Behind The Blog: Marc of NoRecipes.com
Listen, we know that WP Ultimate Recipe is the best WordPress plugin out there for your food blog. But it could be argued that we’re a little biased. There are a number of real life food bloggers out there using WP Ultimate Recipe to bring their site to life, and we thought it might be fun to showcase some of them here.
The other day I was lucky enough to get to pick the brain of the one of the top food bloggers out there, Marc Matsumoto of NoRecipes.com. No Recipes is a website designed to give the home reader the tools they need to cook without the confines of having to rely on a step by step recipe. With hundreds of delicious meals showcased, useful tips and information for the home cook, and an engaging narrative voice, Marc has managed to create a winning combination in the blogosphere.
After browsing his blog and trying a few dishes in my own kitchen, I had a few questions for him. He was gracious enough to answer, too!
What is your earliest cooking memory?
I have a leaky memory so my childhood memories are few and far between, but perhaps one of my strongest memories as a child was visiting my grandparents in rural Japan and going fishing with my grandfather. We’d wake up before sunrise and clamber out to an outcropping of rocks that are only accessible at low tide. Then, with our lines cast out to sea, we’d sit and watch the sunrise over the horizon. Back at home, I’d help my grandfather gut the fish we’d caught and we’d turn them into breakfast along with some fresh herbs and vegetables from the garden. Cooking your own food is rewarding, but when you grow and catch your own food it takes it to a whole new level.
Your philosophy for cooking is 50% technique, 40% inspiration, and 10% ingredients. Why do you feel technique is the most important?
There are dozens of TV shows that illustrate this concept. If you take a good chef and give them a few mystery ingredients, they can make something delicious no matter how bizarre the ingredients are. That’s because they have a framework of techniques they’ve learned that helps them deal with any ingredient. Most people go to culinary school to learn that framework, but not everyone has the time to attend cooking school. Instead they turn to cookbooks hoping to learn how to cook.
The problem is that most recipes are like the flimsy instructions that come with an IKEA desk. They’re blueprints to put together a very specific desk, but they’ll never teach you the principles of building desks in general. By elaborating on why I do certain things in my recipes, I try and teach people techniques that they can use to make any dish better.
What is your favorite thing to cook?
I get asked this a lot, but it’s a bit like asking a parent which child they like the most. That said, I tend to rate almost anything based on its effort to reward ratio. For food this means the simpler it is and the tastier the result, the higher it tends to rank for me.
So what advice would you give someone starting their own food blog?
Do it for the right reasons. I see a lot of people starting food blogs thinking it’s their ticket to a cookbook or a Food Network show. Similarly there’s this mistaken notion out there that food blogging is a leisurely and lucrative career. If you chose to become a professional food blogger, chances are you’re going to be working seven days a week and broke most of the time. For me, I do what I do because I’m passionate about helping people improve their finances and their diets by learning to cook simple, wholesome meals at home.
Does writing about food come naturally to you, or was that something you’ve had to work at?
English was always my strongest subject in school, but I actually hate writing. I’d rather be in the kitchen creating something tasty. That said, the Internet boffins haven’t yet come up with a way for me to send samples of my recipes to my readers, so writing is a tool that helps me get my message across.
What is your process when it comes to deciding what to post about. Do you plan ahead, or fly by the seat of your pants?
I mostly fly by the seat of my pants. It goes with my “No Recipes” ethos. I cook what inspires me, not what some cooking manual tells me to do.
What is the most challenging thing about food blogging?
It’s all the technical stuff. Like choosing and setting up your blog platform, finding reliable hosting for it and then maintaining and securing it against hackers.
These days WordPress is the most popular blogging platform, but out of the box, WordPress is a just a simple content management system that doesn’t provide any kind of structure to input recipes. This leaves you fiddling with html and css to make your recipe look right, not to mention the hRecipe microformat data you need to include to make your recipes rank well in Google.
Thankfully, there are plugins like WP Ultimate Recipe that handle all this stuff so I can spend more time in the kitchen and less time behind a computer.
How do you effectively present recipes to your audience?
Recipes are all about being predictably consistent no matter who makes it. Precise measuring and testing is obviously important, but it’s equally important to be able to convey the recipe in a way that every reader understands the same way. That’s why I choose my words carefully and like to present my recipes in a structured and consistent way so that my readers don’t have a recipe fail because they misunderstood a step.
WP Ultimate Recipe comes to the rescue here as well, taking care of all the formatting so all I have to do is enter the ingredients and steps in the appropriate boxes. It also keeps the structure of the ingredients and instructions intact on the backend, so that the data can be used to do things like automatically generate recipe indexes by ingredient.
What has been your biggest food blogging disaster?
Gosh, where to begin… Maybe it’s that time I tried to make a change in the database, only to realize that instead of updating one record, I updated thousands, rendering my site inaccessible. After spending a week manually reentering six hundred posts, I resolved to never do anything without first making a backup. Or perhaps it’s the time a hacker got into my server and enlisted it into the service of their zombie botnet. That’s around the time I decided I needed automatic off-site backups… I guess the moral here is to backup early and often.
Why do you think it’s important to share techniques and recipes with the world? Why do you do what you do?
This isn’t what I’ve always done. I used to work in tech startups alongside people who were perfectly content consuming every meal out of a cardboard box. But for me, food has always been a passion, not just a means of sustenance and I started to notice that my passion tends to be contagious. That’s why I started the blog, to share my passion with the world, and to inspire my readers to cook wholesome, delicious meals at home.
I also asked Marc to share his experience using WP Ultimate Recipe on his site, in a more candid fashion. Marc told me about his frustrations when the first plugin he relied on went out of development and became obsolete. Finding WP Ultimate Recipe made his journey easier, because it allowed him the flexibility to treat each piece of data as an individual unit.
You don’t have to be a superstar food blogger like Marc to make the most of WP Ultimate Recipe. But even the super star bloggers do.