Welcome Back, Home Cooks!

Is home cooking dead? Not so much, said food writer Kim Severson in her keynote address at the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) last weekend in Seattle. Severson, now the Atlanta Bureau chief for The New York Times, has written about cooking and food for the Times as well as for the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications, and has won four James Beard awards for food writing.

Two of my favorite Severson food-related articles are “Ruth Reichl Recharges in the Kitchen” from earlier this month and her 2010 profile, “Roger Ebert: No Longer an Eater, Still A Cook” (the movie critic-turned cookbook author died in 2013.

Severson is now a contributor to the quite-fabulous NYT Cooking website, which she said came about primarily because people were starting to cook more. The website is an attempt to consolidate the Times food content, including digitization of some 17,000 recipes that the newspaper has published over the years. The website, which just celebrated its first birthday, gets about 4 million page views a month.

She says that as a society, we lost the love of cooking for about 50-60 years, but now we’re coming back to the kitchen, and it’s the younger generation (the Millennials) who are taking up the home cooking cause. “I think Rachel Ray was the gateway drug back to cooking,” she said. “And now we’re off to the races.”

Severson said that how traditional media (newspapers and magazines) present recipes and other food content is changing, and that the rise of food blogs is a big reason for that. She said that recipes, and how the finished dishes were photographed, often made the food come across as something perfect and unattainable by average home cooks.

“I think food blogging made the mainstream media see that maybe we were making this stuff seem inaccessible,” she said. With food blogging, she said “you’re seeing what it’s like to cook and mess up.” Similarly, food photography is less likely to be staged to look formal and perfect. (It’s still staged, but it’s artfully arranged to look a bit messy, a little more real life…the photo above is a typical example.)

“Food journalism is like the Wild West,” she said. “More people are cooking and eating than ever. The interest in food has never been bigger.”