If you want to know how on earth somebody comes to the point where she gives up a job in finance to become a food blogger, look no further than Olga Massov.
One of about 200 bloggers and exhibitors attending the International Food Bloggers Conference in Santa Monica this weekend, Massov said she knew something was up when she found herself sneaking out of work to write about cooking.
“I was becoming this weird cooking hermit,” said Massov, whose blog, “Sassy Radish,” attracts about 40,000 readers per month.
“I was becoming a cat lady of cooking," the 33-year-old said. "Some weekends I’d tell my friends I was really busy, but what I was really doing was cooking all day and testing a recipe and writing about it.”
The recipes and stories on Massov’s blog veer happily through different aspects of her life: she writes about her identity as a childhood immigrant to New York from Russia, conjuring up images of pickled herring and beets, then offers a recipe for a curried squash soup.
At the conference, she spoke on a panel about food and culture.
"Sassy Radish" isn’t making enough money to sustain her, she said, but it is helping to give her the credibility she needs to reach her ultimate goal: to become a gainfully employed writer of cookbooks and food articles.
Allan Wright, who co-sponsored the event through his company, Zephyr Adventures, said Massov is emblematic of the evolving world of food blogging, which is undergoing a rapid professionalization as writers improve their games and audiences grow.
“The trend is that as people blog and do it for a year or two they start to want to become more serious,” Wright said. “Many of them want to start growing their audience or making money from their blog or getting more involved in their industry.”
There are about 13,000 food bloggers worldwide, according to Wright, whose Montana-based company also puts on conferences for wine bloggers, beer bloggers, and fitness and heath bloggers.
Many will remain citizen-bloggers, he said, writing for friends and family and for their own satisfaction.
But for those who are really committed, the niche is steadily becoming more business-like.
Attendees at the conferences, he said, are coming as much to network and build their brands as they are to learn about food-writing.
Irvin Lin, who writes about baking at his blog, “Eat the Love,” said he came to learn ways to make money from his blog, and to network.
After developing virtual relationships with many of his food-blogging colleagues online, it’s been gratifying to meet them in person, he said.
“There are people in the food blogging community I’ve been talking to online forever but never really met in real life,” said Lin, who is based in San Francisco. “I’m building a lot of relationships that way.”
The 38-year-old quit his job as a graphic designer last year to focus on his blog. He’s still relying on the graphic design – now as a freelancer – to bring in most of his income, but he hopes that will eventually change.
Like many food bloggers, Lin doesn’t need the site itself to be wildly profitable, but he would like to develop a niche for himself in the food industry overall.
“I’m doing more recipe-developing and the occasional catering gig,” Lin said. He’d love for the blog to become lucrative, “but I’m not sure what the viability is of that.”