Here's how it works: Every week, Hesser and Stubbs will present two themed recipe challenges, asking readers to submit their best recipes for, say, grilled pork. They will cull through the recipes and test the best looking of the bunch. Those that survive the recipe testing phase will be posted online for readers to test and vote on at home. The recipes with the most online votes end up in the book.
Squid Ink: How did you come up with the idea?
Merrill Stubbs: Amanda and I have tested over 1,200 recipes together for a New York Times cookbook she's been working on, and we found that most of the best recipes were from home cooks, rather than food writers or chefs. Fantastic recipes. There are a lot of food and a lot of cooking websites out there, but not any that are truly for home cooks. We wanted a place where home cooks could feel appreciated.SI: Why weekly contests?
Amanda Hesser: We wanted a site that home cooks could trust, and participate in. Each week three new recipes get added to the page, so you can see the book actually growing. Merrill had this great idea to do a wildcard recipe every so often, which will give us an opportunity to fill in the book with recipes that aren't part of the weekly theme. And you get these oddball super interesting recipes.
SI: How will you decide which recipes to test from those submitted?
AH: We try to keep our minds open. The editorial process is not unlike reading through a cookbook and deciding what to cook. When you have 4 or 5 recipes that have great potential, that's when it will get tough, but we will have to decide based on how they will fit other recipes we have in the book.
SI: With all the recipes online, why would a cook need to purchase the book?
MS: It's going to have more value than just printing out recipes and putting it in the binder. The book itself will include a bio and picture of each author. There's something inherently appealing about going in a bookstore and wanting to have that book you worked on.
AH: It's really more like an art project, you've created this art object and seen its evolution. There aren't many opportunities for that kind of participation these days.