The First Year of One Ingredient Chef
This week marks the first anniversary of OneIngredientChef.com and I thought it would be fun to take a moment to look back at this incredible year.
Thirteen months ago, I had no idea I would become a food blogger. I was doing other internet-based work and began to notice that all my free time was spent in the kitchen, experimenting with dishes, plating them, and taking pictures that I started posting on Twitter. Half jokingly, I tweeted, “I think I’m gonna have to give up on life and start a food blog. All I want to do is cook these days…” But slowly, the idea of building a cooking blog around my One Ingredient Diet concept started to sound less and less crazy…
The problem was, I had failed at a lot of internet projects. Over the years I had written several blogs on personal development that didn’t catch fire. I had started a CPC ad network, a real estate virtual tour company, and even an iPhone app business that all went nowhere. Did I really want to try again? Could I ever make money with this? How was a food blog going to succeed with all this competition? In February of last year I actually wrote an entry in my journal titled, “Should I start a food blog?” which outlined all these questions as I tried to decide if this was the right thing to do.
In the end, it wasn’t much of a decision at all. It came down to 6 words from The Icharus Deception by Seth Godin: Do you care enough to fail? For me, this was not about the outcome – a vague definition of “success” or “failure” – but about the joy of creating something meaningful every day. Here was an opportunity to create artwork that I was so passionate about and that could positively impact other people’s lives. The only real failure, as Godin says in the same book, is not having the guts to create the art that you’ve always dreamed of contributing. After that, I jumped in with both feet and spent the next two weeks building this website, buying my first $100 point and shoot camera, and posting my first recipes.
Now, after enjoying 12 of the best months of my life and watching this site grow to 900,000 views, I think following my heart was the right decision.
Year One: By the Numbers
While I don’t plan on being a blogger who blogs about being a blogger, I do want to share a little data from this first year. Some of these numbers are really incredible:
- 112 recipes posted … All freely available forever on this website, and most are available in the downloadable 2013 Archive Cookbook.
- 901,992 Pageviews from 545,482 Visitors … I never could have imagined that this blog would have almost a million hits in its first 12 months.
- 44% Monthly Growth … Amazingly, each month has had an average traffic growth of 44% more visits than the month before it. That type of exponential growth probably can’t continue or we’d have hundreds of millions of visits (bring ‘em on! ) but the sustained growth over this first year has been extraordinary.
- From 23 to 15,152 … One day during this blog’s first week of existence, it received exactly 23 pageviews. In January of this year, after getting featured in a few sources like Buzzfeed and Finding Vegan on the same day, it received 15,000+ pageviews. That’s a difference of 65,800% in 10 months.
- 763,675 Minutes … With 545,000 visitors and an average visit duration of 1:24, we see that you guys spent a crazy amount of time (763,675 minutes) on this blog last year. By comparison, there’s only 525,600 minutes in a year.
5 Most Popular Recipes
It’s always interesting how I can never predict which recipes will be a success. Sometimes I look at a post as I’m about to hit publish and think “this one is going to blow up the internet” and it’s a dud. Other times I think no one will get too excited about the content and it ends up being a smash hit. Who knows… Nevertheless, here’s a countdown of the 5 most viewed recipes:
- #5 with 21,324 Views… Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce – Definitely one of my favorite recipes; cauliflower-based white sauce with tahini and nutritional yeast. Better than the real thing and 146,000% healthier.
- #4 with 22,952 Views… How to Cook Tofu – Helping to cure the tofuitis epidemic, one vegetarian at a time.
- #3 with 32,110 Views… One Ingredient Ice Cream – A truly “one ingredient” recipe that’s a natural fit for this blog. Who knew frozen bananas could be so creamy and delicious?
- #2 with 48,642 Views… Lentil & Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie – This was my first recipe to really go viral and taught me the importance of taking beautiful, striking images. A Pinterest user with 4 million followers pinned it and the rest is history. Oh, and the recipe is great too!
- #1 with 49,668 Views… The Perfect Vegan Pancakes – The recipe that is single-handedly changing the way people eat pancakes. Every day, it’s the most visited page of One Ingredient Chef. People love (finally!) having a fluffy vegan pancake recipe that works.
5 Recipes You Missed
Like all new blogs, I had virtually no traffic when I started and most of my earlier recipes got lost in the shuffle. Literally 99% of my audience discovered this blog long after I posted the Sesame Rice Bowl or Mini Mexican Pizzas. No, these might not have the best writing or pictures, but they are some of the best recipes on this site. So here, I want to highlight my 5 favorite recipes that you (probably) haven’t seen:
- Cashew Cream Crepes with Strawberry Awesomesauce – Do I really need to say more? These crepes are so good, and when paired with a sweetened cashew cream and strawberry reduction? I just.. don’t even.. Go make these now.
- Sesame Rice Bowl – Stolen from personal development blogger Steve Pavlina, this is perhaps my all-time favorite meal of all time. I could eat it every day.
- Mini Mexican Pizzas – These were a HUGE hit when I posted them. All 7 people who read my blog loved them. It’s basically a super healthy and delicious version of Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza and it’s one of my favorite appetizers or snacks.
- Setas Tacos – By thinly slicing the mushrooms and allowing them to reduce and caramelize in soy sauce, we develop something very similar to steak (in a good way) that makes these tacos truly special.
- Cashew Cheese Quesadillas – I’ve used cashew cheese multiple times over the year, but this is one of my favorite implementations. It’s firmer and spreadable, which makes the perfect base for a kicked-up quesadilla with corn and black beans.
The Revolution is Happening
My reason for sharing this with you (in addition to saying THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for making all of this possible) is to show you the growing power of real food. Yes, there is a long way to go, but the work we’re all doing to spread the message of a whole-food, plant-based diet is having an impact.
People are beginning to understand that we cannot continue to eat ourselves into an early grave. The personal, social, environmental, and economic costs are just too great. It is a fact that most of the people you know are on track to live limited lives and die prematurely as a result of something as stupid as the ingredients they choose to put on their plates. Open heart surgery, insulin shots, limited mobility, and long hospital stays… and what do we get in exchange for all this suffering? A bag of chips and a hamburger?
The good news, though, is that the solution is as simple as the problem. So many of these challenges simply fade away when we begin cooking real, whole, plant-based, “one ingredient” food. Behind the glossy pictures and recipes on this website, that is my real message. I want people to live healthier, happier, more fulfilling lives by improving their relationship with food. But no amount of theory or data or talking is going to change a thing – it starts and ends with cooking. Until we make better choices about the ingredients we choose to eat, and until we start cooking the right types of food, nothing will change.
I absolutely love cooking and there is not one thing I would rather do all day than develop tasty recipes to share with you, but there is more to it than that. Cooking is the medium I use to spread the message; I want people to understand that healthy plant-based cooking is just as easy and delicious as any other type of cooking. As my motto says: “I want you to become healthier than ever before while cooking the best food of your life” and I think this first year has shown a few people that this is not only possible, but virtually guaranteed when you begin cooking real food.
Even looking beyond our own health, there is another reason why the One Ingredient Diet is so important. The average American diet is responsible for the death and suffering of as many as 198 animals per year. By sharing this message that vegan cooking doesn’t have to be boring or limited, we can save the lives of millions of animals who are needlessly suffering to satisfy our addictions. For example, if just 1.5% of the 394,000 unique visitors to this blog realized that vegan cooking isn’t as radical as it sounds and made the switch to a plant-based diet, that would save the lives of over 1 million animals each year. That’s huge. And when we factor in the environmental impact of livestock (which account for 20% of global greenhouse gasses), it begins to look even better. Producing livestock is so inefficient that just one pound of steak is the equivalent to burning 3/4 gallon of oil. A meal of pasta and vegetables requires just a tiny fraction of that, and it would be much cheaper and healthier too.
A simple, healthy, delicious plant-based, “one ingredient” diet makes sense on every single level. And the fact that this blog can exist is just one small piece of a much larger movement that is taking place. I am so encouraged by the progress we are all making together. These last 12 months have been the best of my life and I’m so grateful that I’ve gotten to share them with you. We’re just getting started.