Recipe books have not fallen behind in the digital age. There are the go-to encyclopedias, Allrecipes.com and Foodnetwork.com (the latter, containing Rachel Ray’s famous recipe for cooking Late Night Bacon in the microwave). There are cooking apps up the wazoo. There are the inspiration sites like Gojee. Food and cooking enthusiasts have not been overlooked by the app makers of the world.
And yet, most of those sites and apps are very basic in their goals. They provide recipe discovery. Recipes are a highly shared commodity, but somehow only Pinterest has managed to facilitate that well. That’s according to Adam Berlinsky-Schine, a former engineer with Yelp, Amazon, and Intel.
He launches Pheast tomorrow out of private beta as a place for cooking enthusiasts to share recipes. PandoDaily readers can sign up a day early with the invite code PANDODAILY.
By design, it’s easy to make a recipe your own on Pheast by tweaking certain ingredients or instructions. The recipes are also laid out in chart form, which is at first off-putting if you’re used to reading a list of ingredients and a paragraph of instructions, but becomes refreshingly simple once you figure it out.
Like Gojee or Mor.sl, you can search on Pheast by the ingredients you have. You can also search on Pheast by equipment, cooking method and style of food.
Because it’s social, you follow your friends, other popular members, and even recipes to see what tweaks people make on them. This creates a feed of activity. Your friend Sarah made the cookie recipe you shared. Someone random made that gaspacho but substituted watermelon for tomatoes.
There is the dreaded gamification, too. Mark when you’ve completed a recipe, leave your comments and any changes you made to it, share that, and get “ribbons.” Not to mention, have a ready list of recipes you’ve made.
Pheast delivers a better user experience than the behemoth Allrecipes.com, which is monetizing just fine with ads and nuts-and-bolts sharing functionality. Allrecipes has also amped up its Pinterest presence with the help of Pinterest-focused SaaS platform, Pinerly.
The advantage Allrecipes and Foodnetwork.com have is that they sit on a treasure trove of thousands of recipes. Right now Pheast is employing people to enter recipes into its database, so there is enough content for users to share. The hope is that users will enter and share enough of their own recipes that it will wean itself off of paying for recipe content.
I’ve noticed that often a better user experience doesn’t automatically win, even in the democratized Web, where anyone with a WordPress blog is a columnist and anyone with a Twitter account is a “citizen journalist.” That was the promise, but it hasn’t quite come true. The filters we’ve built to surface the best and discard the rest aren’t perfect when it comes to content; the same goes for the apps and websites that deliver that content.
Just look at the streaming music wars: Music blogs across the board gave MOG top billing among competitors like Spotify, Grooveshark, Rdio, Slacker, et al. Beyond that, the redesigned Rdio is far easier on the eyes (and more browsable!) than Spotify’s hideous slime green-and-black iTunes layout. And yet, Spotify reigns supreme. MOG sold earlier this year for a mere $14 million. Rdio hasn’t made much noise since it’s redesign, except when its Head of Design, Wilson Miner, left for Facebook.
The battle to own recipes online could easily and quickly, and with enough “built-in virality,” flip from reigning stalwart to nimble social app. Or not. The proof will be in the pudding. (Sorry. That was bad. I’m so sorry.)
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]