2012: A year in review
Ok so this post is a bit late, but work & other commitments have restricted my time on the blog through December. 2012 has been a real turning point for chefhermes.com. As any business would, I set clear & achievable objectives for 2012 & where chefhermes.com should be going. In terms of writing & content I think that content & aesthetics of the blog has improved vastly from 2011 & that my style has begun to settle down, which is reflected in the viewing figures. For the second complete year in a row growth is in excess of 200%, but that is enough of the gloating, let’s get down to the real highlights of 2012.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the pinnacle of the blog this year was a guest post by Johnnie Mountain. There were so many words of support for Mr Mountain via the social networks that it was hard to keep pace in thanking everybody. From what started as a simple open approach via twitter, which anybody who follows Mr Mountain or myself would have seen, started a heart rendering post about despair & depression. Mr Mountain put his neck on the line & risked being ridiculed from some quarters, in what was the first ever guest post for the blog. Weeks later The Caterer followed up the post with a 4 page spread featuring Mr Mountain & his struggle with his mental illness, it raised the profile & subsequently jump started a campaign. To date Johnnie Mountain still has the two highest read posts on ChefHermes.com, proving that you don’t need Michelin stars to succeed:
Another highlight this year was the Richard Neat thread. Back in July 2010, former two Michelin star chef Richard Neat took part in ‘5Questions‘. Now unless you’re a chef of a certain age (say 35+) Mr Neat’s name isn’t going to mean an awful lot to you. At his pinnacle he scored two stars at Pied à Terre and then went on to be the first (& possibly the only) Englishman to gain a Michelin star in France. His ‘5Questions‘ are eloquent, thoughtful & extremely well written, to the point of having the same potential as ‘White Heat’ by MPW, to inspire a generation. In early November I’d heard a rumour that Mr Neat might be in London for the Pierre Koffmann tribute dinner, I emailed him only to be slightly disappointed. Mr Neat was on his travels & unable to make the dinner. That said, he was looking to do a pop up in London in 2013, I promptly took to Twitter & Facebook to see if anybody could help, but at the time of writing this we’re still looking for a London venue.
As ever there is the usual peak in traffic around the release of the Michelin guide, but this year I was going to be away for my Dad’s 70th birthday. Not to worry it seems, some technical cock up by a French IT bod accidentally released the new guide online a week early for about an hour before it was taken down. Twitter went into melt down as journalists & bloggers alike tried to get ahead. By piecing together what others were tweeting I knew I had the upper hand. The guide had been released in such a way that I had to search geographically, it wasn’t the usual PDF list which can be analysed against last years results. When the Michelin website had been reset it was clear I had all the newly starred restaurants, at least 3 more than anybody else. The rush of adrenalin which has been absent in recent years from Saturday night services had returned, I felt like I was plugged into the mains with every ounce of my body tingling with excitement. I decided to get in contact with a newly starred chef. I was tentative at first, initial contact was a casual email, which to be honest if I’d received it I probably would have thought somebody was pulling my leg as well. But James Close sent me a phone number & I explained the situation, he seemed genuinely shell shocked and shining example of a chef who just wants to cook good food. The tell tale sign for me when I’ve written a decent post, is that starred chefs recommend it to others of the same ilk, 41 ReTweets & 107 ‘likes’ from Facebook speaks volumes for my Michelin 2013 post.
2012 also saw a revamp in terms of the premier post of the month. On or around the 1st of the month I used to write about the upcoming month’s produce & what was in season. That was only ever going to last for 12 months, as nothing is going to change substantially in nature, so I had to find a replacement. Now at the start of the month there is the preview to up & coming food festivals, the transition to the new posts have been well received, especially during the summer months when there is always something going on. Whilst the flow of recipes has somewhat slowed in 2012 the format has been developed for Chefhermes.com . So many food bloggers do recipes it’s hard to make your own stand out from the madding crowd. Good technique & images will only go so far. Yet as I see it so many bloggers sell their readers short. Why only do one recipe? This is where I made the decision to be different, generally speaking when recipes appear on the blog they utilise a core ingredient. In 2012 those ingredients were as varied as they come: Goat; Honey; Cheese biscuits; Cherries; Elderflower; Tea; Marmalade and Pollens. On top of this, were the sort after recipes for The Ultimate Chocolate Brownie & California Rolls. Needless to say, there will be more to come this year.
One of the main reasons it seems that people read the blog or follow me on the social networks, is the level of news or rumours & gossip that I post on a semi regular basis. So let’s examine the hits & misses of the past 12 months: A New Challenge for Chris Staines – Moves to The Abbey Hotel, Bath.
Posted 14th Feb Appears on Caterersearch 2 days later & 1 day later for Big Hospitality
Andrew Turner is placed on gardening leave whilst at Wiltons, then subsequently leaves.
Posted 4th April Appears on Caterersearch & Big Hospitality next day
Chris Meredith & others to leave Coworth Park.
Posted 19th April Appears on Big Hospitality & Caterersearch same day (although missing some of the other departures I mention)
Carry on Heckfield – Peter Quinion announced as new Executive Chef.
Posted on 18th May Never appeared on either Caterersearch or Big Hospitality, but may have been mentioned during the release for Skye Gyngell.
Musical Chairs @ Lime Wood – Sadly I got part of the story wrong.
Posted on 26th May Appears on Caterersearch 12th June & Big Hospitality a day later.
Blue Skye Thinking – Skye Gyngell named as new head food person for Heckfield place.
Posted 30th May Appears on Catersearch 29th June & Big Hospitality a day earlier
And still it rumbles on at Coworth – New Executive chef named, along with another departure.
Posted 8th June Appears on Caterersearch 12th June & Big Hospitality not at all
What the heck is going on at Heckfield Place
Post 7th November Appears on Caterersearch 26th November & Big Hospitality not at all
As I’ve said many times before, if I post a story I do it first. There is no point in me coming second place to Caterersearch or BigHospitality, and I’m not a replacement for them either as they are far better placed & staffed to fill that position than me. As much as all of the above has made 2012 a roller-coaster, it wouldn’t have been possible without the support around me. Obviously thanks go to my parents for their support, my dad sometimes comments on the posts I write & takes a big interest in how the blog is doing. Fellow chefs & bloggers alike, Jon Jones & Simon Dow, both witty and interesting people from different areas of the culinary spectrum, along with Mark Adams from CorpulentCapers.com. A South Wales blogger whom I’ve met up with several times over the year, we’ve had a great lunch (if a little spicy) in a Chinese restaurant in Cardiff & met up at Abergavenny food festival. Salt Media should also get a mention for their handy work in designing my new logo, which made an appearance in 2012. But the biggest thanks must go to my finacée, without her love, support & belief, ChefHermes.com wouldn’t be where it is today. A big thanks goes to you, the reader, the follower or the friend. I appreciate every single time you all visit the blog. Here’s to 2013.