For this month for our Blog of the Month, we are popping over to Ireland. Over to you Ken from Ken on Food…
What inspired you to start your blog?
Funnily enough, it’s coming on ten years or so since I got into it. It started with me taking photos and throwing them on a Tumblr blog before Instagram was a big deal.
In 2010 I was involved in running a food unconference of sorts in my hometown – you’ve got loads of speakers, telling their story, for fifteen or twenty minutes at a time. I was taking notes at the back of the room and thought – “you know what, I need to do more than take a few photos”, and that was it.
Decision made – I went off and bought a domain name and got stuck in.
There was a break in play around 2015/16 when work life really took over, but it was going back to that original inspiration, or spark, got me back on track.
You should see the notebooks it’s produced as a result.
Has your content changed much since you started?
It has a bit to be fair. Early days would have been more event and press driven, what’s happening around Irish events in particular.
Nowadays, I’m more about the story and the experience. That comes from the day job though – I present a daily radio show and it’s only through speaking with people that you get a feel for their passion.
That’s what I try to bring across, or have shifted towards certainly in the last few months.
What have you learned since starting your blog?
A lot to be honest. There’s no shortcuts, that’s for sure. You might have a post that will get tens of thousands of views, and your subsequent posts fail to light a fire, but you’ll find that persistence, or at least consistency, is key.
From a blogging point of view, I’ve been able to develop my own writing style and get a real understanding on everything from formatting to search engine optimisation and beyond. That’s progressed through photography and audio production.
What has surprised you about blogging?
In the early days, certainly the people. It may be that food bloggers – at least those I know personally – are all just a lovely bunch of folk, who love food. I think the gender balance is an interesting one too. For ages it felt like I was the only guy writing about food on a regular basis. Sure, it’s not the case any more, but I think male food bloggers are certainly outnumbered.
There is also the downside of it where you’ll come across people trying to blag their way to the best of places because of their blog or Instagram account, or perceived status. If you’re really looking to try that top restaurant, would you not get more out of it by paying your way?
How do you balance blogging and real life?
That’s a different ballgame altogether. Real life is fast-paced, but if you want to make it work, you need to find a way to make it work.
Using the down time over Christmas gone, I set myself a challenge to hit 31 posts across the 31 days for the month of January. Leaving room for the occasional ‘breaking news’ type post, I hit the target but could only have done it by planning everything out in advance – knowing day to day what was going to be written.
Daily posts are a real challenge, especially if you’re a recipe blogger (which I’m not really), but the only way to get the balance right was to grab the diary, pencil in all my articles in advance, notes and all, and work from there.
If you eat an elephant a bite at a time, you still eat a whole elephant, if you get me.
What’s the best thing about writing your blog? And the worst?
For me, the best thing is the reaction to certain posts – especially if I’ve visited somewhere and posted a write-up. Even better again when it’s somewhere in my hometown.
In the last few months I’ve had more people come up to me off the back of a few café and restaurant reviews I’ve posted saying they’ve been in to try each place, having never been there before.
If someone buys into your work, words and photos, that’s one thing – when they part with hard earned cash to enjoy a meal, and are rewarded for it, it’s a win for you, for them, and the business.
One of the local butchers has a blog post I wrote maybe 6 or 7 years ago still framed behind their counter, that kind of thing is priceless.
As for the worst? I’d say the pressure you can put yourself under to remain consistent or live up to your own standards, the longer you go on. Trying to follow up 31 days of posts in January is a tough task!
What advice would you give someone starting a foodie blog now?
Know what you’re getting yourself into, make a plan, and stick to it. If it’s going to be recipes, decide what kind of recipes, get your formats right, your photos sharp, and your writing style down.
I would say read everything and everyone that you can. There’s a lot to be said to learning through doing, and it’s quite true, but see how other blogs are getting on – the big and small – and see how you can complement those or offer something different.
Above all though, be yourself. If your own voice isn’t coming out through your blog posts, then what’s the point?
Has blogging brought you any amazing opportunities or experiences?
It has. I’ve been fortunate enough tour food festivals, island hop to meet food producers, speak at food events and last year managed to squeeze in my first ever food demo. For someone who cooks as much as I can at home, and effectively talks for a living (albeit on radio), that one was the most nerve wracking.
Travel and all is great, but if anything, it’s just encouraged me to get out more, eat out more and shop out more. You never know, you might get a good article out of it.
Which have been your most popular posts?
On the resources front, the list of events and festivals is at the top of the stats every day. It’s well indexed in Google searches so it picks up the lion’s share of traffic.
Post-wise, a post on breakfast and lunch at Fennelly’s of Callan – a quirky eatery in Kilkenny has had great traction over the past 12 months, while a recipe for oat and yoghurt bread is a popular read too.
My red onion relish recipe at Christmas was a big hit – getting feedback on older recipes is great. At the end of the day a recipe is a recipe, whether it was written today or years ago. Digging through the stats, it’s often the older posts that rise to the top.
And which are your personal favourites?
I’d go with some of the experience-lead write-ups – Fennelly’s was a fun post, similarly too for Butcher Restaurant and another for a double-header visiting Bia+Brew and Seagull Bakery (a sourdough bakery) earlier this year.
How does it feel to be chosen as Foodies100 blog of the month?
Surprised, but thrilled. It’s always great to make new connections. I check in on the list regularly to see what people are up to, writing, cooking. You’ll get great inspiration for your own work and a good feel for what people are consuming.
You’ve made this blogger quite happy!
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