So Martha Stewart doesn't like bloggers--does that mean me?

Back in the day I used to really respect Martha Stewart. Before blogs, before TheKnot, even before Domino was around the first time, I used to really get inspired looking through my mom's Martha Stewart Living magazine. She created a successful brand and spread her message, knowledge, and class around the world, and I totally respect that.

But, it's been a few years since I've spent much time looking at her recipes or projects, since most of them are similar to what I see in the blog world, anyway. Of course I wasn't too impressed with the whole insider trading thing, and I read an interview with her in the magazine on a flight recently where she talked about the 5 cell phones she caries with her at all times--I was a little turned off.

But, I keep an open mind and don't have a strong opinion one way or the other. So I was more puzzled than anything to hear about Martha's anti-blogger comments this week.

Martha bashes bloggers


If you've spent much time on Twitter or some of your favorite blogs this week, you may be aware that on Tuesday Martha spoke out against "bloggers" in a Bloomberg News video. When asked if she feels social media is in "poor taste"...

Here's the quote.

"I do have a minor gripe about that, too, because who are these bloggers? They're not trained editors and writers at Vogue magazine. I mean, there are bloggers writing recipes that aren't tested, that aren't necessarily very good or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. Bloggers create kind of a popularity. But they are not the experts and we have to understand that."


Bloggers bite back


Luckily, there've been a bunch of great responses out there--very well-said, blogging community. You really can write!
  • This LA Times piece said, what about the bloggers who seriously are experts in cooking, fashion, lifestyle...? Classically trained chefs and designers blog too, you know...
  • This piece on BlogHer points out that um, bloggers ARE experts in many things, blogging included. We are all accountable to each other and our readers and we won't succeed if we're not good at what we do and write about. Also, Martha, you really should have said to bloggers, "THANK YOU for appreciating me all these years and sharing my content!"
  • This piece on Babble says that, yep, Martha's audience has turned to blogs, the "non-experts" instead of her magazine for our ideas and instructions, but that makes bloggers the experts in what readers want to know, from an everyday person perspective--polls show that women trust bloggers the most for information.
And it gets me thinking--I understand that "bloggers" are not necessarily "experts" in what we write about, Martha. But your comments sound an awful lot like something you would say if you were threatened by the influence of a wave of young, do-it-ourselves, saavy and inspired group of people doing the 2013 version of what you did many years ago. Yes, we have it a lot easier in some ways--we can publish our material in our pajamas no matter how good it is--but it's no cakewalk for us, either. You paved the way, and we dream of someday being as influential as you with our own messages.

I think I know what's really going on here. You've put in the work and you resent that we young, "untrained," middle-class folk can sit at home and create something for ourselves, while you've worked all these years to create your empire and now your magazine sales are slumping (big downturn from 2007 to 2012) because none of us need your magazines for Halloween costume or wedding dress inspiration anymore. I understand that it's frustrating, and I see why you might be jealous. But please get back to working with us, not against us, and don't trash talk us and make yourself sound ignorant--and it wasn't even really on-topic!!

So is Martha's critical mistake that she discounts bloggers as non-experts, or that readers want to hear from non-experts??

Martha likes bloggers?


She has worked with bloggers before. So this whole thing is super confusing, because Martha seems to like bloggers on the outside; she has Martha's Circle of influencers; she spoke at the BlogHer conference in 2012, she hosted Alt Summit 2013, her project American Made supports Esty shop owners... (Design Mom wrote this piece about how she's seen Martha's admiration for bloggers in the past.) So who I want to know from her, too--who are the bloggers she's talking about??!?!?

And she has since apologized on Twitter, which is pretty much as public an apology as you can get these days if you're Martha Stewart and have 2.9 million Twitter followers.

Yes, who are these bloggers?



If what she cares about is the amount of expertise bloggers have, who all is she talking about?

Does she mean she a cooking blog who knocks off her pâte sablée recipe and calls it their own? Because I understand being frustrated about that, too--when someone copies my tutorial or doesn't credit me for a photo, I get a little miffed. Yes, blogging is a new kind of media and there are a lot of kinks to work out. But her quote makes it sound like she's saying, any blogger anywhere (in food, fashion, or lifestyle) is not to be trusted and does not have good taste.

But does she dislike me because I didn't go to school for fashion design, and yet I publish photo tutorials? And I try recipes and tweak them and share them, along with my editorial comments? And I wear clothes I've made and post photos of my outfits?

Honestly, that sounds like what a blog is supposed to do. Not a professionally published magazine or book or TV show--bloggers share real-life content that is relatable for readers in a way that wasn't possible 30 years ago. Back then a non-celebrity getting a moment in the spotlight to share a project was even more special, but we still haven't lost our desire for girl-next-door stories and real-time content.

A blog is not a book


I'll still refer to Martha or Julia or Anthony Bourdain if I want a classic Boeuf Bourguignon recipe, and I'll still buy a book about upholstery or carpentry or something very detailed and hard, but I look to my friends and community of peers in the blog world for pretty much everything else. I love getting inspiration from the push-button publishers of the world, because they're not classically trained experts but they're people like me.

Sorry, Martha. I don't expect to be buying your magazine soon. I respect you for what you've created, but I also respect individuals who put their content out there on their own and who don't have 600 employees carrying out their vision. Those bloggers sound a lot more like me when I try to make a nice dish for a party, and I probably could learn a lot from "experts" and bloggers alike.

So what do you think? Why do you read blogs? Do you think bloggers ARE experts, or is our amateurism what makes us interesting? And, in general, are you pro- or anti-Martha?!

44 comments

  1. LOL, this is the first I had heard of this and I have so many thoughts! I find "experts" so frustrating, which is probably why I really do trust bloggers for information before those experts. But, really, we bloggers are as much of "experts" as one can be in the crafting, parenting, cooking, sewing, decorating, etc... realms--how does one become an expert in those things, anyway? I would say by doing them and doing them well. How does Martha qualify herself as an expert in them?? Does a degree make an expert? Cause I have one. In journalism, no less. So there, I'm an expert too, ha!

    Great post :)
    Nikki
    www.nikki-fancythat.blogspot.com

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  2. I prefer to read blogs like yours because it is genuine, sincere, down to earth, interesting and you seem like a nice person. I don't care for Martha much and with those comments she kind of proves why.

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  3. Very well said, Suzannah. The "expert/amateur" dichotomy debate about bloggers really winds me up. Bloggers are experts in doing what they do at their level, and don't claim otherwise, and that's why blogs are so appealing. For example, sewing bloggers like us are experts in sewing for ourselves, at home, as a hobby - we're not professional tailors and nor do we claim to be - and our readers read our blogs precisely because they can relate to us and we can relate to them. I remember when I first discovered the wonderful world of blogs, I was so relieved to find a world that was much more authentic and attainable than the fantasies constructed in magazines. Long live blogging.

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  4. I like to blog as a way of sharing and making friends in a community that I have found to be inspiring and knowledgeable. Do we have to be experts to be respected?

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  5. This disappoints me about Martha, because as you said she still exists because of blogging and the evolution of how information is shared nowadays. I love blogging and I read other blogs because frankly I work and am not home to watch her show at 11am. I hope she appreciates the backs of other blogs that carry her name. The beauty of blogging is it isn't perfect. Each one is unique...isn't that what made her Matha Stewart?

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  6. Well written Suzannah. When I watched her talk she sounded so out of touch with the real world and yes, a tad bitter. Especially when she pondered and said the word. . . popularity. We are invading her Queendom and it is far overdue. I love blogs and blogging as it has leveled the playing field. It allows for those who have something to share to be found. Of course she sees that as threatening. There are a lot of talented people out there, even more so than Martha (and her staff). We are the new experts and rather than money buying our impact to the world, it is our readers who choose. How democratic.

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  7. I see it sometimes in my world. People who are "more experienced" sometimes don't understand social media, its effect, or even how we live in the information age. To see a younger or less experienced person gaining traction is beyond annoying to those who feel they paved the way. But here's the thing: those who master social media *are* paving the way. Certainly, I can whine all day about having had to use a wax roller and blue pencil for applying typesetting to page layouts back in the 80s, or I can laugh about that and self publish a polished, professional book from my computer. Sounds like Martha wants to whine about using the old wax roller.

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  8. I'm going to approach her comments the same way I think about people who call themselves "designers" because they have a computer and like to play around with clip art in Word. It's unfortunate that she's lumped everyone together into one "blogger" category. I think she should trust in her brand a little more since I think her website is still the place to go for definitive information on a lot of topics. Defensiveness: what do you expect from an anal-retentive control-freak (asks an only slightly less anal-retentive control-freak)?

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  9. I think the expert/amateur debate surrounding bloggers is really interesting. I'm a journalism major and recently had a professor explain how once a journalist has written three articles on a certain topic, he or she can be considered an expert in that topic. Considering that bloggers write about their chosen topics daily, I think that many of us can be considered experts. Journalists do not need a degree in order to become experts in the field they write about and neither do bloggers. Our expertise comes from doing what we do on a daily basis, writing about it, and learning from others.

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  10. Great post, I hadn't heard this comment from her! Martha has missed the major point of blogging for me - it's about building a community. None of my friends who live in my current city are into sewing, so I really turn to blogs as a place to glean inspiration and chat about my hobby with others who are passionate about it.

    Going along with the idea of a blogging community, most of us did not start our blogs thinking "I'm going to be the next Martha Stewart". No, we started them because we love making things and we wanted to share our experiences and interact with others who share our interests. If someone posts a new recipe on their blog they're not saying "I'm an expert chef, taste this recipe", they're saying to a friend "I really liked the meal I made last night, here's the recipe if you want to try it".

    In my opinion, the whole concept of community and interaction is one of the things that makes blogging unique and makes it a different beast entirely from print magazines or tv shows. Martha definitely just doesn't get it.

    (PS. Starting conversations like this is another great function of blogs!)

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  11. You are right on here, Suzannah. My first thought when I heard about this was, "but she (or at least, her empire) has worked with bloggers before and used them for content." So she is essentially biting a very large hand that has fed her in the past. Bad move. Blogging is now, magazines, sadly are fading to the past. I go to blogs for real-life opinions, not paid opinions. I want to know what shampoo real women have liked, I want to know what recipe books are fail-proof, and what crafts a beginner like me can pull off. I understand where she's coming from as far as food blogs, as I've tried some baking recipes off of blogs and had horrible results (but I've also had bad results from Martha's own cupcakes book, which is why I don't use any of her recipes for baking), which is why I much prefer BOOKS over blogs for baking recipes. Cooking, however, since it is much less of an exact science, is something I love taking from bloggers, because they'll let you know how long it really takes, and how much clean-up there will be. Also, as a vegetarian, I'm more inclined to trust niche vegetarian food blogs for recipes. Bloggers tend to come to the table with real-life experience, not studies from an office or a lab, and that is why I trust them, but always with a grain of salt (as with anything, even Martha herself).

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  12. Her apology wasn't even half hearted! She loves the bloggers she knows. So she's not apologised to the zillions of other bloggers at all then! She's seriously having a Ratner moment.

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  13. I think there are many types of bloggers. If someone runs their own small business or works in a certain industry and posts about their work then they obviously are experts. I'm pretty sure all professional food bloggers test their recipes too. But many blogs are also just about people's lives or a mixture of things they do and don't really know about. She probably saw a bad blog that day and it influenced her answer :D

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  14. I think that we need to be sure to write with a tone equal to our skill level when we blog. It irks me when people who clearly aren't experts use an arrogant, all knowing tone. As long as we're honest about our skill levels and seek to produce excellent content, I think the blogging community is an excellent, entertaining, informative resource. Did you hear that the New York Times recently hired a blogger? (http://observer.com/2007/06/inew-york-timesi-hires-tvnewser-blogger-stelter/) - Leah, wisestyle.wordpress.com

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  15. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I think there are many bloggers who ARE experts, even if in niche area, and unlike most regular media there is an aspect where they can really inject their perspective and personality into what they write, which really draws me in. On the other hand, I also see how journalism and traditional media is really falling in quality, which may be because the audience demand is not as much as it used to be, and I can understand her frustration where there are resources who are experienced and knowledgeable that are not being heard.


    Instead of knocking bloggers down though, I think is that journalism and traditional media which is expecting the audience to pay (either for a subscription or eyes on advertising etc) should be stepping UP to provide and engage MORE. It reminds me a little of what I've been seeing in professional photography circuit where wedding photographers are getting frustrated with guests all pulling out their smartphones and tablets to take photos, or prospective clients not understanding the services/cost of what they do for them. But the answer is not to ban the guests photos (the professionals can't be everywhere at once, and among the hundred taken there are bound to be several really special ones captured that would have been missed) but show how professionals provide a high level of service that compliments reality! You know- BE professional!

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  16. I think it was a very poor statement to make. She should have been well aware of the fact that her demographic is mostly women who blog and/or read blogs as well. She clearly didn't consider the backlash she was going to get from that comment.


    -Kira
    www.rainorshineblog.com

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  17. I am a little sad that she does have those sentiments, especially with the fact that many of you are brand ambassadors for her products. You are all a hugely important reason that more people are creating! For one thing, all of the experts will never give feedback on their products or share their own tips with using them in the real world. For one thing, I would never wear the outfits as shown in Vogue in real life. Way too shocking!

    As for creative bloggers, I did not think I was very crafty or good at sewing or a good cook until I saw how easy some of these projects could be with step-by-step tutorials, videos, and tip posts.
    Also, I have made a few recipes by experts that turned out horrendous! Sometimes the better versions of those recipes come from bloggers who figured out how to fix them with a few adjustments. I won’t say which chef this is from, but there was a glaringly obvious typo for 2 Tbsp. instead of 2 tsp. of baking soda. If it was a blogger recipe, her readers would have pointed it out, the typo would have been corrected, and she would thank them right away. It’s all about the communication between blogger and reader!

    Lastly, I think that many successful people forget that people who are not in their position are not necessarily inferior. Success does not always equal talent, and being a “small” blogger does not mean that we have nothing to offer.

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  18. Martha is supporting the President. I guarantee she blames
    bloggers for the shut down of the government. She truly believes
    people have gone against the current administration because of
    of bloggers. She does NOT want regular people writing, the good Representative
    Barbara Boxer or rather Senator wants the Government to determine who
    can be a journalist so they can tell people who to believe & put the rest
    of us in jail. Martha is good friends with the Clintons & supports
    President Obama. Anthing the Democrats want she will support. Because
    many only have life & hands on experience. So that is her side of what she thinks of bloggers.

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  19. Interesting for sure. On the one hand she has a point, I am sure there are a lot of blogs out there that may mislead you into a bad recipe, but hopefully the reader is smart enough to recognize a good blog/recipe/style/etc. when they see one. I agree with you that she should definitely work with bloggers instead of cut bloggers down... blogs are here to stay, jump on board Martha!

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  20. I can understand why she would be upset if sales and subscriptions are down. However, if you are a blogger who always gives credit to your sources, tests and re-applies material to make new techniques or recommendations, as well as creating new material, then you are an expert or well on your way to becoming one. If a PhD student is someone who uses existing scholarly research to build upon for new research topics, then similarly a blogger like the one I just described is well on their way to expert status.
    I'm disappointed that Martha would take the easy way out and scapegoat bloggers instead of figuring out what she can learn from the blogosphere and utilize it to expand her industry.

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  21. Well said, Suzannah. Well said...

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  22. The thing about blogging is that you are what you post. We don't have someone whispering in our ear saying "No, don't post that cake recipe it may not do well for your audience" or "Didn't you see blah-de-blah's article last month on how polka dots are out? Write the post on stripes, they're in." We put ourselves out there and let the people be the judge. Try a recipe and don't like it? That's what comments are for, in fact, many times I see others make suggestions about what they do to fix a recipe they didn't like. We also don't have to worry about what our sponsors will think. Well, most of us. That leaves a lot more room for HONESTY.

    On a bit of a side note, I found it extremely annoying that she constantly cut the woman interviewing her off. She could barely finish each question before Martha was answering it& as you mentioned she wasn't even quite on topic for the question. But hey, Martha has never needed much help burning bridges. It seems to be her quick to action attitude that gets her love and hate alike. Unfortunately for her, her publicist wasn't standing next to her to stop her from that terrible interview.

    Mae

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  23. I admit, I saw red a bit when I read her comments. I trained as a pastry chef. Am I allowed and qualified to blog about food? But I like to quilt. Am I allowed to blog about that, even though I'm not an expert? Heavens, we bloggers are already self-doubting enough. I honestly think she is threatened by the blogging community because she doesn't know how to control it, or she can't control it. It's sad, but time to move on Martha.

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  24. It's interesting to me, I guess, in that she (her industry) puts forward these aspirational ideas in magazines and books which are supposed to show you that 'You can have this glamorous life too! (Just follow these instructions...)' Then when it turns out some of us are generating equally good quality stuff, she turns around with something along the lines of 'No, non- trained professionals can't actually do that!' Again, as others have said, if the pay for content genuinely out stripped the community built blog world in terms of quality, bloggers wouldn't be a threat.

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  25. OMG, totally. She has always had that "look at how fabulous I am; you can do it, too!"--which makes her comments seem hypocritical as well as jealous!!

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  26. Ha! Sad but true. Yep, I guess she's been a pro/had her own company for so long she's forgotten the challenges of putting your material out there for the world!

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  27. Hm, not sure I see the connection, but I haven't heard the political side of her views before.

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  28. Absolutely! And I do want more from magazines when I read blogs all the time--they/the pros should all expect to up the quality level in the coming years!

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  29. So true. Such a strange thing to say after all the work she's done with bloggers in the past. When I was raw vegan I relied on the raw vegan books instead of culinary experts as well.

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  30. Wow, so true!! Community is such an important part of blogs, and something that Martha's world can't really create for her readers.

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  31. Aaack, I saw that iPad thing when I was researching this post. Crazy! I seriously read an article where she talked about how she had all these different
    devices for different social networks and emails, calls, etc. and it kinda
    freaked me out. Technology is supposed to make things easier! Sad because I've always admired her for her entrepreneurship as well.

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  32. Wow, that is super interesting!! I wonder what the blogger expert threshold is, then? Maybe a few more articles? Still, that means most of us are experts in many things!

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  33. Good question. I don't think so, in general, because I like learning from my peers because they understand the struggles I might have with a recipe or project!

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  34. Aw, thank you, that is so sweet! I appreciate it!

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  35. True! Bloggers are often expert enough for what we need them for!

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  36. eh? none of that makes the least bit of sense. Talk about off-topic.

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  37. And once again, Martha Stewart proves her unrelatability to the average person (her inability to relate to the average person and the level of intimidation she causes in people who would be her readers if only she'd take her tiara off for a second). I read dozens of sewing/costuming/crafting blogs because the bloggers writing them ARE in fact experts in those topics and because they are relatable. They don't set themselves up as Queens of Taste and Style, and they don't aim for an unrealistic and unattainable level of perfection. Naturally, Martha is feeling a bit besieged by these upstarts in her world, but speaking in such a way about bloggers--who are experts in what they write about, regardless of the level at which they write--is like pissing into the wind. She's gonna get all kinds of nasty back-spray and she'll deserve every drop.

    Her need to defend her position as the "expert" and "DIY Queen" reflects her fear of the changes in her industry. If she can't adapt to the new reality of media and journalism, then she needs to get the heck out of the business and make way for people who do. Like bloggers!

    I work in journalism, and it's tough out there. Media companies have to keep diversifying their platforms to reach readers and deliver content in the way readers want it delivered. It's a moving target, and that target will only continue to move faster and in many more different directions as media delivery systems continue to evolve.

    I've never been a fan of Martha's, I'll admit, and it's stuff like this that reinforces my dislike of her "you can have the perfect, crafty, home-made lifestyle just like me" mythology (in addition to rumors of how she treats her staff and the people who work so hard to keep her empire running). I much prefer bloggers who talk about things that they're passionate about and have a level of expertise in.
    Sorry for the novela!

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  38. She has made her views well known on her show when she had Bill Clinton was visiting. She also celebrated when Obama won on her show. I imagine that was part of the reason her show was cancelled. I miss her show but not her politically pointed remarks.

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  39. Not all bloggers are experts in the beginning, some might never get their but I love to see people finding their way in what they love to do. The love for what you do is the most important thing within blogs.

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  40. I find it interesting, because from what I can see, blogging has taken a huge upswing since the economy fell, leaving many, many people out of the traditional work force. Some could not find work after that, but have been able to help support their families by their blogging. I have not researched this, but I would assume that even Martha Stewarts "empire" shrunk, leaving unemployed people to fend for themselves. Like it or not, blogging and bloggers are here to stay. Not even Martha can beat them. If she's as smart as she seems to think she is, she would have already embraced blogging (and their bloggers), not only in public, but in her heart. She'd figure out how to capitalize on this next phase, not insult her (shrinking) fan base.

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  41. Great article! I think it is time for Martha to hang up her glue gun and put away her tarnished tiara on the shelf labelled "used tiara - size XXL". She doesn't like competition and bloggers are a threat to her empire. I say way to go bloggers. Keep it going. I love reading about other people's experiences, sharing their great talents and getting ideas. Learning from them. If they have made something and talk about the steps they did to get to the final product, then in my books they are the experts. And that's a good thing!

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  42. What is classically trained cook?

    I'd say being"classically" trained means being trained in the kitchen,usually from your parent or granparent.

    The best cooks are coming from the home, not necessarily from a western school.

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