I can credit Food Network with kickstarting my obsession with food. When I was young I used to stay up and watch Emeril throwing his spices into pots with a “Bam!” and follow the fast-paced cooking challenges on Iron Chef. And of course cook along with all the recipes on FoodNetwork.com.
Back then, Food Network was one of the few players in the online recipe game. Now there’s a lot more competition, including new digital recipe sources like guided cooking apps and smart speakers. That’s why we’re so excited to have Michelle Buffardi, who oversees editorial and programming strategy for culinary content at FoodNetwork.com, Food.com and CookingChannelTV.com, speaking about the future of food media at the 2019 Smart Kitchen Summit next month.
Check out our Q&A with Buffardi below and get your tickets to see her in Seattle. Save 25 percent with code THESPOON25!
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.
You oversee culinary content for FoodNetwork.com. What does a day in the life look like?
No two days ever look alike! A day could include brainstorms (those are the best meetings!) or greenlights for things like recipes for video or otherwise, holiday programming since we work several months in advance, new video series or chefs and hosts we want to work with for digital series. I also have many meetings with other teams, such as our product and tech teams, about site enhancements and other projects to make sure the content and tech come together for the best user experience.
When I’m not in meetings, I’m working on editorial calendars or plans for different platforms—my team works on content across our website and apps—researching trends and new talent. When I have time in my day, I stop by our test kitchen for a tasting, which is where our recipe developers present the recipes they’ve made that day for various digital needs and projects. We taste them and give feedback.
Consumers have a plethora of different platforms at their fingertips to discover recipes. How do you entice them to come to FoodNetwork.com?
Our fans come to us for two main reasons: our culinary credibility and our variety of chefs and hosts. We have recipes for anything anyone is looking for developed by the best chefs on the planet, such as chefs from linear shows or exclusive digital projects and chefs from our test kitchen who develop recipes, write how-tos and do product tests for us.
We work hard to make sure we have recipes and content for trends, special diets, every holiday and of course, weeknight dinner recipes specialized to popular appliances (like the InstantPot). No matter what people are looking for, we have it.
In addition to people coming to us from search, our amazing team is great at promoting all of our content on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Twitter), often with original content developed for each platform, and our editors work to share the best content in our weekly and daily newsletters. In short, we ensure that we’re giving our fans access to the best content in all of the places they visit and connect with us.
Two years ago at SKS Tyler Florence made the bold claim that the recipe is dead. What do you think?
I don’t want to disagree with Tyler! However, I don’t think cooking is dead, so I don’t think the recipe is dead. There is a trend, especially as more people gain confidence in the kitchen, of cooking without a recipe. That is winging it with familiar ingredients and methods, or taking a known recipe, like that stir-fry you have memorized, and swapping in different proteins, vegetables, sauces or seasonings.
The bowl and composed-food trends also lend themselves to no-recipe cooking — just layering delicious homemade or store-bought elements like grains, raw or roasted vegetables, sauces and salsa, roasted chicken or a fried egg. Even so, there are new cooks every day who need a recipe to get them going. Plus, even for experienced cooks, whenever we want to make something new or unfamiliar, we need that blueprint.
In short, I say the recipe is not dead; long live the recipe!
How do you think that recipes will continue to adapt to meet shifting consumer demands in the age of digitization and convenience?
This is so interesting and exciting to me. Recipes used to be made for magazines and consumer packaging, so they had to fit a specific format and word count. That’s not the case anymore. The formula is the same — people will always need to have the ingredients, measurements and the cooking method listed — plus a photo is important, too.
However, [I predict that] formats will change: recipes will start to look different depending on the platform they’re intended for, or will be written differently so that they can be read by a voice-enabled device, for example. The ways people consume information and the devices they use are constantly changing which means we’ll keep evolving the ways in which we deliver that information. Including recipes.
Want to see Michelle Buffardi speak about the future of the recipe in the digital age live? Get your tickets to SKS in Seattle on October 7-8th. We’ll see you there!