In times gone by, getting a cookbook published was something that only the elite of the food industry could achieve. A top chef with a proven record, someone who had created the very latest food trend, or TV stars were the only ones who pulled it off. These days, however, you’re more likely to be reading recipes put together by a 13-year-old autistic boy from California.
The online “influencers” – normally bloggers or vloggers – who are getting book deals these days are, for the most part, ordinary people. They have simply managed to tap into something special in their work, that leads viewers or readers to want to follow them on every social media network going and hang on their every word. It’s often a cult of personality, though sometimes also combined with innovative ideas. In the case of Ella Woodward (now Mills), the author and blogger behind Deliciously Ella, it was a matter of coming up with special recipes that fit a very restricted diet, promoting health for those with chronic illnesses.
Chase Bailey, the 13-year-old we referred to above, is a great example of someone who reached a book deal via social power. His YouTube page is called Chase ‘N Yur Face, and its popularity has lead him to get more than 200,000 views. On the back of this, he has just published his first cookbook.
"Food influencers like Chase have definitely changed how we look for new authors," says Chase's publisher, James Fraioli of Culinary Book Creations. "Blogging and vlogging provide an additional and invaluable resource for connecting with people - it's information and trends that we might have otherwise missed."
Like Ella Mills, Madeleine Shaw is yet another social star who has risen to fame in the cooking world. While Mills works on her third book (surely set to be a bestseller, as her first two were), Shaw has just released her second. Titled Ready, Steady, Glow, it’s a product of the 250,000 Instagram followers who love trying out her recipes and looking at photographs of her healthy dishes. Working with brands is a big thing for bloggers, bringing in revenue and exposure on both sides.
Mills has in fact just opened her own deli, The Mae Deli, in London. Growing an empire in this way shows just how the food industry has been turned on its head by the impact of online influencers. Rather than gaining the Michelin stars or starting a television show before publishing a cookbook, she started off with a written blog. The cookbook came next, followed by a YouTube channel and the deli. The way things work now could be very interesting to those who are looking to work at elite or executive within the food industry. Rather than headhunting the best chefs from other restaurants, now it could be all about who is making the biggest waves in the blogging world.
"Influencers single-handedly build a relationship with their audience based on expertise, authenticity, and trust," says Arya Alatsas, director at digital influencer agency, Nuffnang. "They voluntarily give up their privacy, spend countless hours creating content and engaging with others, and passionately share what they care about by granting us an insight into their lives, thoughts, and interests."
This could explain why the viewing public are increasingly beginning to pick up cookbooks by online personalities rather than chefs, and it’s a trend that looks set to continue for at least the time being.
One of the more exciting developments currently in progress is the launch of social food apps. VizEat is one of these, an online service which allows people to open their homes (and kitchens) to diners who want to eat in a more intimate environment. Like popular British television show Come Dine With Me, it allows cooks to put together their own dinner party, inviting people from anywhere in the world to come and visit for a meal. Food bloggers and Instagram lovers are, unsurprisingly, one of the biggest groups to sign up for the app.
If the future of food is social, then it is certainly time for brands to take a lot more interest. While big brands are already starting to catch on, it is yet to filter through the whole industry.