Today on Alphabet City’s Peek-A-Blog: While on book tour, Jon Paul tweets up with @onefoodguy to find out the secret sauce for one of Boston’s most popular food bloggers.
Much has been made of Twitter as a virtual tool that can connect people in real life. But I hadn’t experienced that until a new online friend @onefoodguy in Boston popped up at my Alphabet City Book Party event in Beantown. A few months ago, I’d delved into the wonderful world of tweets to get a handle on how I could put cyberspace to use on tour, and began using a program called ReFollow— a “twitter relationship manager.” Sounds like a title someone would have on The Office.
ReFollow allows you to see all the followers of a person or company and then you can choose ones to follow yourself. Pretty genius way for me to see who is interested in my book tour sponsor Kimpton Hotels (@kimpton). I figured if people were already fans of Kimpton, then they would be open to hearing about Kimpton’s support of my book. That’s how I found @onefoodguy. I could tell from the moment I linked to his blog from his Twitter account, that this was a guy who could be useful to know in Boston—he was heralding the Extra Funky Sandwich at the All Star Sandwich Bar.
A few 140 character messages later and we were tweet friends. He even indulged me when I asked, “Where should I eat in Boston?” Not the best open-ended question to ask a foodie. It’s like when people ask me, a travelista, “Where should I go on vacation?” If I don’t really know you, it’s hard to offer advice. He managed to not let a smirk show through his reply, and I decided he’d be a great addition to the Peek-A-Blog series.
After Kimpton’s Nine Zero Hotel reception for Alphabet City, I was planning on grabbing some nibbles with @onefoodguy at the K.O. restaurant onsite. Closed on Mondays. That’s when my foodie hero had to jump into action. Alas, the first three places he tried to take me were also closed. What’s up with that Boston? My Urbanspoon iPhone app road to the rescue—we headed to The Paramount in Beacon Hill. As we walked through Boston Commons, we got down to Peek-A-Blog business.
Your post today is about using a Vita-Mix for Strawberry Watermelon Juice. My own Chef is obsessed with his. What is it about you foodie’s and Vita-Mix?
It’s amazing, right? I’m very lucky to have received it as a gift from parents. They asked what they could purchase for me that was special—and I knew it had to be the Vita-Mix.
Well, I do love the fresh peanut butter he makes.
I need to try that.
On your blog, you work at maintaining your anonymity, unlike me who puts it all out there. You call your wife “J” and you hide part of your face in your profile picture. Why?
I never wanted to be in a situation where my passion and hobby got in the way of my professional life. My time with my wife is special to me, and I didn’t want to intrude on that.
Have you always been a food guy?
I have always been an eater—I grew up in a kosher kitchen in Boston eating favorites like tuna noodle casserole. My wife J and I would often spend anniversaries going to expensive, well-regarded restaurants together instead of buying expensive gifts for each other. At one point, I was a consultant and traveled to New York City all the time for work. I lived at the Grand Hyatt and went to the same place in Hell’s Kitchen almost every week. They started treating me like a regular and I thought, “I could get used to this.” On my expense account, I went to many terrific New York spots—that’s when I realized I wanted to share my experience through a blog.
What was your goal when you started onefoodguy.blogspot.com?
In my very first post, I stated my goal very clearly—“I plan on recapping my New York dining experiences and reviewing my favorite restaurants here in Greater Boston. I’m also going to try to convince myself in writing that my career should be in the kitchen, not in a suburban office. We’ll see how successful I am.” Like many bloggers, I was hoping to be able to pay a mortgage with it. But that didn’t happen, so it evolved into a hobby. I still enjoy sharing with people my passion for food and cooking.
Has your content changed over time?
When I first started, the site was mainly recipes, but now it includes restaurant reviews. My first post was about how to grill a steak well, not well done. Later, I did was a post about a dinner party for my wife’s work colleagues. It was a really big deal with 6 people coming. I decided to make a rack of lamb, tuna tartar, and angel food cake from scratch. I didn’t really know things like how to time it out correctly, so I reached out to a food blogger Chef Scott Youkilis, owner of Maverick in San Francisco. And Scott was very helpful and wrote a response to my question. I figured I could help people out by sharing information like that as they followed me. Over time, with work and wanting to spend more time with my wife, I just didn’t have time to do the cooking. So I started weaving in restaurant reviews.
Do you pay attention to your statistics to see what drives traffic to your site?
I use Google Analytics to track my site, and about half of the way people find my blog is through Google searches. My most popular posts are a recipe for Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes and a story about French Street Food when I was on layover at Charles de Gaulle and went in search of this banana Nutella crepe near Notre Dame. Also popular, the second most active keywords landing users on my site are “homemade turkey burgers.”
Do you like getting feedback from readers?
I respond to everything. I think it’s courtesy. If someone has taken the time to come to your blog and spend time with you and leave a comment, it’s the right thing to respond. Early on, I emailed Zesty Cook a question about a recipe, and I never heard back. He could have missed it or been busy with other things, but still it affected me. So I stopped reading his site.
That sounds a little tough.
But I got into this to be part of a community. I got to know a lot of terrific food bloggers like EatDrinkNBMerry and Oishiieats. They took me on a tour of Mexican taco carts in LA’s Silverlake and Echo Park neighborhoods. When they came to Boston earlier this year, I went down to Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury with them, and introduced them to Flour Bakery, Neptune Oyster, Myers and Chang, and Toro – four of my favorite places in Boston. It’s cool to be part of that community.
That positive attitude definitely comes through on your blog. Like other food blogs, do you get requests from PR people to cover products?
Many publicity people contact me, and whether I am interested in the product or not, I always respond. My goal out of this is not to get free products. So when I do take a product, and I don’t like it, I won’t write about it. This is a hobby for me. I’m not looking to destroy a business. Similarly, if I go to a restaurant and have a bad experience, I won’t write about it. I’ve worked in restaurants and know sometimes they are just having a bad night. I’d rather focus on sharing good stuff with my readers, the things I want people to enjoy.
Sounds like maybe you had a bad experience at one point?
For Cinco de Mayo this year, J wanted to go to this restaurant she had been to several times. It’s not a Mexican restaurant but they have what J said were very good fish tacos. Unfortunately, I was terribly disappointed and shared my feedback with the restaurant manager and felt like it was well received. Restaurants can not always please 100% of the people 100% of the time. I understand.
It impressed me how quickly you responded to me on Twitter.
Twitter is fun for me, but I don’t do it all the time. Definitely not at work. I have around 1300 followers and I follow 2000. It’s so frustrating that I’ve hit the limit because of the ratio requirements right now.
How do you manage paying attention to all that? I still haven’t figured it out.
I use UberTwitter on my BlackBerry. On my computer, I use TweetDeck and have columns that include a general feed, mentions, 120-130 “friends” that I pay attention to, and a dozen or so private lists that I’m following.
I’m impressed that you’re working hard to not let the blog and Twitter overwhelm your life with your wife. How do you manage your time?
I get up early in the morning and write. Sunday morning I also sit on the couch and blog—mostly when my wife is away or busy doing other things. I’m also kind of a DIY guy, so I often blog sitting in front of the TV watching HGTV’s Yard Crashers. That’s my guilty pleasure.
What do you want to do more of in the blog?
I wish I could cook more using fancy ingredients, making them accessible to home cooks. Writing more about technique.
All right, well the next time you’re in New York, you’ll have to come over and you and Chef can collaborate using the Vita-Mix! If you’re lucky, he’ll make you some peanut butter.