Confession: I have a problem. I’m a foodie. I’m addicted. It’s all the internet’s fault.
That’s not to say I’m addicted to food, but rather perhaps the culture, processes, science, and creativity of food. And these days it is so painfully easy to get my foodie fix: technology enables my addiction. It has changed the way we eat.
There are now two cable television stations in America dedicated to cooking 24 hours a day. When I’m not watching one, I’m watching the other. I wikipedia ingredients while I watch so I can look up ingredients I don’t know (most recently shiso and harissa while watching Iron Chef America). I immediately Google chefs that I am unfamiliar with and read their restaurant menus online. I prop my iPad up on my kitchen cabinet doors so I can look at recipes while I cook, then I tweet pictures of my food after I plate. I recently downloaded Chef Grant Achatz’s memoir on a wifi connection at an airport and read the iBook on my iPad.
And perhaps the internet is to thank for the rise of the celebrity chef, as I was giddy when Chef Michael Symon tweeted to me and Chef John Besh answered a question I posted on Facebook. I follow Anthony Bourdain AND Ruth Bourdain (a fake Twitter account that is a snarky, hilarious hybrid of Anthony Bourdain and renowned food critic Ruth Reichl). And when my nose isn’t in an iPad or MacBook, I’m in culinary school learning how to cook (while of course, jotting down that day’s knife cuts in the Notes app on my iPhone).
My name is Becky and I am an addict. Thank you interwebs.
In illustrated form (thanks, Ryan!), here’s an example of what happens when a hyper plugged-in foodie like me decides it is time to eat:
The relief is that I’m not alone. According to a 2009 Simmons Market Research Bureau’s national consumer survey, Packaged Facts determined that 14% of U.S. adults are foodies. Foodies have created a community all their own, much of which is manifesting itself online. Similar to the Mommy blogger craze (which is arguably an overlapping circle with the foodie community – see also: Pioneer Woman), foodie bloggers and foodie based communities are a dime a dozen. Allow me to generalize a little and group online foodie resources into two categories: tools for the creation of food and tools dedicated to restaurants.
Here’s a short look at a few that I sample regularly.
In the food creation category, there are thousands of foodie blogs and recipe sharing sites. Some of my go-tos for sharing and looking up recipes are Food Network, Tasty Kitchen, and Epicurious (especially the rockin iPad app!). When utilizing online recipes, I look up four or five different recipes and make some Frankenstein of them all to suit my tastes. I try to keep track of recipes I like by bookmarking them on delicious or posting my own recipes online.
As noted by the Art Institute’s Culinary Blog, foodie blogs are becoming more and more sophisticated in their delivery of content as the many foodie blogs compete for followers. Imagine if Julia Child had posted step by step photos in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a popular feature of many foodie blogs. There are also some beautiful foodie blog aggregators, like Taste Spotting, which draw you in with food porn then you can click out to the blog with the recipe. More recently has been the emergence of recipe search sites that aggregate recipes from all of these various communities and blogs, such as Foodily, Yummly, and Google Recipes.
In the world of tools dedicated to restaurants, there are massive websites like Eater dedicated to the big foodie towns, which keep up-to-date reviews and news of the restaurant goings-on in towns like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago to name a few. No need to feel inferior, Small Towners, because thanks to geolocation you do not have to be in a big city to check out local restaurant reviews on apps like Urbanspoon, Chewsy, and Yelp. Then of course, there’s Groupon and other daily deal sites, as well as checking in on FourSquare which can also result in surprise discounts and deals at your restaurant of choice. Picking a place to eat requires a lot of digital hand-holding!
Chefs are plugged in as well, promoting their restaurants and themselves on Twitter and Facebook. Restaurants are relying heavily on social media sites as evidenced by food trucks, and some restaurants only post their daily menus by posting a photo of their menu board on Facebook. As SmartBlog on Restaurants notes:
Restaurants clearly understand how some of the biggest social sites can work for – and against – their businesses. A recent survey done by restaurant equipment and supply vendor Tundra Specialties found that 43% of restaurant owners believe Yelp provides a forum for consumers to broadcast small slights and bad experiences, and 41% said Groupon’s daily deals do more harm than good because it trains consumers to become addicted to discounts. Meanwhile, more than half the respondents said purely social sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and geo-location services including Foursquare, have an overall positive impact on the industry.
And what may perhaps become the next wave of online engagement with restaurants has just come to fruition: ticketed dining. The aforementioned Chef Achatz’s newest concept, Next, uses ticketed dining where – just like a concert or sporting event – consumers pay a flat fee online for a ticket to dine. Their ticket gets them in the door on a specific night and covers a prie fixe menu as well as wine pairings. And just like a sporting event, scalpers almost immediately started hawking tickets to the restaurant on sites like eBay and Craigslist.
From the 50,000 foot view, the tubes have changed the way we eat – right up there with fire, the microwave, and the onset of (ick) processed convenience foods. Mind-blowing.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m hungry.