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Why a Good Blogger is Like a Top Chef

Bloggers are Like ChefsI know you read at least read one blog. You would be surprised though how many people want to be successful bloggers without bothering to read what it is they are meant to be writing.

As you might have guessed from the title, this brings to mind cooking. How can you create an excellent dish without being a lover of food? Top chefs live for food. They love flavors, aromas, the look of the finished plate, and they also get a kick out of seeing people enjoy it.

Can you say the same about your blogging? Do you love blogs? Do you love to blog?

When they are cooking all the time they are taking tastes. I am sure you are aware that when you go to a decent restaurant someone will have taken many tastes of the food before you get to it. People have told me that revolts them but if you think about it, how else would they know they have prepared it correctly? While I am sure someone will find me a story of a chef born without taste buds I have to believe a chef who tastes their food does a better job.

When was the last time you re-read your own posts? After time has gone by you can be more objective about your own writing. How good is it really? What could you improve? Was it really the best it could be? One of the reasons chefs get a reputation as being ogres is they have exacting standards, that mixed with the high pressure environment of a Michelin starred kitchen means there is a lot of shouting. I don’t expect you to shout at your fellow bloggers but how critical are you of what you produce?

Like a chef also you need to have an eye for mixing the best ingredients and be willing to experiment. If all you ever turn out is the same old stuff then people will get bored. Lately I have seen some bloggers hit on a formula that has given them good results and they have stuck to their formula. That’s great, but if every post looks the same, reads the same, or if all they are creating is pretty lists time after time, engagement will drop even while bookmarks stay high.

Do you want to create a reference or a community? Personally I would prefer fewer links and lower traffic in return for readers who actually want to communicate with me. That means providing surprises, delights and treats, along with the familiar.

One reason I could never work in a restaurant is the amount of criticism and abuse people in the food industry have to accept. I guess though with most endeavors we have to be prepared to take abuse in search of improvement. I get my own fair share of “you suck” emails right here :) Chefs are constantly criticized, by the public and by reviews, but they are prepared for it and grow a thick skin. As bloggers we open ourselves up to criticism too. If we want the plaudits we have to accept sometimes there will be rotten tomatos too. How well do you deal with criticism?

I expect there are many other similarities but I didn’t want to force this into being yet another top ten list :) Do you think good bloggers are like chefs? Am I just mad? Do you still read blogs or is this the only blog you read? Please share in the comments – talk to me :)

Original Lego People photograph by Joe Shlabotnik and market by ximenatapia

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Comments

  1. Great post! This is so true. I tend to be a perfectionist though and read and reread my posts. I never thought of it being like a chef though. Liked the analogy!

  2. Great post! This is so true. I tend to be a perfectionist though and read and reread my posts. I never thought of it being like a chef though. Liked the analogy!

  3. You’re not mad :-)

    I like the way you mix it up and experiment – esp the posts that are about everyday life (taking a photo, going for a walk with your puppy, watching tv). It brings the subject to life – and keeps me engaged.

    Joanna

  4. You’re not mad :-)

    I like the way you mix it up and experiment – esp the posts that are about everyday life (taking a photo, going for a walk with your puppy, watching tv). It brings the subject to life – and keeps me engaged.

    Joanna

  5. I’ve got 349 subscriptions according to Google Reader. Of which I regularly read around 10%. Of those I’d say there 5 I read every time I enter GR.

  6. I’ve got 349 subscriptions according to Google Reader. Of which I regularly read around 10%. Of those I’d say there 5 I read every time I enter GR.

  7. Yes, I read a lot of blogs – it’s hard to imagine a blogger who would not.

    And yes, I re-read my own stuff. I have a “random page” link that I use regularly. I do that for a number of reasons: to remind me of posts that should reference newer posts, to spot any problems I may have introduced from CSS changes and the like, to fix any grammatical or structural problems I may not have noticed when first posted, and to note any changes of opinion or fact that have occurred since the post.

    And yeah, sometimes I love what I wrote and sometimes I hate it :-)

  8. Yes, I read a lot of blogs – it’s hard to imagine a blogger who would not.

    And yes, I re-read my own stuff. I have a “random page” link that I use regularly. I do that for a number of reasons: to remind me of posts that should reference newer posts, to spot any problems I may have introduced from CSS changes and the like, to fix any grammatical or structural problems I may not have noticed when first posted, and to note any changes of opinion or fact that have occurred since the post.

    And yeah, sometimes I love what I wrote and sometimes I hate it :-)

  9. Uh, Chris, there’s no apostrophe in tomatoes.

    I refer you to the blog, the blog of unnecessary apostrophes:

    http://quotation-marks.blogspot.com/2006/01/how-about-unnecessary-apostrophes.html

    Excellent points in your post!

    Elaine

  10. Uh, Chris, there’s no apostrophe in tomatoes.

    I refer you to the blog, the blog of unnecessary apostrophes:

    http://quotation-marks.blogspot.com/2006/01/how-about-unnecessary-apostrophes.html

    Excellent points in your post!

    Elaine

  11. Chris, a very apt metaphor, strongly elucidated.

    I read 12 blogs on blogging, 12 on SEM/SEO/SMM, 6 on triathlon and endurance sports (I coach athletes in triathlon, track & field, road running and road cycling). Can’t cope with much more than that.

    I’m new to blogging myself, hope to embody this approach and thus achieve Cordon Bleu status someday ;)

  12. Chris, a very apt metaphor, strongly elucidated.

    I read 12 blogs on blogging, 12 on SEM/SEO/SMM, 6 on triathlon and endurance sports (I coach athletes in triathlon, track & field, road running and road cycling). Can’t cope with much more than that.

    I’m new to blogging myself, hope to embody this approach and thus achieve Cordon Bleu status someday ;)

  13. I find myself reading more and more blogs, these days. Most of my (exceptionally intelligent) friends seem to be making a mark in blogging and it’s not only an excellent way to learn from one another in our specialized fields, but it also allows us to keep tabs on each other when our schedules simply are too hectic to allow for email. Reading other blogs has also expanded my understanding of my own small niche and the industry in which it lives.

    But that’s not really the point of your post – the point of your post is “passion.” Passion sells. Passion communicates when facts are ignored. Passion is sexy and vital and draws people in. Passion, combined with actual knowledge of a subject is devastatingly powerful.

    I love the topic I blog about. I am not obsessive about it – but I am passionate. Okay, maybe a little obsessive. ;-)

    This post reminded me why I blog. Because I love what I blog about.

    Cheers,

    Erica

  14. I find myself reading more and more blogs, these days. Most of my (exceptionally intelligent) friends seem to be making a mark in blogging and it’s not only an excellent way to learn from one another in our specialized fields, but it also allows us to keep tabs on each other when our schedules simply are too hectic to allow for email. Reading other blogs has also expanded my understanding of my own small niche and the industry in which it lives.

    But that’s not really the point of your post – the point of your post is “passion.” Passion sells. Passion communicates when facts are ignored. Passion is sexy and vital and draws people in. Passion, combined with actual knowledge of a subject is devastatingly powerful.

    I love the topic I blog about. I am not obsessive about it – but I am passionate. Okay, maybe a little obsessive. ;-)

    This post reminded me why I blog. Because I love what I blog about.

    Cheers,

    Erica

  15. I like to mix it up a bit. Sometimes I write like I have it in my head so I don’t lose the moment, albeit with extremely poor Eneglish. And other times I write like I want it to be in other peoples heads, so amazingly fantastically memorably stupefying, that it leaves people in wonder. Then that gives me the will to go on, because since they wonder, now I will not get bored wondering what they wonder. :)

  16. I like to mix it up a bit. Sometimes I write like I have it in my head so I don’t lose the moment, albeit with extremely poor Eneglish. And other times I write like I want it to be in other peoples heads, so amazingly fantastically memorably stupefying, that it leaves people in wonder. Then that gives me the will to go on, because since they wonder, now I will not get bored wondering what they wonder. :)

  17. Hi Chris
    this post inmediately captured my attention, having worked for many years as a chef in several kitchens back home. I don´t believe you are mad, I believe you are completely right! You have to be passionate about what it is that you do, in order to do it well. I left the catering industry because there was little interaction with the people who ate my food, but still am passionate about cooking, especially when I see my friends enjoy …

    I guess that is the same with blogging, you get a high to feel the interaction with others who have spent the time reading your posts and comment.

    Thank you for this post, it got me thinking :)

  18. Hi Chris
    this post inmediately captured my attention, having worked for many years as a chef in several kitchens back home. I don´t believe you are mad, I believe you are completely right! You have to be passionate about what it is that you do, in order to do it well. I left the catering industry because there was little interaction with the people who ate my food, but still am passionate about cooking, especially when I see my friends enjoy …

    I guess that is the same with blogging, you get a high to feel the interaction with others who have spent the time reading your posts and comment.

    Thank you for this post, it got me thinking :)

  19. Ed Erickson says:

    Hey Chris. I read about 2-3 dozen blogs and yours is one of my favorite. Started using BlogBridge lately too at your recommendation. Liking it. Got my wife started on it as well.

    I like your mix of focused subjects. I can see it being like a chef. A commitment to excellence in providing what others enjoy consuming. Consistent in some ways and experimenting in others. Always looking for that great new combination. Something people will pause to enjoy and contemplate. Something they’ll remember and recommend to friends. Just like I’ve done with your posts. : )

  20. Ed Erickson says:

    Hey Chris. I read about 2-3 dozen blogs and yours is one of my favorite. Started using BlogBridge lately too at your recommendation. Liking it. Got my wife started on it as well.

    I like your mix of focused subjects. I can see it being like a chef. A commitment to excellence in providing what others enjoy consuming. Consistent in some ways and experimenting in others. Always looking for that great new combination. Something people will pause to enjoy and contemplate. Something they’ll remember and recommend to friends. Just like I’ve done with your posts. : )

  21. For me the passion is there. Not so sure about the ability to deal with criticism though. It’s one area that makes me nervous about putting myself “out there”.

    Great idea to reread some older posts. I’m going to do that and see if I can get a fresh perspective on my writing style.

    Thanks for heaps of great advice!!!! :)

  22. For me the passion is there. Not so sure about the ability to deal with criticism though. It’s one area that makes me nervous about putting myself “out there”.

    Great idea to reread some older posts. I’m going to do that and see if I can get a fresh perspective on my writing style.

    Thanks for heaps of great advice!!!! :)

  23. Hi Chris,
    This is the first time I have read your blog, thought I have come acrossed it. I enjoyed the apt chef analogies, and working a restaurant does suck. I agree with the less traffic and more communication ideal. I really don’t like impersonal, heavily trafficked blogs.
    Ellen

  24. Hi Chris,
    This is the first time I have read your blog, thought I have come acrossed it. I enjoyed the apt chef analogies, and working a restaurant does suck. I agree with the less traffic and more communication ideal. I really don’t like impersonal, heavily trafficked blogs.
    Ellen

  25. Rotten tomatoes (I believe that’s the plural… ;) ) are a part of the deal in every business. We’re humans and not perfect at all. We learn every day and improve our skills – and that takes time. We grow constantly – old (all of us), and wise (some of us).

    Personally, I embrace criticism. That’s why your post got my attention – I wrote about it just a couple of days ago :)
    http://nubloo.com/developing/criticize-me-for-designers

  26. Rotten tomatoes (I believe that’s the plural… ;) ) are a part of the deal in every business. We’re humans and not perfect at all. We learn every day and improve our skills – and that takes time. We grow constantly – old (all of us), and wise (some of us).

    Personally, I embrace criticism. That’s why your post got my attention – I wrote about it just a couple of days ago :)
    http://nubloo.com/developing/criticize-me-for-designers

  27. Hi Chris! First time commenter, long time reader…As a very new blogger myself I really enjoy the information you provide. Your posts seem to hit on what I need to know at the right time. crazy! I do agree that you have to ‘taste’ your work and be critical in order to improve and as a food lover/hobby cook I do plenty of tasting. Not so much of the re reading but I’m going to start now…great post! And thanks for all the helpful info.

  28. Hi Chris! First time commenter, long time reader…As a very new blogger myself I really enjoy the information you provide. Your posts seem to hit on what I need to know at the right time. crazy! I do agree that you have to ‘taste’ your work and be critical in order to improve and as a food lover/hobby cook I do plenty of tasting. Not so much of the re reading but I’m going to start now…great post! And thanks for all the helpful info.

  29. I was just looking for some new blogs to read and found yours, nice post! I started blogging a bit a few months ago and my brother is a Michelin star chef, so I thought it’s an interesting comparison and you’re making some good points.

    That said, I think you miss out on some others. You mention diversity and mixing ingredients. It’s relevant on one side, but don’t you find that people also love having the same dish at the same restaurant over and over again because they do it so well?

    As a chef my brother loves trying out new dishes, new restaurants, but every time we talk he tells me how the best is always great products and simple dishes, flavours that remind us of the food our parents used to cook; for instance. Have you seen Ratatouille? If not, watch it!

    You have to be always curious about everything happening to be a good writer as well as a good chef, I actually think that’s where the craft joins in an art form. But I guess one of the pitfalls not to forget is trying really hard to be original for the sake of it, and that rarely (never) works.

  30. I was just looking for some new blogs to read and found yours, nice post! I started blogging a bit a few months ago and my brother is a Michelin star chef, so I thought it’s an interesting comparison and you’re making some good points.

    That said, I think you miss out on some others. You mention diversity and mixing ingredients. It’s relevant on one side, but don’t you find that people also love having the same dish at the same restaurant over and over again because they do it so well?

    As a chef my brother loves trying out new dishes, new restaurants, but every time we talk he tells me how the best is always great products and simple dishes, flavours that remind us of the food our parents used to cook; for instance. Have you seen Ratatouille? If not, watch it!

    You have to be always curious about everything happening to be a good writer as well as a good chef, I actually think that’s where the craft joins in an art form. But I guess one of the pitfalls not to forget is trying really hard to be original for the sake of it, and that rarely (never) works.

  31. Having worked in hospitality for many years, I think you’re definitely on to something. A few more comparisons which could be made (because I don’t have to resist the urge to make this a Top Ten) would be the time pressures, and time management needed, and the necessity of good prep if you don’t want things to fall apart.

    I can think of many more, but I think the most useful one that springs to mind is that even if you have a bad shift, the next day you get fresh start. And you can do better.

    (I’m so tempted now to write a post about why blogging is like cocktail waitressing, which might not seem so readily apparent, but I have nowhere to post it.)

    As for the criticism, the beauty of hospitality is back-of-house, where you have space to vent all your frustrations. That’s one thing you can’t afford to do when blogging.

  32. Having worked in hospitality for many years, I think you’re definitely on to something. A few more comparisons which could be made (because I don’t have to resist the urge to make this a Top Ten) would be the time pressures, and time management needed, and the necessity of good prep if you don’t want things to fall apart.

    I can think of many more, but I think the most useful one that springs to mind is that even if you have a bad shift, the next day you get fresh start. And you can do better.

    (I’m so tempted now to write a post about why blogging is like cocktail waitressing, which might not seem so readily apparent, but I have nowhere to post it.)

    As for the criticism, the beauty of hospitality is back-of-house, where you have space to vent all your frustrations. That’s one thing you can’t afford to do when blogging.

  33. @Pat – I am glad because not everyone likes this form of post (see my most recent)

    @Joanna – Inspiration comes at the strangest of times doesn’t it? :)

    @Jack – Spotting the reasons why you read some and overlook others can be very enlightening!

    @Anthony – The random link is a great idea, I will probably try that :)

    @Elaine – Thanks, I shouldn’t agree to everything my spell check tells me eh? ;)

    @Mark – Good luck, personally I am still at corner greasy cafe stage, but I can make a mean latte ;)

    @Erica – Exactly, you can tell when someone is going by the numbers or really into what they are saying, in text, over the phone or in person. I think sometimes you can tell when reading a blog that the author had a smile on their face and a glint in the eye when they wrote it :)

    @David – I am sure there are times when top chefs have to just knuckle down and turn out dishes and other times when they can spend more care crafting the perfect plate, the important part is they always want to do the best they can because they love what they do.

    @Mirjam – I once got all the way through to the final two for a programming position. The question that lost me the job was “what do you like most about your current position”, my answer was “knowing I had helped”. They told me I would never interact with end users therefore the position was more suitable to the other candidate who was motivated by elegant code. The same day I was offered a technical support job that involved going out and fixing peoples computers. I am glad I didn’t get the first job as the human contact in the tech support kept me involved.

    @Ed – Yup, as long as you do not throw out the entire menu each and every time it is good to try new things :)

    @Lightening – Remember there is good criticism (eg. pointing out miss-spellings :) ) and bad criticism (eg. “chris you suck”). The former you take note of, the latter you pity :) Do not let criticism hold you back. It’s something you grow more used to.

    @Ellen – The impersonal blogs can be useful in a superficial way. Some maintain great success. For example I love Seth Godins writing but I do wonder if he wants to keep his fans at arms length. By contrast Terry Pratchett is a super successful author and has always maintained a very rich online interaction with his fans.

    @Nubloo – Yes you have to encourage feedback in all its forms. As I say probably too much, if people do not hate what you do then you are not trying hard enough :)

    @Marlaine – It is amazing how much inspiration you can give yourself if you re-read. New thoughts are always sprouting when I go over old stuff or answer comments to things I have written.

    @Willem – Yes we loved the film, I really need to find a rat that is really good at writing :) It must be so cool having a top chef in the family!

    @Lani – Great points :) You would be surprised how many back of house channels there are in blogging :)

  34. @Pat – I am glad because not everyone likes this form of post (see my most recent)

    @Joanna – Inspiration comes at the strangest of times doesn’t it? :)

    @Jack – Spotting the reasons why you read some and overlook others can be very enlightening!

    @Anthony – The random link is a great idea, I will probably try that :)

    @Elaine – Thanks, I shouldn’t agree to everything my spell check tells me eh? ;)

    @Mark – Good luck, personally I am still at corner greasy cafe stage, but I can make a mean latte ;)

    @Erica – Exactly, you can tell when someone is going by the numbers or really into what they are saying, in text, over the phone or in person. I think sometimes you can tell when reading a blog that the author had a smile on their face and a glint in the eye when they wrote it :)

    @David – I am sure there are times when top chefs have to just knuckle down and turn out dishes and other times when they can spend more care crafting the perfect plate, the important part is they always want to do the best they can because they love what they do.

    @Mirjam – I once got all the way through to the final two for a programming position. The question that lost me the job was “what do you like most about your current position”, my answer was “knowing I had helped”. They told me I would never interact with end users therefore the position was more suitable to the other candidate who was motivated by elegant code. The same day I was offered a technical support job that involved going out and fixing peoples computers. I am glad I didn’t get the first job as the human contact in the tech support kept me involved.

    @Ed – Yup, as long as you do not throw out the entire menu each and every time it is good to try new things :)

    @Lightening – Remember there is good criticism (eg. pointing out miss-spellings :) ) and bad criticism (eg. “chris you suck”). The former you take note of, the latter you pity :) Do not let criticism hold you back. It’s something you grow more used to.

    @Ellen – The impersonal blogs can be useful in a superficial way. Some maintain great success. For example I love Seth Godins writing but I do wonder if he wants to keep his fans at arms length. By contrast Terry Pratchett is a super successful author and has always maintained a very rich online interaction with his fans.

    @Nubloo – Yes you have to encourage feedback in all its forms. As I say probably too much, if people do not hate what you do then you are not trying hard enough :)

    @Marlaine – It is amazing how much inspiration you can give yourself if you re-read. New thoughts are always sprouting when I go over old stuff or answer comments to things I have written.

    @Willem – Yes we loved the film, I really need to find a rat that is really good at writing :) It must be so cool having a top chef in the family!

    @Lani – Great points :) You would be surprised how many back of house channels there are in blogging :)

  35. @Chris – agreed. I’m changing my blog because of it!

  36. @Chris – agreed. I’m changing my blog because of it!

  37. I agree – re-reading your won stuff after the distance of time is Writing 101. Anyone who wants to become a successful blogger (whatever that criteria is to you) needs to do this. I think taking criticism is one of those things that is hard in all areas of life, but again it’s the only way to learn and progress. Even if someone says something that is complete rubbish it is useful because you hear/read it and your reaction tells you that you don’t agree and you re-affirm whatever is TRUE FOR YOU. We can hear people’s negativity and not take it on board.

    The problem I was dwelling on when I read this post is not that I don’t read blogs, but that I read too many! And too much information, particularly about blogging, tends to make me question what I am doing with my own blog…

    Keep up the thought provoking posts.

    :) Kelly

  38. I agree – re-reading your won stuff after the distance of time is Writing 101. Anyone who wants to become a successful blogger (whatever that criteria is to you) needs to do this. I think taking criticism is one of those things that is hard in all areas of life, but again it’s the only way to learn and progress. Even if someone says something that is complete rubbish it is useful because you hear/read it and your reaction tells you that you don’t agree and you re-affirm whatever is TRUE FOR YOU. We can hear people’s negativity and not take it on board.

    The problem I was dwelling on when I read this post is not that I don’t read blogs, but that I read too many! And too much information, particularly about blogging, tends to make me question what I am doing with my own blog…

    Keep up the thought provoking posts.

    :) Kelly

  39. I love to read blogs. I love to cook. Sometimes I cook while reading blogs.

    I have yet to write a blog post while cooking. However, I have blogged about cooking.

    Good post. I’ve been assessing my blog lately and realize the past few months I’ve been posting to just to post. It wasn’t experimentation or true blogging on my part.

    I decided to rectify that yesterday.

    Reading your post has given me much to think about in ‘exacting standards’ and keeping my blog on the path I had intended it for.

  40. I love to read blogs. I love to cook. Sometimes I cook while reading blogs.

    I have yet to write a blog post while cooking. However, I have blogged about cooking.

    Good post. I’ve been assessing my blog lately and realize the past few months I’ve been posting to just to post. It wasn’t experimentation or true blogging on my part.

    I decided to rectify that yesterday.

    Reading your post has given me much to think about in ‘exacting standards’ and keeping my blog on the path I had intended it for.

  41. One of my favorite television shows is Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. We see it in the US via BBC America.

    If you haven’t watched the show, you should. Every bit of advice that Gordon Ramsey offers struggling restaurant owners can be applied to a blog as well!

  42. One of my favorite television shows is Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. We see it in the US via BBC America.

    If you haven’t watched the show, you should. Every bit of advice that Gordon Ramsey offers struggling restaurant owners can be applied to a blog as well!