Let's Get People Cooking at Home

A Bevy Of Recipes and Food Porn.

We have many recipes at our disposal, millions. Some websites claim that you can search over 400,00 while others have the power to aggregate over a million. The World's Best Lasagna recipe, said to be the web's most popular recipe, has over 10,700 ratings. It is estimated that the recipe has been viewed over 12 million times. If we assume that a rating means that the dish has definitely been cooked, for all its views, it has a cook rate of less than 1 percent. Even if the reviews were quadrupled, it would still be low. Unfortunately, it suggests that even the most loved recipes are, for the majority, just simple reading pleasure.

Is it because there is just far too much choice? Are people hamstrung by having to actually choose the recipe because choosing wrong seems risky for some reason? After all, you never really know how good a recipe is. Or is it that we need a different way to engage people in the cooking process?

One way to engage people is to harness social media, food blogs, food magazines, food TV and our vast food infrastructure in a different way to get people cooking. It all hinges on the idea that if you have a sure path to eating what is so beautifully presented on all the social media, food blogs and food TV, you will be motivated to get cooking. The one little, nit-picky thing about all this food media is that the experience falls short because you don't actually eat the food. There is no gratification. This is potentially why we have a load of unused recipes and a bevy of food porn that does not move us to act. It could also be why food reality TV shows have taken over. Lets face it, there are only so many times you can watch food being prepared without eating it before your attention gets turned to something with more immediate gratification. But, having the opportunity to actually eat the food presented does 2 things. First, it simply engages users in the whole process with a very positive reward at the end -- great food. Second, it is a teaching moment -- the only way people will know what something should taste like is by eating it. A deeper immersion and complete experience could be the trick to get people into the kitchen.

How Could This Work?

This isn't really complicated. We have great food infrastructure to get this going. All it needs is a bit of coordination and a good numbering system. When a show or blog post is created, it could be given a number that indicates the date and time of airing or web location. Attached to these numbers would be a dataset of food ingredients. The numbers could then be downloaded to participating outlets like grocery stores, restaurants or meal preparation franchises. Any of these outlets could bundle the ingredients or even prepare the dishes ready to eat.

The number and recipe information, including which outlets are participating, could then be tweeted to participants weekly. Consumers would have a choice of how to engage: They could either tune in, or go online and cook along after purchasing the ingredient bundles, or buy the dish ready to eat. The ingredient bundles simplify things greatly, as much of the prep (the most time-consuming part) could be eliminated. Pre-prepared food and ingredients are already happening, so it would not be hard to streamline and bring the pieces together to get people cooking. Although the ready-to-eat seems like an easy out, it still gets people eating well and could still have the potential of growing a better understanding and appreciation of food in general.

How Do We Choose Which Shows and Blogs?

We already know what basics we need to teach. A simple curriculum is needed, which could be created with the help of the many cooking academies and colleges. Each learning plan could include realistic goals, a list of basic skills to be covered and tools and techniques that would be in focus. Food stars and bloggers alike could then note which of these skills, tools and techniques a particular show or blog highlights. The shows and blogs are chosen by the consumers who follow the basic curriculum however it fits their needs. At the end of the lesson, users could tweet feedback or go to a Facebook page to comment, which could be used to improve the whole program. And, since there would be no shortage of ways to sponsor the operation, funding should be obtainable. We could envision many great partnerships coming from it. Perhaps the food industry or USDA could grant academic institutions money to run the program -- there are many out there that could do it. For those who don't have Internet or TV, this would be a great program for community centers to provide. No matter how it is done, one major goal is to make sure that the program is accessible to the masses.

Giving people a sure path to eating what they see on blogs and food TV could be the powerful enabler we need to get people cooking. With social media, food blogs and TV, our food infrastructure and a good teaching plan, we can turn our unused recipes and swell of food porn into something which transforms our culture from one of food voyeurs, to one that is engaged more fully and involved in the critically important world of food. Maybe we could finally get everyone to taste the world's best lasagna.

How do you think we could get more people cooking?