By Divya Shastri
Over the last five years food bloggers have taken the gastronomic world by storm. They now occupy a space that used to be inhabited only by chefs and the formally trained. Not only do we look to bloggers to review and recommend restaurants, we also turn to them for recipes and buy their cookbooks.
Popular vloggers like Zoe Sugg (Zoella), with no formal culinary training, can make or break a new eatery. Food bloggers tweet incessantly about their meals and have even started writing food columns. Bloggers such as Ella Woodward (DeliciouslyElla), Gina Homolka (Skinnytaste) and Beth Moncel (Budget Bytes) have each put out at least one cookbook. Yet these folk are not professional chefs. Indeed, there are also beauty vloggers such as Niomi Smart and Tanya Burr who have released cookbooks, despite cooking being their passion rather than profession. It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a Cordon Bleu trained chef with a Michelin starred restaurant or a food Instagrammer with over 400,000 followers. Both of you can write about food, and it is more likely that the latter bags thebook deal.
So what is it that allows people who started blogs as passion projects to overtake those who train professionally in influence? The answer: social media. Nowadays social media enables people to grow their presence. By sharing a little information about yourself and your passions you can quickly become part of an existing online community. Food is something that people are always interested in. This predilection for food is explained by our psychological bias. The unconscious mind equates food with love because food is the earliest and most profound connection with our caregivers. So, we are all inherently interested in food. A popular blogger can feed into this interest through social media which makes it easy for them to showcase their food interests, whether it be restaurants to visit or recipes to recreate. In addition, social media has led to the wide dissemination of innumerable types of “diets” and lifestyles that have evoked much attention. And, let’s face it, food is trendy; cronuts, acai bowls, and rainbow food are all the rage. Having an Instagrammable brunch immediately boosts your cool factor, and having a baking or cookery passion makes you seem more wholesome and put together. Combine that with a social media presence and you have instant success.
People also seem to prefer food advice from bloggers rather than professionals as many blogs have a relaxed and inviting feel; it seems as though your friend is sharing a restaurant recommendation or recipe with you. On the other hand, seeing a chef on TV seems impersonal. They are professionals who are teaching you how to do something. Food bloggers are more accessible through social media and the way in which they showcase themselves makes you want to emulate them.
As a result, bloggers are the new influence brokers of the food industry. The traditional media coverage is not as approachable or personality driven as social media audiences would like.Restaurants and brands understand this and are using bloggers to promote their products. They now invite bloggers to review their eateries and to the launch of their products. So bloggers have become an important component of any food related public relations exercise. The food industry also values blogs as a way to garner customer feedback which, in turn, helps them enhance their offerings. Additionally, sites like Yelp and Eater are helping establish the credibility of the food blogger. All these factors have resulted in bloggers becoming a valued part of the food industry hierarchy.
Despite the fact that most bloggers never started out with the intention to gain fame, they have now been thrust into stardom and are reaping its rewards. Independent bloggers are an important source of information for the curious consumer. They also provide a way to keep the pulse of new food trends. The food industry values them as a means to communicate with a vast audience. And, when it comes to commissioning a book, having an existing audience that is willing to purchase your product is a great incentive to publishers. Social media celebrities who bring the guarantee of success are able to make their passion for food profitable. So the star of the food blogger continues to rise.
Photograph: Divya Shastri