When and why did you start your blog?
My blog started off as a YouTube channel back in March of 2012. In fact, it just had it’s three year birthday. I had been covering sustainable wine and food blogging over at Discovery Channel and had been wanting to do my own thing. A friend of mine at YouTube asked me to start a video channel; so I did! The channel launched the food blog just a few months later, in November.
How did you come up with your blog name?
I wanted a blog name that sorta captured the spirit of my cuisine. I am very experimental, using sustainable produce. And I wanted to capture that. Also, I was living in San Francisco at the time. So a play on my last name, Stone, seemed like a good fit. I think Cooking Stoned, outside of the marijuana references, really opens people up to the idea that they are gonna find some crazy sh*t on my blog, and they do! I have celery popsicles and sweet potato gingerbread cookies. And people seem to love it. Your blog is very successful. What advice would you give someone to grow his or her own following?
The best thing you can do is avoid what everyone else is doing. Carve out your own niche. Be yourself! It sounds cliche, like some After School Special, but it is true. If everyone else is doing it, then you have to break through the noise. But if you’re the only one… people will find you.
How many hours a day do you spend on your blog? What does your work include?
Only the hours I am not sleeping. And I don’t sleep much! Right now I am relaunching the YouTube channel. By that I mean I am going pro. I filmed 178 videos on my own. But now I have a camera crew. I have an animator and editor. I am in it to create a unique experience there that no one else is. So each day, I am either script writing, recipe testing, or filming.
Do you do your own photography? If yes, what equipment do you use?
I do. I had a photographer at Discovery and quickly learned that doing my own stuff is better. It’s your voice. It takes more time but I think it is worth it. I have a low end Cannon Rebel and just a few lights. You don’t need much else. Lighting is the most important. It definitely trumps a pricey camera.
Do you have any help with your work?
I do now. I thought I could do the video all on my own like I do my food blog, but I was so wrong. Embarrassingly wrong. Sure, I did 178 videos but I wouldn’t say I like them. They are okay, and I am thankful that others do but I know I can create better work. With a production crew, I am able to fully execute the ideas in my head. And sometimes, that is a good thing. I have a lot of weird ideas though.
What are some of the best and worst things about your job?
The best thing can be the worst thing. It is all on me! I call the schedule and I am responsible for getting it all done. There is no one to pick up the slack. That feeling is intoxicating. SO MUCH POWER! But sometimes I wanna hide under my bed and binge eat vats of ice cream. So it can be debilitating too. Who are your recipe taste testers?
Oh geez. Friends, neighbors, and anyone who wants to come by! Especially when I am doing a cookbook. I will host tasting parties. It’s really easy to get stuck in your own head. So getting someone to give you feedback is great. When and how did you start getting paid to review products?
As your blog grows, these opportunities will come your way. I avoid it most of the time. My site is very mission-based. I focus on vegan and vegetarian food, sustainability, and eating local. So anything I review has to meet some strict requirements before I even agree to it. How did you start generating revenue from your blog?
It began with ad revenue on the site. Both Google and YouTube run ads. It’s really a great way to have a passive income. As the blog grew, I was approached for food photography and recipe development. So I started taking on those gigs. Now I do a lot of food photos for Whole Foods Market. What is your general rule of thumb on reviewing products? Do you ever post negative reviews or stick to positive ones?
It comes down to what the product mission is. Do we align. I have a value-oriented following that cares about the planet. So, sorry K cups! I need to stick to stuff that aligns. And I always tell people that they risk me being brutally honest if I am to review something. Most are open to it. Brands want real feedback, I have found. What are you always looking to feature in your blog?
That is still being decided. I have a handful of sustainable wine reviews. And I cover some future food tech. Anything I can geek out on, really. How important is it for food bloggers to be on different social media platforms? Which one seems to give you the most activity?
I always tell people, do what you can. If being on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, etc., is just too much for you… do less. Pick what you can do and do it well. There is absolutely no need to to be on everything. I get a lot of traffic to my blog from Pinterest but I love Twitter. It’s my favorite. What’s your cooking style/food philosophy?
Fresh and in season is most important. From there, I like to expand upon how we think about conventional ingredients. Like, what weird sh*t can I do with an avocado. And that is where all the madness starts. Did you go to culinary school? If yes, which one?
I didn’t. I am just an enthusiastic home cook. But I been cooking for a long time. My family was big on cooking, which is where I learned how to. And when I became a vegetarian, in high school, I had to start cooking for myself.
Do you have a cookbook? If yes, tell us about it!
I do! I self published it a few years ago. It is called Holidazed. It is a Christmas cocktail cookbook about using winter produce to handcraft cocktails. No store bought mixers allowed! I ran a campaign on Kickstarter to fund it. It was so rewarding. I asked for $5,000 and got $13,000! And now I am working on my second.
What are your goals as a food blogger?
I love how you can affect change in people as a food blogger. I have had people reach out to me who now like foods they used to hate, because of my recipes. Nothing better than knowing you got someone loving Brussels Sprouts! That is all I want… to help change the way people eat, and think about food. Oh, and to rule the world. What would be the ultimate accomplishment for you? Other than ruling the world?
Well, I think really changing how people approach food would make me happy. We have gotten so disconnected from it. I have done work in food deserts where kids don’t even know what a tomato looks like. It breaks my heart. If I could help change that and get people cooking, I would say that is a win. What’s next?
I just rebooted the YouTube channel but I plan to spend some time there figuring out the formula. Now that I have help, I think we can create something fun, tasty, and weird.