When a tired schoolteacher in Fargo turns to Allrecipes.com for supper suggestions, he probably isn't looking for peppers stuffed with buckwheat bulgur or cucumbers with mustard. But those recipes recently anchored the popular website's homepage in Poland, one of 17 countries represented in Allrecipes growing global division.
The Seattle-based "digital food brand," which has been disseminating home cooks' recipes since 1997, is redoubling efforts to upgrade the content of its international sites. Allrecipes this summer recruited 17 foreign students studying in the U.S. to serve as recipe collectors in their home countries; each intern is charged with gathering 1000 recipes that reflect native cooking traditions.
"When the sites are small, getting people to come to the site can be difficult," communications director Stephanie Robinett explains.
Without much prompting, amateur cooks around the world flocked to the U.S. edition of Allrecipes because of its sheer size: Community members have contributed more than one million recipes to the site. But Robinett says international users were frustrated by recipes which called for ingredients which weren't available in their hometowns. So Allrecipes in 2008 launched a United Kingdom version of its site, quickly followed by sites in Australia, Germany and France.
"The amount of growth has been astonishing," Robinett says. "It's staggering. We were not expecting it."
Allrecipes has since added sites in countries where the Meredith Corporation, which earlier this year purchased the brand, ran Reader's Digest offices. Years of soliciting recipes for contests and cookbooks had left Meredith with a trove of recipes to populate the new sites in Asia and South America, although Allrecipes hopes to stimulate additional contributions through social media.
"What we know is people love to experiment with recipes and love to tell people about their recipes," Robinett says.
That guiding principle has translated to other cultures without much trouble, although Robinett admits the site has encountered the most skepticism in France, the nation which birthed celebrity chefdom and the Michelin Guide.
"Of all the countries, France is where people are less trusting of home cooks, but we're still growing really strongly there," she says.
Recipes from the international sites, all of which are administered from Allrecipes headquarters on Pine Street, are now being translated into English so Allrecipes can offer "authentic" home cooking ideas to its U.S. readers.
"We know our cooks have really great dishes, but our version of a crepe is different from what you might find in France," says Esmee Williams, vice president for brand marketing.
But Robinett says there's at least one commonality among users in France, India, Argentina and the U.S. The most popular dishes in every country feature the exact same protein.
"It's always chicken," she says.