Foodista Accepts a Challenge

October 15, 2009

Foodista has recently been covered in both the New York Times and TIME Magazine. I was quoted, and to provide a counterpoint, so was Christopher Kimball of Cook's Illustrated. Between these two articles, Condé Nast announced that they were shutting down Gourmet, and in response Mr. Kimball wrote this Op-Ed piece in the New York Times. Let me start by saying that I have deep respect for Mr. Kimball and what he has built, but I also disagree with his assessment of the Internet, Wikis, and how it all works. I was thinking about writing a response to the Op-Ed, and then earlier today noticed that Mr. Kimball issued the following challenge on his blog:

The current rage is the WIKI recipe notion — a community of on-line foodies who can select and tweak recipes to come up with the best possible version. Then there is the opposite contention — I think that only a professional test kitchen with substantial resources, strict testing protocol, and lots of time can develop the very “best” recipes, all things being equal. So, I am willing to put my money, and my reputation, where my big mouth is. I offer a challenge to any supporter of the WIKI or similar concept to jump in and go head to head with our test kitchen. We will jointly agree on a recipe, on the rules, on a time frame, etc. At the end, we will ask a panel of impartial judges to make and test the recipes and declare a winner. Should be fun! Who is interested?

I posted a response comment on his blog accepting the challenge, it is awaiting moderation. This should be interesting! What do you think?



Greg Bulmash's picture

One drawback to the wiki vs. professional challenge. Just like with Wikipedia, a saboteur is much easier to sneak into the wiki process than into the test kitchen.

The one thing I like about Kimball's magazine and show is that they discuss the why of ingredients, amounts, or techniques versus the alternatives.

For my own recipe searching, I like the AllRecipes model of one person posting a recipe, then others commenting on it to a community-edited recipe. I'd rather see ten recipes with user comments and draw my own conclusions than see one recipe that's been edited by 10 people.

I'll be interested to see how the challenge works out, but I have a feeling you won't win.

Judy Browning's picture

I am looking forward to this challenge with much anticipation. What fun! Two totally different approaches to food writing and recipe creation coming together, head to head!! I'm so glad Mr. Kimball threw down the glove. Now we'll get to see this process in action. When do we begin?

Barnaby Dorfman's picture

I'm still waiting to hear back from Mr. Kimball. He left a comment saying he was talking with Amanda Hesser, of, about doing something . Though an interesting project in crowd-sourced recipes, Food52 is not a Wiki. To truly run this test, he will need to engage with a Wiki platform like Foodista.

Tammy's picture

I wonder if it's because of the high-brow arrogance of people like Mr. Kimball that snobbish cooking magazines such as Gourmet are dying while Rachel Ray, with her simple 30-minute recipes, is laughing all the way to the bank.
Most of people who come to websites like Foodista don't have culinary degrees or fancy internships in snooty French restaurants under their belts.
I think that Mr. Kimball fails to understand that most of the people who publish recipes on sites like foodista HAVE tested them out REPEATEDLY before they posted them for the public. I have tested out my recipes on my family, friends, co-workers, my husband's coworkers and church family repeatedly before I ever published them.
I'd much rather try out a recipe that someone's great-great grandma brought over from the old country than an over analyzed "test-kitchen" recipe any day.
I like the "why does this happen" scientific approach the test kitchen people do but I can also get that from Alton Brown without the condescension.

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