Web kitchens

Web kitchens

Finding fellow gourmands, good restaurants and exotic dishes is becoming easier on the Internet, as websites focused on eating well and discovering new flavours become must-have destinations for food lovers. Recipes have long been available on the Internet at websites such as www.allrecipes.com, but now new places are popping up showing people where and what to eat with rich descriptions and mouth-watering pictures of food.

One such destination is www.slashfood.com, gathering anything and everything to do with food and eating. Recipes only appear on the site if they are unique or offer a twist on an existing dish. “Everyone is a critic," said Jane Goldman, lifestyle editor at CNET Networks, Inc. “People photographing and talking about their food experiences is very different from the days when reviewers had the only say on food experiences."

CNET brought together Chow magazine, which Goldman had run, and the food-obsessed online forum Chowhounds into a single destination (www.chow.com) that offers recipes, restaurants, and tips such as “How to open a bottle of champagne". The Chowhound message board also lives on at the site, retaining most of its word-of-mouth flavour as a place for people to find and share information on restaurants and eateries that haven’t yet been discovered by mainstream reviewers.

“There was no medium that addressed the subject with energy, life and gusto," Goldman said. “Food was either a domestic chore or an elite epicurean hobby."

A good example of this shift in food culture can be found at The Pioneer Woman’s website (www.thepioneerwomancooks.com) which has attracted a following with decadent, butter-laden American dishes such as “Beans and Cornbread", “Marlboro Man’s Favourite Sandwich" and “Peach Crisp with Maple Cream Sauce. Brace Yourselves, People."

Eating bandwidth

“The Web has really democratized sophisticated food," said Tanya Steel, editor-in-chief of Epicurious (www.epicurious.com), a website run by Conde Nast, which also publishes the authoritative food magazines Gourmet and Bon Appetit. The site attracts about five million users per month. Epicurious, which began in 1995 as one of the first places on the Web offering recipes, includes user-generated content but also provides more conventional reviews and news on top restaurants, as well as recipes, blogs and other informative articles.

Taking audience participation a step further, Chow and Epicurious have also jumped onto the social networking bandwagon. While social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have dominated headlines, the niche websites are also tapping into the technology and tools to connect gourmands. Both allow users to create pages to post their own recipes and collect and share information.

“I think the food space is the perfect area for social networking," said CNET’s Goldman. Epicurious already runs an application on Facebook that connects fellow food lovers. Another area where both see a trend is in Web-based video. Epicurious is launching a feature soon for user-generated video content, where people can post food-related videos. (Reuters)