In the Kitchen with Web 2.0

Next week, those of us here in the U.S. will celebrate our annual Feast of Gluttony…er, I mean Thanksgiving, a time devoted to expressing gratitude for all the good things in our lives, including — and in some cases especially — really yummy food. And thus begins six weeks of cooking, baking, and yes, more feasting until Jan. 1st of 2008, when we’ll be able to do little more than rub our tummies and groan.

Of course, social web tools can be applied to the world of food and cooking. Two startups devoted to that world — Serious Eats and Key Ingredient — are making good use of basic Web 2.0 approaches.

Serious Eats

Serious Eats logoIf you spend all your time on tech blogs but you’re interested in how blogging and 2.0-style communities put pressure on traditional media in other domains, check out Serious Eats. With a fresh design, a constant flow of well-written posts, and a genuinely engaged community, Serious Eats makes a good case for why old-school media outlets should fear the rise of blogs. The site attracts only a fraction of the pageviews that Epicurious pulls in, but its authenticity and energy make it a winner in my cookbook.

Serious Eats offers all the features a high-end group blog and web community should: forums, videos, most-emailed lists, a Flickr photo pool, and a mobile version. If I were going to build a vertical blog and community, I’d look to learn from this site. There’s plenty of room for passionate, high-quality sites like this, even if blogging is in a digestion phase.

Started by book author and food writer Ed Levine, who knows something about old-school media, Serious Eats aims to be “a welcoming home base for passionate and discerning food lovers” and a “welcoming, gathering place online.” Serious Eats has four employees in addition to Levine and was launched with investments from friends and family.

Key Ingredient

Key Ingredient logoRecipe-sharing and cook’s community site Key Ingredient, like Serious Eats, really gets Web 2.0. In addition to making it easy to enter your own recipes and share links to recipes from across the web, they’ve created a recipe widget for embedding recipe displays into your blog or other web site. They also offer a bookmarklet so that when you come upon a recipe you like you can post it right to your Key Ingredient “Posted Recipes” cookbook, something founder David Goodman calls “del.icio.us for recipes.” And they support UGC — in this case, not “user-generated content” but “user-generated cookbooks.”

Condé Nast-funded startup TasteBook lets you produce your own cookbooks, too. But unlike TasteBook, which focuses on recipes from big commercial sites like Epicurious (a Condé Nast property), Key Ingredient emphasizes recipes important to you. They even offer a service that will digitize all those handwritten family recipes you’ve currently got stuffed into a box somewhere in your kitchen, called Scan My Recipes.

It’s early days for bootstrapped Key Ingredient, which currently has only about 1,000 users. Goodman says “the main bottleneck has been getting people to input recipes.” Scan My Recipes might help with that, though they were so overwhelmed with demand after appearing in the December issue of Real Simple that they’ve had to start taking back orders for the service.


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