food52, a Web site devoted to creating a user-generated cookbook in one year, officially launched today.
The site seeks to celebrate and highlight home cooks by asking readers to submit recipes that fit into various categories each week. Founders Amanda Hesser (in the photo, on left) and Merrill Stubbs then sort through entrants, cook up their favorites and select two finalists for readers to vote on. The winners will go into the cookbook, to be published by HarperStudio once the project is complete.
food52 had a soft launch in June with Hesser and Stubbs granting passwords to almost 1,800 interested foodies who wanted to access the site over the past few months. Now that Hesser and Stubbs have had a chance to work out all the kinks, the site opened up today for anyone to browse, upload recipes and vote on yummy recipes.
In advance of the site’s official launch, FishbowlNY spoke with Hesser, a former reporter for The New York Times‘ dining section and food editor of The New York Times Magazine who still writes a food column for the paper, and Stubbs, a freelance food writer and recipe developer, to discuss their motivation behind the site and their crazy life of cooking in two New York City apartments.
FishbowlNY: How did you come up with the idea for food52?
Amanda Hesser: We met while I was putting together a cookbook for The New York Times. We ended up cooking more 1,200 recipes together and spent countless hours in the kitchen with each other. And we observed something from the work: that many of the best recipes came from home cooks. There is this level of practicality to home cooks’ recipes because you are just one person in the kitchen and you want to make something great but you only have so much time and energy. We started looking online to see what was out there, and although there are a lot of good things — blogs and recipes sites and food sites — what was lacking was a celebration of the home chef. Americans have become very savvy and they know a lot, but when you go online you don’t see that. We wanted to create a place where enthusiastic home cooks could have a voice. And we thought, “Wouldn’t it be really fun to create a cookbook that drew in the online community and their recipes as the foundation of the book and they helped decide what was in the book?”
Merrill Stubbs: We called it food52 because every week for a year we are going to hold recipe contests and every week we are going to have voting between two themes that we think should be in the book. Each recipe falls into a category that we came up with, like “Your Best Preserves” or “Your Best Summer Cocktail.” People submit them throughout the week, we look through them, test them and then pick the best two. Then we post the two and the readers vote. We’re adding two recipes every week, plus we add wildcard recipes that readers submit to the database that haven’t been submitted to a contest. After a year, we will have a book of about 150 recipes.