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What was the original inspiration for Food52?
We wanted to create a food site that was comprehensive, collaborative, and inspiring—a site we'd want to hang out at ourselves. There wasn't a food site filling this void.
What has been the most interesting development in the site over the last few years? What things have worked best, and what—if any—haven't worked at all?
The steady stream of talented home cooks who contribute to the site. We're in awe of them. What has worked best is creating a place with a strong visual and written point of view, and allowing these qualities to attract great like-minded contributors. Also, being active on the site ourselves has set the tone for the social aspects of the site. People often remark how nice people are on our site, and we believe that this is because we, too, are part of the conversation. Our site isn't a wild frontier—it's more like our home.
What hasn't worked?
Originally, we planned to crowdsource videos, and this never happened. It may in the future, but for now, we've stuck to doing our own videos and focusing primarily on writing and photos.
The aesthetic of the site is gorgeous—clean and bright, but not at all sterile, it's food photography at its apex. I especially love the beautifully composed shots of "Amanda's Kids' Lunches" because it just shows how important it is not to succumb to the mundane or predictable when it comes to children's food. Can you tell me a bit about the concept behind the site's design?
Many food sites can be condescending—they assume that you need to be convinced to cook, that everything must be sold as easy and quick and accessible. We believe that most people know a lot about food, and in fact, they have things to teach us, so we talk to them as equals—and we infuse this equality and shared discovery and inspiration into everything from design to photos to the writing.
How have you seen the home cooking community develop in the last few years? Are home cooks more ambitious or more likely to use shortcuts?
People are obsessed with food and cooking—and eating well. So whether that means taking on new challenges or mastering simple techniques, many people are becoming better, smarter cooks. We see this in the kinds of questions they ask on the site, and the kinds of foods people are searching for.
What are some of your favorite Brooklyn food resources?
BKLYN Larder, Sweet Pea CSA, the Greenmarkets, Union Market, Grab.
What are your favorite Brooklyn restaurants and bars?
So many, but we like Franny's, Frankies, La Vara, Pok Pok, Roberta's, Pies 'n Thighs, The Vanderbilt, Al Di La, Prime Meats, and Lulu & Po.
What's your perfect home-cooked meal?
Amanda: My husband makes a wonderful vodka pasta—it's the kind of dish I'd never order out because it's so simple, but it's a treat to have at home.
Merrill: I make a braised chicken and tomato dish inspired by Jamie Oliver year-round, using fresh tomatoes when they're in season and canned when they're not. I throw in plenty of garlic and thyme, and a big splash of rosé in the summer—then serve the chicken with its sauce over couscous or orzo.
Where do you see the site going in the near future?
This summer we're launching a new kitchen-and-home shop called Provisions.
Thanks! I'm a huge fan of the site—I can't tell you how many times I've turned to it during holidays or when I need to impress someone with my cooking.
Thanks so much—really lovely to hear this! And thank you for interviewing us.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen