Advice from a Master
Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini has been blogging about food for so long that she practically invented the form. And she still loves it.
Here, the blogs you should be reading right now with recipes and tips from their creators.
The Blog: At the ripe old age of 30-something, Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini is one of the grandes dames of food blogging. She is also the author of four books, including a book of French vegetarian recipes called The French Market Cookbook, and Edible French, an upcoming book on French expressions related to food.
How do you feel about how blogging has evolved since you started more than a decade ago?
I’m a little divided about it. On the one hand, I am loving that the overall quality of food blogs has gone through the roof, in terms of writing, photography and recipes. But on the other hand I feel like there is a certain formulaic sameness that has spread along with it. I don’t doubt that every single blogger is an individual with his or her own unique perspective and voice, but it can be hard to identify them when the tone and photography styles are so uniform on so many blogs. I’m always excited for blogs that display a very personal sense of aesthetics and writing style.
One thing I am very happy hasn’t changed since I started in 2003 is the strong spirit of community and support among food bloggers. People who love food are generally people who love people, and if you’re in the mind-set of seeking connections with others, there are plenty of ways to find a group of like-minded peers to hang out with, virtually or otherwise. For me at least, these connections have made, and continue to make, the fabric of my life incomparably richer.
What is your favorite thing about blogging now?
My current favorite thing is that I launched a new version of Chocolate & Zucchini earlier this year, and I am still ridiculously excited about how it turned out. It was a pretty intense project that kept me busy for months, but it was completely worth it as I am feeling very much at home in my new layout.
From where are you finding a lot of your recipe and cooking inspiration these days?
I draw most of my inspiration from Paris markets, plus the weekly basket of vegetables I get delivered from a local producer, and the meals I have at restaurants around me. Paris is currently embracing a simpler, fresher style of cuisine that’s more produce-centric and therefore right up my alley, and it feels like every time I eat out I’m jotting down an idea or a pairing I want to integrate into my own cooking. I recently had lunch at Caillebotte, a new bistro in my neighborhood, and my friend had a sumptuous fennel soup that was flavored with vanilla, with wispy shavings of raw fennel plopped in the center of the plate. It was simple but done really well, which is precisely what I aspire to when I cook.
What advice do you give to new bloggers?
None of us blog exclusively for ourselves, otherwise we’d just keep diaries. But I think it’s important to want to blog primarily for the sake of it—the documenting, the sharing, the sense of purpose—before worrying about traffic and recognition, because in the current blogging environment, that can take a while. But if you focus on expressing your passion and your perspective through great-quality content that brings real value to your readers—because you’re informative, inspiring, entertaining, or better yet, all of the above—I firmly believe they will find their way to you. But patience, persistence and experimentation are definitely part of the process.
Any professional projects we should be looking out for?
I have a brand-new book coming out in early October called Edible French: Tasty Expressions and Cultural Bites. It’s about French expressions related to food, how fun they are, and what they tell us about French culture. Each expression is illustrated by a beautiful watercolor by my artist friend Mélina Josserand, and I’ve thrown in a few recipes, too. I’m hoping food enthusiasts and Francophiles enjoy it equally, and it’s on preorder now for anyone who wants to find it.
What blogs are you newly excited about right now?
I have great love and admiration for a French food blog called Le Manger. The author, Camille Oger, is a freelance journalist who travels a lot and does really thorough, well-researched and beautifully photographed reporting on quirky topics, such as how they make dried persimmons in Japan or how they can tuna in the Philippines, interspersed with reflective posts on the nature of the true salade niçoise, or why some cultures crouch to eat while others sit. It’s both intelligent and inviting, and I wish there were more blogs just like it.
Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and author of the forthcoming The Modern Potluck (Clarkson Potter, 2016). She is also the cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.