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Connect with Sandie Markle
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Sandie Markle is the Director of Content Management for SideChef, an all-in-one home cooking platform. She leads a team of content managers and editors ensuring quality, relevancy, and optimization of recipes. Sandie is an expert in content best practices and over the last 5 years, has led the company in establishing over 300 content partnerships resulting in the acquisition of 16,000+ recipes.


Episode #071: Recipe Content Best Practices and Reaching New Audiences

1. Introduction to Sandie

  • Fun fact: Learned Mandarin Chinese on her own for the past 11 years. She is an advanced conversational speaker. Sandie is from Miami, and it’s common to know multiple languages for many families there. But her family is from Haiti and so she knows Haitian Creole as well.

-SideChef –

  • It’s an end-to-end platform, not just a cooking app. SideChef (SC) was designed to enhance a guided cooking experience. Users can select recipes and plan their meals. They have grocery integration. Now they offer letting you pick what groceries you have on hand and coming up with a great recipe to inspire a dinner recipe. 

  • SideChef started with a small group of 12 people and now they have grown a lot and they can scale the content they work with since they have offices in China and San Francisco and a larger team. 

– Sandie’s role –

  • Sandie is on the content team – acquiring content from bloggers and reaching out to them. Then optimizing their recipes into the SC format. Helping it to look its best on the app. 

– SideChef’s mission – to empower eaters everywhere to cook great food. Everyone has a relationship with food. They want to build confidence in the kitchen and to be the answer to “what’s for dinner”.

2. SideChef’s expansion – content acquisition + content management

  • SC partners with food bloggers, recipe creators and more that share their passion for making home cooking possible for everyone. They want it to be easy and fun and possible for everyone.

  • A basic requirement for content creators is having step by step photos and videos so they can help the home cook. SC is always on the look out for new people to work with so they have a diverse group of content creators. Before you learned to cook from family members or at home ec in school. Now people are learning online and using different tools to open up their cooking skills and options. So SC is looking for content creators all over the world and featuring unique cooking styles, special health trends and all sorts of cultural foods.

  • SC will not replace the creation of recipes. They can’t offer the connection with the blogger that food bloggers offer. Plus in the SC app, the voice guided recipes are done with the content developers or the food bloggers voice. 

3. Leveraging food trends and identifying which recipes to develop

  • Food trends and content: you need a good balance. 

  • You need to balance a trend while solving a problem. Is your audience looking for dinner? Answer that. Are they looking at ingredients and figuring out how to use them? Answer that. 

  • Use the tools available to you, including social media, to help you get that information to your audience with ways to make it easy and helpful. 

  • Be true to your own brand and not chase a trend, getting away from who you are. 

  • If you find a niche that you love and is important to you, that can help you solve a problem. Don’t be who you aren’t. 

  • Try anything. Give that recipe/style/trend a try because it interests you. But food should always be authentic. It’s ok if it’s an interpretation of a recipe/trend.

4. What is a smart recipe?

  • This is a signature format on the SC app. They have taken a traditional recipe and optimized it for their format. They use step-by-step photos, videos, timers, voice guided instructions, how-to cooking videos, technique videos and more. They desire to pack each recipe with information that’s useful to the home cook. Also included is information about the user, meal planning, connecting technology on the app with smart kitchen appliances.

  • SC wants to enhance your overall experience.

5. General recipe best practices

  • SC often sees brevity in online blogs. Food bloggers may do this to keep it simple, but in reality there are missing steps, actions within a step, and it can be overwhelming for the home cook because its implied but not spelled out.

  • The structure of the ingredient list and the actual steps shared is very important to give the home cook a true idea of what they are doing and not skipping important details/steps to make it look shorter. It’s not necessary to over explain but you have to think of the home cook who doesn’t know how to navigate everything in the kitchen alone.

  • Within the first 10 seconds of viewing a recipe, a home cook should know if its something they can do or not.

6. Benefits of step-by-step recipe guidance

  • Beginner and easy are not interchangeable terms. Knowing what kinds of information to share is something you have to learn to share appropriately. 

  • Even though it takes more work, step by step photos are important. This was the trademark of SC from the beginning. They recognized that not everyone knew what each step was supposed to look like. The end result is easy to show off but if you can’t achieve each step, the recipe won’t turn out. It’s a road map for the home cook to make sure you’re on the right track. 

  • Use a lot of sensory descriptors to compliment the process shot. This helps the home cook feel like they are cooking properly and can see and smell the meal they are preparing.

  • A trigger is something that makes the person feel like they can’t make the recipe. 

    • Not knowing which tools to have and how to use them is a trigger. Examples are Dutch oven, not explaining what type of knife needed and why, and how to measure or select ingredients. 

  • Eliminating barriers and triggers, anticipating them can really change cooking from frustrating to fun. 

7. Other benefits to using the SideChef app

  • Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Every blogger should work really hard to set their home cooks up for success. You want your recipe to become theirs at the family table. Then they’ll come back for more!

  • SC helps you personalize your users preference of diet for the app as a new feature! Then the users first landing page offers a daily inspiration page of recipes that fall into that category.

  • The app offers a chance to use ingredients you have on hand so you don’t have food waste by searching with ingredients you have on hand.

  • Meal planning is offered and you can order groceries right from the app. They want their platform to mimic how you live in your home when considering kitchen cooking needs. 

  • SC is working closely with Amazon Fresh!

  • SC is integrating with LG and other brands to be able to help the home cook use their kitchen appliances. You can connect all the recipes that use an oven in the SC app. In your profile you would sync your appliance with and then let it help you be hands off. This offers pre-heating and baking for you as you cook.

8. What partnering with SideChef looks like

  • Visit the Side Chef website and contact them if you’re interested in partnering with them.

  • Side Chef is also available on Facebook to be able to share information and reacquaint everyone with who they are. 

  • Side Chef is launching a micro-influencer program this spring. The purpose is designed to create opportunities and empower future partners to cook more and learn more and make profit from their passion. You don’t have to be a blogger or content creator with millions of followers to be valuable to Side Chef. Because they want to help everyone to learn and grow and not just for today but for the future, they are trying to invest back in their partners and really trying to focus on how they can help them grow so it’s mutually beneficial. 

  • SC will be at the Everything Food Conference in April 2020. They’ll be talking about building your brand with them and in general. They will share more about the micro influencer program too. They know that a blogger is different than other types of businesses. Side Chef recognizes that bloggers tend to be a business of 1 and if you’re doing well 1+. So they want to give every single person as many resources and opportunities as possible. That’s what creates great content. That’s the secret ingredient to helping more people cook. SC can’t do that without their partners so they want to help them reach their goals and so does SC. 

  • The most important thing is the why people cook and that will never change because cooking is a human experience. But SC believes innovation is just as much a part of the human experience so how people cook will keep changing. They want to embrace technology because it’s part of the experience of cooking and preparing meals. 

  • “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” James Beard

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