Can you write a recipe?

I’ve been at my freelance job (recipe development/testing and food writing/editing) for 4 weeks now. I’ll have this position until January, with talk of it becoming permanent, which is exciting.

About 70% of the content I’m working on is ghost written, which basically means I’m writing FOR other chefs, on their behalf — they get the byline, while I do the writing and recipe development/testing. I’m also cleaning up recipes they’ve poorly written. These chefs have many more years of industry experience than I do and boast impressive resumes, yet they can’t write an understandable, easy-to-follow recipe, which puzzles me. Developing this skillset will make you more marketable in the industry, especially if you go on to be a sous chef, executive chef, or if you take my path into food writing, research and development. How could the culinary school community have skipped over such an important part of becoming a chef?

My school is no different. I learned how to write recipes on my own, by reading books and other recipes from reliable sources to develop my own style guide — it wasn’t something formally taught in my culinary school, except for the brief project we worked on in culinary management class.

Learning to write a proper recipe that can be easily understood, followed and successfully executed is like learning a brand new language with strange new rules, phrases and abbreviations. For example, the way you word measurements in your list of ingredients is important. One cup of chopped parsley is not the same thing as one cup of parsley, chopped. Think about where the word "chopped" is placed in the sentence:

One cup of chopped parsley means that you've CHOPPED the parsley before you measured it.
One cup of parsley, chopped, means that you've MEASURED the parsley before you chopped it.

The two descriptions will yield completely different amounts, so you have to be careful you're using the correct placement of your verbs and adjectives.

The style guide I follow at work is 50+ pages long, with descriptions just like the one above, along with other key phrases, like “bring to boiling” instead of “bring to a boil.” But, because I had learned about these methods ahead of time, it’s like second nature now, and my recipes are stronger and better for learning it.

I keep the following recipe writing and food books with me at all times — they’re what I used to initially learn the process, and are now my favorite reference guides:

The Recipe Writer’s Handbook, Revised and Updated
by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann and Jane Baker
I keep this book with me at all times, always finding a new writing tip every time I open it. The book goes into greater detail, dissecting recipes and descriptions.

Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Restaurant Reviews, Articles, Memoir, Fiction and More
by Dianne Jacob
Dianne describes the art of "showing rather than telling" perfectly in her book, and shares helpful food writing examples from newspapers, books and magazine articles.

Food Lover’s Companion
by Sharon Tyler Herbst
A favorite reference book of mine, it contains almost 6,000 listings on subjects related to food and drink — ingredients, techniques, spellings and pronounciations.

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            Baker College is the largest independent college in Michigan with the most focused approach to education and training available. Our mission is to prepare you for meaningful employment.

            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
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            • Flexible Scheduling
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            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
            • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
            • Offers numerous scholarship opportunities that can help students save up to $750 per term on their tuition.
            • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
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            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
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            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
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            4 Program(s) Found
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
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            3 Program(s) Found
            L'Ecole Culinaire , Saint Louis
            • Offers educational opportunities for the aspiring, career-minded chef.
            • Students are trained by professional chefs and spend the majority of their final term working in the campus restaurant to learn all phases of the culinary industry.
            • St. Louis campus offers new Food Truck Entrepreneurship courses.
            • Has a student-run food truck that tours around St. Louis.
            • All campuses have a public restaurant where food is prepared and served by students.
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            • A part of the Select Education Group (SEG).
            • Offers several scholarship and financial aid opportunities for students who qualify.
            • California campuses accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and accreditation for the Salem campus from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
            • 4 Campuses located in Clovis, Modesto, and Redding in California, and Salem, Oregon.
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