Culinary media is a very new, catchall term used to describe content available on demand via the internet that specifically relate to food and culinary arts. Focus areas can include artistry, creativity, techniques or even travel. They all have one thing in common however; they transmit content through connection and dialogue, utilizing many different aspects of digital technology.
For students who have an interest in culinary media, many culinary schools are now offering a specific path and degree programs for this hot new career. In addition, courses are offered as an extension of a culinary arts degree or as a recreational class offered to anyone in the community who might have an expressed interest. Typically courses are broken down by topic, and may include subject matter such as food styling, photography, videography, food writing, food blogging, social media and more.
Various forms of new media have allowed people from all over the world to communicate with each other. A whole new generation of culinary students and professionals can express themselves through websites, blogs, social media venues and imagery like photography and video. It’s no longer a necessity to be physically present to experience – technologies are such that we can almost taste and smell a food by seeing, hearing and reading about it.
In addition, culinary media has provided access to building a virtual community that everyday people, as well as students, might not have access to otherwise. If a culinary student on the East Coast wants to listen to a lecture given by Chef Keller on the West Coast, they need only participate by watching the YouTube video provided by The French Laundry on their blog site. Never before has the world of culinary been so aggregated in spite of the geographical distances.
Culinary media has allowed the end-user to become more interactive, and to permit the chef, instructor or owner to reach out and involve the community directly, en masse and simultaneously. It changes over from a one-to-one or even a one-to-many mentality to a ‘many-to-many’ mindset.
A study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation over five year intervals found that the amount of time spent accessing entertainment media has risen dramatically. The study found that 18-30 year old spent an average of 7.5 hours a day multitasking on the internet, using multimedia. Because this time was spent performing multiple tasks simultaneously, the actual time is closer to ten hours.
One of the biggest booms in culinary media has been in food blogging. A food blog is a personal website or page that is used to record thoughts, ideas, recipes and images on a regular basis. Some are simplistic and minimal; others are loud, crowded and noisy. Each one is different. Because of the limited barriers to entry, low cost setup and the nonexistence of rules or guidelines, literally anyone can set up shop on the internet with a blog. There are pros and cons. As stated before, you can have direct access (and sometimes communication) with an expert in the field. You can read, learn and ask questions, participating full as often or as little as you want. But there is also a whole field of inexperienced, misinformed bloggers sharing content that is not 100% accurate (or in some cases, legal).
A second and related field is in food styling and photography. The most successful food blogs have amazing photography – images that make your mouth water or your palate crave. Learning to take exceptional food photos is a skill – and not one that should be taken lightly. Food styling is core, you can have an amazing photo of a stew that looks sloppy, and it will not only have little impact – it will hurt your business more than help.
There are many online courses available as well as in-person classes at local schools and universities. These classes range in price from free to hundreds of dollars, so choose the option that works best for you. Start with the basics of food styling. Photography requires specialized equipment which can cost a fair amount of money. Plan ahead, and purchase one piece of equipment at a time if necessary. Another great tip is to review the most successful blogs – see how their styling and imagery support their goals and objectives. Record the feeling of the site, the overall tone and writing style. All of these things come into play when building your own site.
If culinary photography is the art on the wall, then food writing is the canvas. If your content is clumsy, inarticulate and grammatically improper, and the writing is mediocre, you won’t retain any regular readers. In fact, readers won’t respect you, they won’t share or recommend your page and you’ll have wasted your time. Content is king – but quality content is the supreme ruler. Support your work with the best writing skills and you will find that you build up a regular crew of visitors – and you might even make a little spending money in the long run.