“Foodbloggers are an “ibrid” category: they can cook but they are no chefs, they can photograph but they are no photographers, they can write but they are no writers”
This is what Stephanie Cabbibo says in her graduation thesis, in art Mastercheffa, Italian foodblogger from sicily affiliated to the platform Giallozafferano.it, which we had the pleasure to interview.
With over 35000 follower on her facebook fan page and a past in the dairy sector, she recounted us about her experiences in Africa to promote the traditional local cheeses, how she started foodblogging and about the amount of work this profession entails, as well as other little curiosity.
Hi Stephanie! Can you tell us anything about your “Cheesy” past?
Sure! I worked about 5 years for Corfilac, the dairy-industry research Consortium based in Ragusa, Sicily.
Corfilac is an institution wich supports the farmers in all the industry processes, from the livestocking to your table and which also certificates DOP cheeses such as Ragusano Dop.
I worked in a project in particular related to developing countries (International Professional Women Opportunity – iPWO). I was in Benin and Niger in Africa and then also India. In these countries animals produce very low amounts of milk. As a consequence men take care of the animals and women transform the milk in the final product.
The project which I took part of was based on the idea of improving the traditional dairy production of these places, both in terms of production chain and commercialization and igenic conditions: a very different approach in respect of cooperation policies which usally take place in Africa.
I refer in particular to the FAO projects (Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations, ed) which promotes milk cluster centers:, not allowing women to earn anything from the addev value from raw matter through dairy processes and causing the loss of an ancient art usally inherited from mother to daughter during history.
When FAO organizes a milk cluster center in Benin this lead to the possibility for the mentioned milk to be bought by multinational companies to produce very non-traditional cheeses such as the french Brie, causing the loss of every form of territoriality: once all the milk is clustered in a unique place all the tradional production methods and the peculiar features of a product do not exist anymore, and the population lose a lot of benefit.
One of the Corfilac most important reasearch is about raw-milk cheeses: the projects are aimed to transmit knowledge about their safety from a nutrition point of view thanks to the aging process which eliminate the product’s batteric count. Despite being raw-milk based, these cheeses are safe from a medical point of view and are still able to transmit the organoleptic features of a place: in simple words, with these cheese you can find in your plate what the cow or the goat effectively ate.
If the milk goes through a pasteurization process, sure it will reduce the batteric count, buti t will also kill a lot of enzimas needed usefull for the curding, such as the typical flavour and fragrancy of the production territories.
Through these projects I learned production techniques, cheese aging, preservation of Ragusan cheeses and of some African cheeses.
How did It happen you become a foodblogger?
After my Corfilac experience I worked in two different wine firms, with a pregnancy in the between which forced me to stay home for a while. During this period, being a Masterchef fan, every thursday I sat in front of the television with a vegetarian friend of mine. I cooked for her and I had to immagine new vegetarian dishes at every meeting: being veg-based these dishes entailed much more fantasy instead of the meat-based ones.
Eventually she started calling me Mastercheffa, and after a while begun to evaluate my result with score disks, also involving another couple of friends.
Thursday started to be a fixed date for us, and so I had to organize myself: i developed full menùs from appetizers to desserts, always vegetarian, with evaluation every night regarding plating and taste. This occasion still occurs, but the voice spreads and my jury changes now week by week!
After about an year between low level photos and kitchen classes i noticed the opportunity to open my own blog on Giallozaggerano.it and I said :”Hey, let’s try!” . As a natural consequence I took the name of “Mastercheffa”.
At that time the wine company I was working for was going through a crisis which has been followed by a employment cut which touched me in first person.
Since then I felt the need to give more time to my blog, covered by a liquidation and with the safety of a working husband.
So, as you explain in your thesis, you switched from a low to an high investment blog.
Actually since I started I always had a high investment, posting a recipe every day without exception.
I wonder if you have a defined social media strategy.
I publish every day on every social: I start from Facebook, posting a first photo of the recipe on my fan page; then I share the same recipe on a lot of kitchen groups and eventually I post it also on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google +.
Despite what you could think Google + has without any doubt less users but very, very subject based. Fewer user in comparison of the more famous facebook, twitter and instagram, but much more involved and interested.
Another unexpected source of traffic to my blog revealed itself to be Pinterest, which provides me a lot of visits.
How do you check the source of the traffic to your blog?
Through Google Analytics I can check in a moment from where any link to my blog has been opened, which recipes were liked the most/worst and so I can manage my strategy in real time!
When I can easily manage myself I do a weekly scheduling of the sharing of my recipes on facebook , possibly via Pc which has a more friendly interface. When this cannot happen I do the same via smartphone, in a less organized and more “instinctive” way: I share some old recipe, some thoughts. When i notice from analytics the traffic is going low i share again some strong recipe which I know it will be liked for sure.
Talking about sharing your old recipe, I thought about the persistence in time of the blogs contents you refer in your thesis. Have you ever erased o edited some of your old recipes?
Deleting or editing already published contents is very dangerous in terms of indicization: I never deleted any content neither changed the urls. So does your work imply you to be carefull also to the SEO (Search Engine Optimization, ed) ?
Absolutely. We in Giallozafferano had the luck of relying to the Altervista technicians, which constantly provide us some “seo pills” on facebook groups, a possibility for everyone Banzai platform (the company which recently acquired Giallozafferano, ed).
Giallozafferano is very helpful also on the promotion side, offering the possibility to be part of the so called “premium groups”, made of bloggers which every two weeks post the recipe directly on the facebook pages Blog Giallo Zafferano, Blog Giallo Zafferano Primi, Secondi e Dolci. Given mi commitment on quality and promotion of my own contents I am choosed almost every month.
In terms of visibility premium terms really make the difference to me!
Do you have a long term strategy for the evolution of your contents?
It is all in progress. Unfortunately, I didn’t develop a focused strategy yet, but it is what I’m trying to do at the moment: I am organizing to open a physical point next year and it will be the offices for the lab/cooking workshops and also the editorial base to organize better my work.
For instance the new format of characters (like the “rough” Tanino, ed) was created for fun: someone likes it and some other not, it is a little bit “trash”, but it hides dome messages that are evoked in my blog.
I am very careful to suggest my readers to use genuine products, and to avoid semi-prepared food – at the contrary of a lot of other bloggers with the so called “catch phrase recipes”. You are not good at cooking? You are not in the right mood to prepare something sophisticated? I have the 10 minutes recipe, but it is pasta with zucchini, not industrial phyllo dough with nutella inside!
It is a matter of integrity and food education: when I see other bloggers which share recipes like this I get really angry, because I believe that they pass really wrong message. Since I am from Ragusa I will give you a “cheesy” example: do you want a simple sandwich? You choose the fresh bread and provola instead of pancarrè with industrial cheese: it’’s easy, it’s fast… but it is also genuine!
What is the relationship between blog and social network in your opinion?
It is an ubreakable one: if the social networks never existed I would never have been able to do the work I do. They are the only one tool with which you can engage the users: people would never start to search to you in the web through social networks. It is more likely that people stop on the head blog “Giallozafferano” which is the one in the first position on search engines, especially at the beginning when you are in the bottom of the results.
What did you learn since you started this experience?
I became a great wordpress user – a local plant nursery even asked me to create their website (and now I am paid to manage their social media!).
I learnt a lot of things about food: a lot of recipes, ingredients, typical dishes that I have never heard before, and also foods seasonality (which allow me to eat healtier). And I learnt to take pictures!
In your thesis you show a very important data: the foodblogging speaks “pink”, whereas in television we can notice that chefs are mostly men. In your opinion, what is the reason behind this?
It is a factual data of our society: traditionally the man works outside and the woman works at home. The foodblogger usually stay at home and there she cooks and take pictures of her dishes. Women almost always took care of the family nutrition. The few male foodbloggers I know are the most atypical and they are do not fit the most ordinal categories: they are homosexuals, single, or married without children.
Female chefs exist but this imply for them not to spend time with their families: if you are a chef you will never be at home with your loved ones and you will not enjoy lunches, dinners, Sundays, new year’s day, Christmas: you will be at the restaurant every time.
To conclude: which is your most successful recipe?
My most successful ones are those which I would had never bet a coin on, very simple and with low quality pictures… but maybe the low quality pictures are the critical point, promoting a more accessible image of the final dish to reader, which feel more involved in trying to cook it!
The recipes that did better in absolut terms are my oven-cooked fennel salad, the oven-cooked trofie with sausage and pumpkin and the pasta with pumpkin cream, speck and pistachio.
Strange fact, there are no desserts on the top chart, maybe because I do not use often Nutella, which usally is a click magnet!
Thanks and “Bon appetit”!
Bon appetit to you too!