September is a big month here in the Focus:Snap:Eat household, not just because it’s my Mom’s birthday but it’s also the anniversary of my blog.

I’m generally not big on celebrating the passage of time, like birthdays and anniversaries. They’re always like a big slap in the face of how much I haven’t done from my list of things I said I wanted to do.

But after some debate (I live alone so the debate was just in my head), I decided I couldn’t let this anniversary pass without at least a post. So here it is.

A year into blogging, I was selected by the San Francisco Chronicle as a team member for their annual Thanksgiving turkey cookoff. (Photo courtesy of Craig Lee, the Chronicle)

A year into blogging, I was selected by the San Francisco Chronicle as a team member for their annual Thanksgiving turkey cookoff in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Craig Lee, the Chronicle)

Ten years ago I started food blogging at a time when there were only a few megastars who were out there posting food porn and recipes – with thousands of followers. I wanted in on that action. My original blog was called Cooking With the Single Guy because, well, I was single and I wanted to show people that you could make delicious food for yourself.

I got addicted to the steady growth of followers, and am always surprised to hear from people all over the world. This explains why in the early years I was posting about three to four times a week, while still holding a full-time job. It was because my theory was the more I fed you, the more you’ll come back.

That time I had to wear a hairnet for a behind-the-scene tour of Hodo Soy tofu manufacturing plant in West Oakland.

That time I had to wear a hairnet for a behind-the-scene tour of Hodo Soy tofu manufacturing plant in West Oakland in 2009.

After about five years, the blog shifted to mostly restaurant reviews (and even some TV recaps, remember those?) because I had pretty much gone through my repertoire of recipes and I wanted to try blogging about different things. But then it seemed a bit disjointed, so that’s when Focus:Snap:Eat came into the picture (and with a more manageable schedule of two posts a week), focused on showcasing what most people want to see, the food photos.

Now another five years later, I have to say I’m getting that itch again for something new. I toyed with the idea of redesigning my site yet again, but it’s a big effort to go through old postings to make sure they appear right in a new format. This still might happen in the near future, though.

I also, quite often really, thought about closing this blog. While I love food photography and the interaction a blog provides, I wonder if the blog platform is still relevant. Is the next generation spending a lot of time reading blogs? Or are they all busy Snapchatting? And anyone who has or had a blog knows this is a major time commitment, which is why I see so many blogs (some of them my favorites) come and go.

Wine tasting with friends in Healdsburg, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Craig Mole.)

Wine tasting with friends in Healdsburg, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Craig Mole.)

For now, there’s still something I discover about photographing food that gets me excited, and I want to share that somehow. So for now, this blog will be around, so I hope you’ll continue to visit, whether it’s for the next month, next year, or next 10 years.

And what exactly have I learned over the years? Here’s my top 10 lessons from being a food blogger:

1) You will never get rich from food blogging.

2) Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t feel a rush to do too much at once. Try one new thing at a time.

3) Don’t do it for the money (see No. 1) or for the audience numbers. Do it because you enjoy it.

4) It’s your blog so you have the right to say what you want. People commenting are being invited to your blog, and they can leave if they don’t like what they read. So don’t take negative comments personally.

5) There are lots of trolls on YouTube (more than any other social media platforms) so if you want a presence on YouTube, maybe have a friend or someone else review and approve comments left on your videos.

6) It’s ok to skip a post. People have holidays in the real world. So it’s ok if you take a holiday now and then from your blog schedule too.

7) Natural light is your friend. Always take advantage of opportunities to photograph food using natural (and indirect) light.

8) Be true to yourself. Don’t create content just because you think it’s the trending topic that others will want to read. If you come off honestly, people will connect with you and want to follow you.

9) Don’t be obsessive about food. Variety is the spice of life, so don’t let food blogging consume you. Mix in other interests (I love watching baseball, traveling and pretending I’m a screenwriter) so that your food blog will also be that exciting interest to return to.

10) You can meet some really great people over food.

It’s that last part that means so much to me. (Oh wow, I just got verklempt typing this sentence out.) Over the years, I’ve heard from some loyal commenters and met some amazing food lovers, some of whom are now true friends, and you have made this journey so much more colorful and meaningful. I have learned from some, and have been inspired by many. For that I say thank you.

At a food event and bumping into one of my early readers and fellow blogger Passionate Eater. She is now busy with her law career and family.

At a 2010 food event and bumping into one of my early readers and fellow blogger Passionate Eater. She is now busy with her law career and family.

Enter for a $25 Gift Card — Contest Closed

Now for some fun. In honor of my 10 years of blogging, I will give out 10 gift cards (each at a $25 value) to the first 10 people who submit a correct answer to any of the following five questions. (I was going to have you answer 10 questions, but then I didn’t want to become a teacher grading a pop quiz – so you just need to get one question right.)

Hint: The answers to these questions can be found on my blog (if you don’t know them already from the top of your head).

Congratulations to all the winners who entered my giveaway for $25 gift cards. The popular answer seemed to be lemons (which I love anything lemon from lemon custard to lemon curd to lemon ricotta pancakes), maybe because it’s the first question. But others also correctly noted that I’m born and raised in Hawaii, and proud of it! Here are the rest of the answers for those wondering.

1) Which do I prefer, lemons or limes? LEMONS 🙂

2) What year did I drink my first cup of coffee as an adult? 2013, when I had my very first real cup of coffee, and I memorialized it in this post.

3) Name any chef whom I have photographed and whose picture can be found on my blog. Many over the years but most recently I interviewed Marc Forgione.

4) Name a restaurant where I almost gave it a four-star review. Ironically, two of my favorite places that made me contemplate giving it a four star came in the past year. One was Hotel Herman in Montreal, and the second is Roister in Chicago.

5) Where was I born and raised? Honolulu

This contest closed at midnight, Oct. 8. Thanks to those who participated!

A somewhat decent photo of me taken by my nephew when we went for drinks at Tupper & Reed in Berkeley. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Chock.)

A somewhat decent photo of me taken by my nephew when we went for drinks at Tupper & Reed in Berkeley. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Chock.)

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6 Responses to 10 Years of Food Blogging and What the Hell Did I Learn?

  1. Brenda Ton says:

    Ben, I love this post so much. Happy anniversary! I am so grateful we both share a passion for food to form this bond and friendship. Great to take a look at your achievements!

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    As a fellow blogger,I heartily agree with each and every point you made. Blogging can be very challenging and time-consuming. But it also can bring wonderful surprises, just as you mentioned, in the form of friendships and the emergence of skills you never knew you had. Congrats on the anniversary!

  3. Anne says:

    Happy Anniversary, Ben! You should feel proud of educating and entertaining us loyal readers. I’m always happy to find a new post from you in my inbox because I know I am going to enjoy it. Thanks for taking the time to write and photograph. I selfishly look forward to another 10 years!