put into each post. Even though I don't comment much anymore, I do pop in to read a post, or two, every now an again.

    Hope to get back to Sydney sometime soon and meet up with. That you've managed to blog for so long, and with such regularity, is a testament to your passion.

  • At 4/16/2011 12:09 am, Blogger Viv said…

    i had fun reading this article helen! great writing as always! for me, it's the love of food and photography (as i later discovered) but not writing (man i struggle sometimes to come up with words hehe). i rem years years ago you were the only syd foodblogger i know haha...it was such a 'novelty' back then coz blogging felt like a foreign concept somehow.

  • At 4/16/2011 10:28 am, Anonymous Steph said…

    Definately keep blogging Helen. I'd miss reading your articles

  • At 4/17/2011 11:58 pm, Anonymous Krystle Y said…

    A panda! Like panda, I do eat meat, but love my vegies more. And my tastes are geared towards my native Chinese fare.. :)

  • At 4/17/2011 11:59 pm, Anonymous Sarah P said…

    A cat - like my brother's cat, if the bowl isn't spotless before the food goes on I won't eat it :)

  • At 4/18/2011 12:05 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Thanks everyone for your comments! I'm quite overwhelmed by the response. I'm so glad my article managed to strike a chord with so many of you.

    Hi Jacq - lol. I love to reminisce over food photos. Ahh... memories...

    Hi Reid - Ah lovely to hear from you. I've updated the article with the link to your blog! And yes, do let me know when you're next in Sydney!

  • At 4/18/2011 2:22 am, Anonymous Carter said…

    What a neat post! Looking forward for more post from you. Thank you for sharing!

  • At 4/18/2011 7:43 am, Anonymous Ozmo said…

    oh i forgot. the piggie is my animal;-)

  • At 4/18/2011 11:29 am, Blogger Gastronomy Gal said…

    Fabulous article and really makes a valid point re: critiscism of food bloggers! Not that I'm biased or anything!

  • At 4/19/2011 2:22 am, Anonymous Jayson said…

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

    I think that honestly good content and good quality photographs are often times in the eye of the beholder. Blogs that we can clearly point at and say they are a good storyteller and a good photographer and have appealing recipes. That's my take on it.

  • At 4/19/2011 10:46 pm, Anonymous Tania M said…

    A rabbit - I eat small portions, but I'm always grazing, in particular on green leafy treats:P

  • At 4/19/2011 10:46 pm, Anonymous Emma L said…

    Some kind of ape. I am very picky about my food. I like to look at it in great detail before I start to eat and am very particular about each bite I take. Carefully selecting exactly which piece I want next.

    I have to say it's like watching the chimps pick fleas off each other at the zoo, you know how they pick and look and then pick and look some more before finally putting one in their mouths.

    (disclaimer: I don't actually eat fleas!)

  • At 4/20/2011 10:59 am, Blogger susan said…

    What a great article, very well written! I started reading that hawaiian blog years ago as well (when there wasn't many blogs to choose from). Now there are so many blogs I have a hard time keeping up with everything. It certainly is something for the food obsessed and I love it!

  • At 4/21/2011 10:58 pm, Anonymous foodie cravings said…

    Great article! Made me reflect on why I started my food blog...

  • At 4/25/2011 3:50 pm, Anonymous Hamish said…

    Wonderful blog & interesting post. Looking forward to reading more. Keep Blogging!

  • At 4/29/2011 12:06 am, Anonymous Liil K said…

    I'm a picky little brother when it comes to food. If I like something, or want to eat something, I'll help myself. If I don't want it, I'll avoid it. Yes, ignoring all protests proclaiming otherwise, picky little brothers are animals.

  • At 4/29/2011 3:37 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Thanks everyone for your comments and entries. This competition has now closed and the winner has been announced here.

  • At 5/04/2011 8:30 am, Anonymous Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said…

    Well written Helen! I don't know why we bloggers fit in a category that needs to constantly be defended. The difference between online web articles and blog posts just aren't black and white anymore.

  • At 5/15/2011 8:50 pm, Blogger Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said…

    I've come back to read this great article again and it's truly a job well done! You are definitely one of my personal food heroes Helen, and your posts are such a pleasure to read. I love your adventurous take on sydneys thriving food scene and surely you have inspired so many of your readers to step out of their comfort food zones!


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