Case Study - Floating Kitchen

Floating Kitchen, R+D Case Study

July 18th, 2014
By: Delicious Detector


I first started working with Liz Harris of Floating Kitchen in late 2012. Liz was thinking about making a transition from a traditional career as a cancer research scientist to a career as a professional food blogger. Faced with the twin dilemmas of being new to Seattle, and wanting to switch careers, there are not many documented case studies, or “how to” guides for making a transition as abrupt as this, but we knew that others had done similar transitions in the past, so it was doable.

Using information gleaned from other successful full-time food bloggers and our own independent research, we were able to develop a plan that got her setup for blogging and email. As well as slowly get more involved with experimentation in the kitchen, and help her get familiar with the local restaurant and food scene in Seattle, before moving onto creating a presence on social networks.

In this case study I dive into the major pieces of the project that we focused on at various points in time.


  • A good name
  • Blog setup and usable
  • Backups
  • Reliable and easy to use email
  • Tracking and statistics of web site visitors
  • Unique recipes and content
  • Blog comment moderation 
  • Social Network management
  • Tools and Equipment
  • Summary

A Name is Everything

The first thing that we worked on was to come up with potential names for Liz’s food blog. A good name is everything these days, and if the name you get stuck on in your head is being used by some other enterprise, it can be crushing to your spirit. It’s best to spend a little time researching a good name before going down any rabbit holes. The brain storming began! Since Liz lives on a floating home, a good portion of it dedicated to the kitchen area, the name Floating Kitchen appeared to me one evening, and after some deliberation that was the name that she liked the most for the project. We registered the domain name with long standing domain registrar We selected them as the registrar based on my experience with them over a ten year period, plus their DNS management is easy to work with. I’ve found that if you use them only for domain registration, they are solid. It’s when people use Godady’s other services/products that folks can run into issues.

Liz was already a wizard in the kitchen, so getting a web site for blogging and email setup before working on anything else would be the next priority.

Blogging Engine

We had a decent budget to work with in the start, so for the sake of time, and to avoid “re-doing” things we decided to skip the easy “starter blog” and go straight for a professional looking blog from the start. We chose battle tested WordPress as the blogging engine, and decided to host the site with Liquid Web, who has been in the business a long time with a good reliability reputation. We chose their basic Linux shared hosting plan as it would offer plenty of power for the young blog to “get off the water”, while keeping the expenses to a minimum.

For the blog itself we worked with a great designer, Abby, from the local Seattle design shop Iconic Web to create a custom WordPress theme for Floating Kitchen.


No blog setup is complete without proper backups. Sure, your web host probably has RAID and several layers of redundancy, but making your own backups is still a critical piece of your weekly workflow for ultimate safeguard. We chose to do weekly photo and WordPress database backups to an external hard drive while also using a 3rd party online backup service named SpiderOak, though we also looked at BackBlaze.
With this system in place Liz could sleep with peace of mind.


Email is something that many new bloggers execute poorly on, so we wanted to avoid that pitfall with this project. Many bloggers just getting started will take the time to register a custom domain name, and use it for their site/blog web address, but still use a email address in various places, including but not limited to business cards! Ouch! Not only is this extremely puzzling, it is also un-professional and looks bad on a business card. Worse yet, many bloggers will use the poorly managed and maintained email servers that their web hosting service offers as a side project to their web hosting plans. Many times these “included” email plans have poor reliability, and incoming or outgoing messages get dropped frequently. There is nothing worse than missing an important message from a potential blog sponsor when you are just getting started. Or even a message from a fan or someone who wants to collaborate.

We chose Google Apps for Business for the email hosting for Liz was already familiar with the Gmail style web mail that Google Apps for Business offers, which was nice. Plus there is the full office suite of apps and storage space as a side bonus.

Google email servers are some of the most reliable systems on the entire Internet, so it’s tough to beat them in terms of reliability and message delivery. World class spam filtering is another nice feature. The other bonus for using Google Apps email hosting is the mobile OS integration. There is native Gmail apps for both iOS and Android. Something that is important for a food blogger who might be at one of the local farmers markets when an important message comes through and warrants a fast response.

Being able to partition her personal emails from her blogging related emails right from the start, was a key to success.

Web Site Tracking and Statistics

We chose for web site reporting as they have an easy to digest interface that gives you all the important information without cluttering up your screen. StatCounter does not overwhelm you in details that will not help you, but rather will allow you to focus on details that will serve to help your mission. This was a key item for Liz: Understanding what readers were actually reading, and what kinds of devices they were reading her content on.

Blog Comments

This is such a difficult area. Many people are moving to a hosted solution such as Disqus, that follows you around to which ever blog you find yourself on. I think it’s the right solution in many cases. After tallying up some numbers after a few months we found that the ratio of real comments to spammers was low enough, and manageable enough that using the built in WordPress commenting was good for the blog’s needs. Whatever you choose here, this is something that always needs monitoring and evaluation, to determine if what your currently doing is the best approach.

Social Networks

This is a really, really important piece of the food blogger scene. The key thing with social networks is to “claim” your name, brand, etc. as early as possible on your journey, but not to actively post/comment or get overwhelmed with all of them at the same time. You should be focusing on your content first, and then as time allows, learn the maneuvers and tricks of each network so you can be fast in a routine you develop. Give yourself time to be proficient and skilled at each one before adding the next one into your routine. Have a routine, and stick to it!
Most important: -Do not be reactionary -Do not wait for commenters/reactions -Did I say it already, have a routine! -Social networks come and go, be sure to stay in the know of new stuff popping up.   -Occasionally give yourself extra time to discover new people, hashtags, content, etc., but do this sparingly.

Pinterest was something that Liz starting experimenting with early on. The demographic that is on Pinterest is also likely to be interested in the recipes and photographs that Liz is creating. No brainer here. Pinterest drove a lot of traffic to the blog from it’s earliest days.

Twitter was the next social network we started experimenting with and was crucial for connecting with other food bloggers and getting recipes exposed to a range of people. Liz has a 30 minute period of the day dedicated to managing and interacting with Twitter and the people using it. This has been the best approach, so it does not consume her whole day and be a constant distraction to what she is trying to work on.

Instagram is something that Liz adopted later on, but it has been crucial in connecting with readers and potential sponsors. On average Liz posts a photo or two a day to Instagram, mostly food related, but there are some other gems tossed in.

Facebook was something that I encouraged Liz to cross post her recipes to early on because her large network of FB friends always had good feedback to share, some of them trying out her recipes and posting comments. Eventually though, she needed to expand beyond the people that she knew, so I encouraged Liz to create an actual Facebook Page for Floating Kitchen linked to her personal account. Within a relatively short period of time the FK Facebook page had more “likes” than Liz had friends associated with her personal account, so this was a great move and has greatly expanded her reach. It also helped her to partition her friends/family from her professional endeavors.

A note about not letting social networks consume your life as a blogger:

There is a balance one must achieve in life, especially when you are a one person operation. You need to have a presence on social networks, but you can’t let them eat up all your time. One way that I encouraged Liz to handle this with Floating Kitchen is to turn off the notification sounds on her iPhone for all social networks, and instead, display them on the lock screen until the next time she uses her phone. We found this the best approach because the social networks are never going to go away. Let those notifications build up, and be content with them.

By having designated periods of the day to attend to notifications, you are not reactionary to every single tweet or comment that is directed at you. It’s sort of the difference between a restaurant that takes reservations, and one that does not.

The attitude is that “I know I’m going to have to respond to a commenter, etc., it’s my business in fact, I’ll get to it when it’s time to get to it.” In short, you must treat social networks as professional blogger differently than you do as “regular user” with friends and family. The volume of stuff coming your way is mostly manageable for one person, if you go about it correctly.

Your goal should always be to spend more of your days creating quality content/photos/videos/whatever for your readers and followers then to be managing and interacting with social networks.

As a blogger, social networks are a channeling medium to get readers to your content.
Keep that in mind and you will have success.

Don’t be afraid to bring in someone else you trust to post/comment/moderate on social networks when you feel that you need to focus more on your content, or the core of what you are working on.

Recipes and Content

While Liz gets full credit for all her creations, I am full-circle and did act as a true delicious detector, contribute feedback, ideas, and inspirations to a number of recipes including issuing a couple “floating kitchen challenges”. My highly tuned senses of smell and taste were critical components of early recipe development. My savvy for articulating whats missing or what needs to be increased/decreased in a recipe development cycle leads to rapid improvement and finalization.

Some of my favorites:

Tools & Equipment

Liz started out doing food photography with her iPhone 4S, and was able to create many high quality photos. She soon found that any unfavorable lighting conditions would render what would otherwise be a great photo, into a less than stellar image. The optics in the iPhone 4S, are simply not flexible enough for a range of lighting. The approach I advised Liz to take was to continue to use the iPhone camera, but apply reasonable, creative filters by using web sites like Pixlr-o-Matic while she saved up funds for a professional camera with interchangeable lenses. As the recipes themselves were solid, she would be able to re-make the recipes in the future, and re-photograph them when she had a better camera to capture her creations with.

After some time, Liz was ready to get a new camera for food photography, and after some research I advised her to get the Nikon 1 J3. The J3 had good reviews for being a newish camera. Most importantly, it had good ‘auto’ settings that would not overwhelm someone used to a point-and-shoot iPhone camera. The J3 also has some manual control features, will shoot RAW images and has a 1 inch sensor. It’s a really good value for what you get, and she was able to find a really good price shopping online at Costco Wholesale that included two lenses and a camera/lens bag.

As far as photo editing software, Liz also does some post processing of photos in Photoshop and Lightroom.

The list of tools and equipment that a food blogger needs is too long to cover here effectively so I’ll end here for brevity.

## Summary The transition from research scientist to food blogger was not always easy or straightforward for Liz, but always worthwhile. It seems that Liz finds the process of recipe development very similar to work in a laboratory setting, but more rewarding, and enjoys the photography and writing portions as well.


In Autumn of 2014 Liz abandoned her actual floating kitchen in Seattle to move to a barrier island in Massachusetts. There she continues to create delicious new recipes and blog at and post them on various social media networks.

Work with me!

If you have an idea for a project or something that you want to revive and add a breath of fresh air too, let’s work together! Email me at: [email protected]