There’s a whole world of contests involving food: among them cook-offs, BBQ throwdowns, and good old-fashioned hot-dog- and pie-eating challenges. And in the realm of digital media, at least one other arena exists for food bloggers.
Since 2010, Saveur magazine has been recognizing websites that focus on food, wine, and travel with its annual Blog Awards. Over just five years, the contest has grown to be much like the Oscars of food blogging. And this year, according to Saveur digital editor Erica Duecy, the event generated a “record breaking” 50,000 entries from all over the world.
At last count, there were something like 150 million blogs in the old blogosphere. Considering that huge number, if even just a fraction of that tally were food blogs, there’s probably millions of them. Which makes the idea of standing out in such a vast sea even more remarkable.
Out of thirteen categories, four of Saveur‘s winning 2015 blogs, announced last month during an event at the Wythe Hotel, were created by New Yorkers: Food Curated (Editor’s Choice for Best Use of Video); Gastronomista (Reader’s Choice for Cocktails); Two Red Bowls (Reader’s Choice for Most Delicious), and Apt. 2B Baking Co. (Editor’s Choice for Baking and Desserts).
Winning this sort of objectively decided contest, which counts both popular votes and those from editorial judges (the latter of which Duecy describes as “a panel of experts, largely prior winners and editorial contributors”), is not really the same thing as a full-on, Top Chef–like battle — say, like expert pitmasters trying to outgrill each other; maybe more like open laptops facing off in a boxing ring — but the spirit to win is no less intense. While there’s no monetary prize awarded to the bloggers (aside from a distinctive Saveur badge placed on their sidebars), the recognition the contest brings to both the winners and nominees can often serve as a stepping-stone to success — think book deals, corporate sponsorships, partnerships with major advertisers.
Emily Arden Wells of Gastronomista, “architect by day, writer and avid drinker by night,” tells the Voice via email: “The Saveur awards have quickly become the most important one in the food blogger space, something we all strive for on a yearly basis. Being nominated has legitimized my website in ways that I never imagined, and opened so many doors. I’m sure the win will open even more.”
Open doors translate to more opportunities, possibly the difference between a part-time hobby and a full-blown career. Yossi Arefi, the Brooklyn-based baker and photographer behind Apt. 2B Baking Co., was already in the process of writing and photographing her first cookbook when she was nominated, but she says she was still “very surprised and honored to win.”
The author of Two Red Bowls, who requested that she only be identified by her first name, Cynthia, describes herself as a “woefully inexperienced junior lawyer” cooking out of a “teeny kitchen in a little apartment in Brooklyn.” The experience of winning felt “surreal…and very humbling,” she writes via email. “I’m not sure I’ve really wrapped my head around the fact that there are people out there who read my blog, let alone people kind enough to vote for me.”
The creative common ground for this set of winning bloggers seems to be New York City. As Cynthia puts it, “Beyond the incredibly diverse and eclectic food scene, I think New York is wonderful in that there’s a constant sense of seasonality. I love that you can take one look at the greenmarkets here or the menus of a lot of the restaurants and know exactly what season or month it is.”
Arefi haunts the markets for local produce, too. “My blog is seasonally focused, so this time of year I usually have a pile of fruit that needs to be used up. This is an especially exciting time at the market.”
Of living, eating, and drinking in NYC, Wells marvels that “there’s always something to inspire me — be it a high-concept cocktail, a bartender doing creative flavor combinations, or a gorgeous photo of a pastry or a beautiful store. It’s hard not to be inspired here.”
A complete list of the 2015 Saveur Blog Award winners can be found here.