Thyme and Plaice by Steve Bennett (part 1)

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th February 2011

Thymeandplaice.blogspot.com

This blog is brought to you by Chefbennett01 My entry into the world of blogging was fairly accidental. I had been a reader of blogs for a while in the past, but all were about my other passion-music. Then, I was encouraged to engage in twitter as part of a work related journey into social media. Once I made a start on twitter, I found myself becoming drawn into it quite heavily as my on-line profile grew quickly- I racked up a couple of hundred followers within a few weeks, and, for whatever reason, people seemed to enjoy reading my tweets. Looking back, I guess it was fairly opportunistic, as there were plenty of interesting things going on in my work life at that time-some TV work, a few great meals at some wonderful restaurants, I had just come back from a trip t America and the hotel were getting involved in a lot of marketing for VisitWales'-the new name for the Welsh marketing board (In the run up to the Ryder cup). The more I did, the more I tweeted. The more I tweeted, the bigger it all got. As fun as twitter had become, the 140 character limit got to be a bit of a bind, and being limited to posting twitpic images was proving to be a frustration. I asked a few on-line friends and they all seemed to think that blogging was the way forward. the advice I was given time after time was that although twitter is great for sharing brief snippets of information, and links to other sites, unless you own the site being linked to, the images, opinions and information is never really yours. Most chefs I followed at that time seemed, as I was, to be constantly linking to their place of work's web pages, thus sending traffic to a site they didn't own. As good as it is to have a busy work website, hopefully turning clicks into bookings, with the current high profiles of chefs, it is favourable for the chef to have somewhere he can showcase his own images, theories, recipes and thoughts.  With all this in mind, I googled 'blog setup' and clicked on the first option-blogger.com. within minutes I had created the blog (using a name I had been toying with for a while, since my close friend Kevin had used the name 'my thyme, your plaice' briefly as a business name for his outside catering firm), designed the template, and uploaded some photos. Then it hit me. What the hell d I want to put up on here? It was all well and good tweeting a couple of sentences, but this was a big step up. I studied some of the blogs I had heard about, and they all seemed so different, all unique. some where recipe led, with long narratives about how the dish came into creation- I couldn't really do that sort of blog, I don't have the creative time to work continually on dishes, they either work or don't, and I replace them on the menu sharpish. Some blogs were purely professional images of food- I am n David Bailey, and don't have the patience to set up lighting, survey angles of elevation and all that stuff. Some were basically chefs C.V.'s and links to TV stuff they had done- again, I was still waiting for the show i had done to be shown, and for another chance of an appearance on American telly to be confirmed (It never happened- the show is one of America's biggest and obviously had a vast choice of who to use). So, for a while, my blog sat somewhere in cyberspace, waiting for its first post. For whatever reason, I also felt that there is no point advertising a blog with one post, so I wrote the first couple-a two part review of a restaurant I ate at in Washington D.C., Minibar by Jose Andres, and waited. Then a few weeks later Mark was here on The Staff Canteen asking for someone to read a book and post a review. The book was 'bitter taste' by David Evans. I volunteered, and having read the book and enjoyed it, wrote a short, positive review which was posted here and seemed to be enjoyed by those who saw it, including the author himself who emailed me to thank me for the write up. This positive feedback gave me confidence in my writing ability, and spurred me on to write another review, this time of a couple of meals I had at the Ledbury in London.It was around this time, that I started letting people know about my blog, gently at first, just a few close friends, then a tweet late at night, hoping that not too many people would see it, just in case it proved to be a pile of rubbish. What I forgot to allow for, was the international time differences, and that although the tweet went up at 2 am the morning here, America was just getting home from work, and logging on to twitter. For those of you wh don't know, my sister lives in the U.S.A., and she saw my tweet. She told her friends, who told other friends, and before too long, I had had 400 unique views of my fledgling blog. Waking the next day to see all that, made me ecstatic, and nervous at the same time. I wondered if I could keep it up, was it just a flash in the pan kind of thing? There were a couple more posts to be made before my next massive hit of views, which came around following another trip t America, this time as well as visiting my sister, I was making a pilgrimage to a restaurant and chef I had long been a fan of Alinea in Chicago, and the creative force of Grant Achatz. Again, the timing of my blog posts (I went into so much detail and hyperbole about Alinea, it ran to three posts) was fortuitous, as my visit was a few weeks before the publication of the first edition of the Chicag Michelin guide, in which it was widely rumoured that Achatz and his restaurant were to be awarded the maximum three stars. It was an opinion I shared, and when I published my post, the award had just been confirmed, and as I promoted my blog on twitter mentioning Chicago, Michelin and Alinea, the director of social media and brand advertising and marketing for Michelin in north America, Jeffrey Jacobs re-tweeted my messages, and sent another flurry of American readers to my blog and to my twitter profile, adding sixty followers in a weekend, and several hundred views of the blog. Since then, my blog posts have been fairly few and far between, as in my opinion, it is better to have few that you are proud of, than many that are a bit patchy. I have had some help along the way, from editing, to content, to promoting, but all along the way I have tried to only post if there is something I feel is worth sharing. I have written several posts that weren't something I would enjoy reading, so they remain unpublished. That is the only advice I feel qualified to give anyone thinking of venturing int blogging - be yourself, and be your own critic, if you wouldn't read it, why will anyone else? Since the blog has got bigger, I have been asked to write pieces for other publications (some web-based, some for magazines) which I guess is testament to what I do. Although thymeandplaice is many things at the moment- reviews, personal achievements and recipes- I am hoping to spend this year sorting and formatting it, so there are defined places for certain elements. Thanks to @chef1 for allowing me to write this article, I hope it's been enjoyable, and that some of you will come and see the blog, or even get into blogging yourselves.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th February 2011

Thyme and Plaice by Steve Bennett (part 1)