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.

Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            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.
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            5 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
            Show more [+]
            4 Program(s) Found
            • Gives students the opportunity to earn their associate’s degree in the culinary arts field in less than 15 months or bachelor’s degree in the food service management field in 2.5 years through their year-round schedule.
            • Located in Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia.
            • Offers externship experiences to students for experience in the field.
            • Hosts regular career fairs for employer recruitment.
            • Has student housing available.
            • Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC).
            Show more [+]
            • 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.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            5 Program(s) Found
            • 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.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 12:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
            Show more [+]
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Students get real-world experience through the required externship at the end of the program.
            • Curriculum includes laboratory sessions, academic preparation and hands-on experience.
            • Program objectives are to provide students with skills needed for cooking wholesome, attractive, food preparations and to assist graduates in obtaining positions in the food service industry.
            • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
            • Has campuses in Melbourne, Sarasota, and Tallahassee, Florida
            Show more [+]