Bite by Michelle took a real big bite out of the competition, winning first place in our community poll for best food blogger of 2011. Blogger Michelle Hooton has been cooking since the tender age of 5 when she first started churning out little cakes from an Easy Bake Oven. From planning family dinners at 10 years old, she went on to run a catering business in her mid-twenties. These days, she rarely cooks for herself but when she does cook, she does it with love for the people she loves. Her thoughtfulness truly comes out in loving bites (she prefers giving her kids playful bites instead of kisses) with the recipes she shares on her blog. And now she shares a little bit more about herself, about her blog, and of course, about lovely, delicious food.
FriendsEAT: Michelle, your blog came up out of nowhere to take the 2011 Best Blogger #1 spot. When did you first hear about the contest?
Michelle Hooton: September 15th
FE: Tell me a bit more about your past. Where did you grow up?
MH: I grew up in Saint John New Brunswick Canada.
I lived in New York City for 6 years in the 1980’s then back to Saint John.
I have been an entrepreneur all of my life. I developed and ran an aerobic exercise studio in NYC in Soho from 1983 – 1988.
1987 -1989 had a catering company with best friend, Christie McDonald, called Larkspur and Sage
I developed and ran a fresh and dried flower shop in the Saint John City Market in the early 1990’s.
In 1995, I bought a little pasta shop and retooled it into Sister’s Italian Food.
FE: What inspired you to start your blog and when did you start it?
MH: I spent last winter teaching a local restaurateur to cook Italian food. She thought that I was a good teacher and suggested that I write a food blog so that I could share my recipes. I was intrigued with the idea of using the blogging genre as a way to record, not only my recipes, but moments and thoughts from my life for my three daughters. Sort of an on-line family recipe book for life and food. Two of my daughters have moved away from Saint John. Blogging seemed like a neat way to talk to them.
I started blogging in April 2011
FE: For those who are not familiar with your blog; how would you describe it? What does it focus on?
MH: My blog is difficult to explain…
I start with a story. The story could be about one moment of my day, a memory from my childhood or about my daughters. When the girls were little, they loved sitting around after dinner so that I could tell them stories about them! “Tell us a story about us.” It was adorable. Somehow the story leads into the recipe.
The food part is whatever I happen to be cooking or baking that day. I do not prepare food specifically for my blog.
FE: What is a typical day in your life like?
MH: Depending on the time of year, it can be very different. Ralph and I bought a 200 acre farm three years ago. We spent the second year renovating the 100 year old farm house. Year three saw us landscaping around the house and putting in our vegetable garden. A typical day sees me rolling out of bed around 6:30 am and falling back into bed when the sun goes down – literally there are not enough hours in the day. This all happens from May to October.
October to April has us back in the city. I have been doing consultation work for a local restaurant. I am involved with civic issues, the arts community, I work out 3-4 days a week, I belong to 2 book clubs and I take care of the office for my husband, who runs his own sales company.
And I blog!
FE: What did your childhood kitchen look like?
MH: It was pretty. My mom has very feminine taste. Soft pastel colors with lots of flowers.
FE: What does your grown -up kitchen look like?
MH: Both of my kitchens are over 100 years old. And both were renovated to keep all of their charm but with the modern day conveniences to be able to pump out a lot of food! The farm house kitchen is ’eat-in with white wainscoting, hard wood floors, shaker style cabinets with crown moulding, lots of counter room and tons of windows.
The city kitchen is smaller with ceramic tile floors, an island with stove/oven on one side and an eating area on the other, a wall oven and butler’s pantry all in shades of butter cream and vanilla ice cream.
I love to cook in both of them.
FE: Who reads your blog?
MH: My subscribers are from all over Canada, United States, England, Australia and New Zealand.
FE: So, bacon. Everyone’s crazy about it. How do you feel about it?
MH: Love it. It’s our treat on Saturday morning but we only have 2 pieces – it’s hard on the belly.
FE: What is your favorite restaurant, why?
MH: That’s a hard question for me to answer. Ralph and I have traveled a lot so I have favs all over the world. It’s a moving target and depends where I am. If the food is prepared beautifully both aesthetically and technically, that will be my new favorite restaurant. I like the right touch with local ingredients…
FE: What is your favorite ingredient?
FE: And…your favorite food blog?
MH: There are so many – yikes – if I could only look at one it would be Orangette
FE: How do you feel about food entertainment?
MH: I love it!!!!!!!! The first time that I saw the Food Network, I did not move off of the couch for 6 hours. I have been collecting cookbooks since I was 11. I love it all - festivals, tastings, magazines
FE: What changes have you seen in the food blogging industry and what changes do you predict for the next five years?
MH: In the internet world 5 years is a long time, I’m not even sure we could predict the next 5 months.
FE: What do you think is the biggest issue for food bloggers?
MH: Finding the time to blog. With food blogging, you are not just writing. You have to shop, cook, photograph and write. It requires a big commitment of time.
FE: How does it feel to have the title of Best Food Blogger of 2011?