Lao Yang never thought his recipes would win more than 200,000 fans. His first recipe book will be hitting store shelves soon.
A late bloomer in the culinary arts, Yang’s interest in cooking began with a chance visit to MeishiChina.com only four years ago.
Yang is one of millions of young people who share their own recipes on MeishiChina, today the country’s largest recipe website. More than 85 percent of its recipes are user contributed.
Its founder Yu Hang is a big fan of gourmet dining. He began developing the site in 2004, his second year of working in Beijing.
Cooking was a tough task at the time, as there were few good recipe websites. His determination and support of user recipes set a trend early on.
Many of his first recipes came from a group of housewives who offered simple and attractive food.
He brought the concept of community to the website in 2008 by blending social networking elements into the design, allowing users to share recipes and interact with each other.
Yu said what makes the website such a success is its attitude of encouragement.
“Many users turned to MeishiChina to find recipes right after they graduated. As time went on, they transformed from tourists into recipe contributors,” he said.
“The website is no longer just a platform for merely learning how to cook, but one where users can communicate about the fine points of gourmet culture,” he said.
MeishiChina has helped catapult several of its top bloggers into superstar chefs – a more exciting world than their day jobs as managers.
“They tend to pursue a high quality of life and care a lot about taste. In fast-paced city life, being able to cook for oneself and family on the weekend can be an empowering leisure activity,” Yu said. [vc_single_image image=”3134″ image_size=”full” frame=”noframe” full_width=”no” lightbox=”no” link_target=”_self” shadow=”no” width=”1/2″ el_position=”first”] [vc_single_image image=”3133″ image_size=”full” frame=”noframe” full_width=”no” lightbox=”no” link_target=”_self” shadow=”no” width=”1/2″ el_position=”last”]
The website has attracted a few users from abroad. MOMO, a young Chinese mom living in Japan, frequently shares her recipes and gives tips on how to arrange foods to resemble popular cartoon characters.
But although the website was popular, Yu did not land on a business model until 2011.
With nearly 1 million active users, Yu began to think about cooperating with major brands. Most of the company’s profits used to come from advertisers, but more than half today come from online contests.
MeishiChina currently helps organize Everyone is a Gourmet. Last year, the contest drew more than 5,000 entries.
Baidu has also helped to boost the website’s traffic. Yu said MeishiChina is the top result for more than 7,500 gourmet-related keywords on the popular search engine.
After two years of cooperation, inbound traffic from Baidu has almost doubled.
Yu’s next task is figuring out how to attract more people to contribute content and how to inspire old users to stick with the website.
He is planning several new features, such as enabling users to see related dishes below each recipe. For example, a page with a recipe for chicken wings would also show another recipe for barbecued wings with scallions.