The back of the house opens up on the Web. The computer keyboard is proving as enticing as the sauté pan, as more and more chefs cook up their own blogs. They blog about everything from restaurant openings to new dishes, the flavor of a farmstead cheese or the culinary high point of a trip. Free online tools like Blogger, Wordpress and Typepad make it relatively easy to set up a blog, add photos, recipes and forums and share plenty of savory tidbits—even if your tech skills are limited. See how these chefs did it.
Alison Too and Alison at Blue Bell, suburban Philadelphia
Launched: November 2007; spends about 3 hours updating it once a week
Why: My customers were asking me about the progress of my new restaurant, Alison Too. The blog was a way to keep them informed and involved as the construction proceeded. It’s also a diary, allowing me to reflect on the adventure of opening a restaurant.
Audience: Current and potential customers, staff and myself
Benefits: It conveys a personal touch and keeps me connected; guests traveled the road with me and are eager to try Alison Too. Personally, I’m glad I wrote it down this time around to learn from the experience.
Le Bernardin, New York City
Launched: January 2008; posts weekly. Each post is about 8 hours of work.
Why: It increases my visibility, but on a more personal level, I use it for expression, documentation and as a means to share ideas. In some ways, it’s an extension of the mentoring I do in the kitchen. While I could post more frequently, perhaps throwing out a few lines every day, I prefer to provide a cohesive idea or story, supported by links, images and recipes.
Audience: I try to keep it interesting and accessible enough for the average foodie/inspired home cook, but many professionals read it, too.
Benefits: A blog can be a powerful marketing tool—it extended my reputation and led to ongoing networking and media opportunities. But the ability to connect with readers around the globe helps create that spark that leads to other conventional forms of marketing.
L20 Restaurant, Chicago
Launched: December 2007; he and his team post three to five times a week; 1 hour per post
Why: A lot of what I do in the restaurant is visual, so a blog is the perfect medium to express my culinary creations. You really need to see my dishes to understand them completely.
Audience: Everyone outside the restaurant who wants to share the experience: customers, foodies, chefs, etc.
Benefits: The blog helps develop a relationship with our clientele; some first-time guests feel a part of the restaurant before they even enter the door. On a staffing level, it has brought us people who have an interest in what we are doing and want to be a part of it.
Proof on Main, Louisville, Kentucky
Launched: September 2008; posts once a week, 4 hours per week
Why: I had read some blogs that were interesting, like Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s, and wanted to start one myself. My goal is to communicate the culture of our restaurant with an informative, behind-the-scenes look rather than a personal diary.
Audience: Friends, other chefs, potential guests and myself
Benefits: When you offer a peek behind the scenes, you win over customers and repeat business. For example, I created a post about salumi making. My servers are trained to direct guests who order Proof’s salumi board over to the blog to learn more about the process.
Lockwood Restaurant at the Palmer House, Chicago
Launched: September, 2008; posts daily, spending about 1 to 2 hours per week
Why: My sous chef talked me into it—he wanted us to record the exciting things we were doing. For instance, we videotaped some techniques used on our fall menu and showcased it on the blog. It’s turning into a good forum to share information between colleagues and connoisseurs, as well as an up-to-date journal chronicling our activities.
Audience: The professional community, restaurant customers and “foodies”
Benefits: Our comment section allows us to begin and sustain a dialogue with our visitors. A number of our guests came to the restaurant because they had seen the blog and left comments. It creates lots of interaction—which is what you want at the end of the day.