Judging Blog Success- Chefs Move to Schools

Over the past year or so, I have been struggling with the idea that my blog wasn’t very well-known.  But then I realized that I was using the wrong parameters to judge success. I can’t compare myself to some of the top-notch bloggers that I adore – we each have our own distinguishing feature.  My photographs are good, but they’ll never compare to Shaina‘s, Heidi‘s, or Alice‘s. My recipes will always taste delicious (unless I am writing about a flop) but they won’t be as refined and well tested as Elise‘s. And I’ll never draw in the Gluten Free crowd the way that my friends Stephanie and Shauna do, with their funny and touching stories and delicious recipes.  It’s not like I thought that I’d be acknowledged by, say, the White House, or anything…

But I am confident in my experience as an educator. Maybe it’s the 5 years I spent as a high school teacher, my 10 years as a parent, and the 8 years I spent starting and running a certified green cooking school for kids.  (Some of those overlapped, of course. I am not that old. Yet.)  Yes, I can teach.  So I realized with a huge sigh of relief that I have my own niche.  And I am good at it.

I can teach you how to cook with your kids.  I can teach your family to consider their environmental footprint with the food choices that you make.  I can show teachers how to integrate cooking into their existing curriculum, so that it enriches what their students are learning.  I can inspire kids to make better food choices – for their body and the planet.  And I can inspire communities to come together to use food as a way to help the less fortunate.  Not too shabby.

Chefs Move to Schools

It didn’t hurt to be recognized as an expert by the Washington Post in an article by Jane Black this week.  The article spoke about Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools campaign, which I have been fairly critical of, since I attended the launch in June. From the start, I have voiced my concerns about the sustainability of the program.  Without adequate funding for coordinators or trainers experienced in culinary education (and classroom management), the volunteers may not have the confidence to stick with it and offer long term support for our nation’s children. I never would have thought that my voice would be used in the same article with quotes from Michelle Obama, Sam Kass and Ann Cooper. Wow – that’s good company!Chefs Move to Schools

There are plenty of people that are excited. But I worry that they will lose steam if they don’t have the ability and support to keep it going,” said Michelle Stern, a nutrition educator in San Rafael, Calif., who attended the launch. “You risk getting a bunch of amazing chefs who go in one, two or three times, and that’s it.

…In San Rafael, the school district has hired Stern, who has also long been an involved parent, to help get kids excited about new salad bars. In each of the district’s seven public elementary schools, Stern is holding assemblies at which students can taste new vegetables and learn how to choose and combine flavors.

Washington Post article on the launch of the Chefs Move to Schools program

 And yes, I have one more reason to feel like I am, indeed, competent… My book is coming out in 6 months!  Stay tuned for more information and special announcements about The Whole Family Cookbook – Celebrating the Goodness of Locally Grown Foods.

It took longer than it should have for me to realize what my strengths are.  Have you thought about yours?


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28 Responses to Judging Blog Success- Chefs Move to Schools

  1. Mrs. Q says:

    I think anyone who is doing something questions themselves along the way. Keep up the good work!

  2. I’m so excited for your book!!

  3. I just read a book called “the imposter syndrome”

    or something. I returned it to the library. Mrs. Q is absolutely right—we ALL think we aren’t good enough in certain ways—which is a great thing. If we didn’t, our heads would float away!

    I am in awe of all that you do, and a great big “UH-HUH!” about being in fantastic company at the White House summit and being quoted in the Washington Post.
    It’s a *big* deal, Michelle, you’re doing *great* things. You should be ecstatically thrilled with yourself!

  4. Mindy says:

    I agree with Mrs. Q- questioning is inevitable. I’m a new blogger yet after attending IFBC questioned if I could really be as good as all the talented people I saw there. And then I realized it doesn’t matter. I’m doing this because I love food and I want to meet like-minded people. That’s enough for me, and I am more than capable.

    I’m excited to hear you have a book coming out. Add me to the mailing list and I look forward to picking it up on its release.

  5. Jeanne says:


    Good for you! I think questioning is critical for a healthy society. And I think you are so right–it’s important to find your strengths and talents, and go forward with them. I am so with you on the concept of comparing yourself to others–when I do that, I come away feeling gross about myself.

    Also, I am so excited about your book!! Yay!

  6. Michelle, I read the Washington Post article last week, I found your blog, we tweeted and I became very exited about someone being SO passionate about what they do and making a notable difference, living just up the road.

    I think we should all question ourselves. It’s healthy. It helps us push our boundaries. You have obviously pushed yours!

    Thank you for this post.


  7. Amber says:

    What a wonderful post. Everyone has moments of insecurity, but you are doing a wonderful thing in food education.

  8. Kristen says:

    You are doing such awesome things with your blog and in schools. Your passion and enthusiasm is contagious!

  9. So important to recognize our strengths and weaknesses, Michelle, and just work on doing our best work rather than comparing ourselves to what others are doing. The most important thing is how we affect our readers and ourselves, and if we continue to be introspective and open to learning, our reach will likely grow. I love your insights about cooking with kids and teaching kids to cook!

  10. You are awesome. Just continue to do what you love to do.

  11. Yay for your book!!!

    I feel the same way….it’s hard not to compare….impossible even? 🙂

  12. Michelle: I can totally relate to where you are coming from. It’s hard not to compare ourselves to the food bloggers who have built giant platforms. That said, I know a lot of food professionals who are incredibly successful … even though they do NOT have a blog. They get their message out in many other ways: writing for magazines, doing cooking classes with kids, advocating for better school lunches in their communities, joining a CSA (and telling all their neighbors about it). You share your passion through your blog, Facebook, and Twitter and through all that you do to make your community better. And with a cookbook coming out … what more can I say!
    Getting quoted in the Washington Post is huge. Congrats.

  13. Oh my goodness Michelle, I cannot believe you didn’t think you were well known. When I think about bloggers I know who are making a difference to our kids’ lives, you are at the top of that list. I am glad you have finally realised how much of a difference you are making and how valuable what you are doing is for future generations.

  14. Michelle,

    It’s funny how we measure our own success; so often in comparison to others; and of course, that heads us down the road to ruin because we are all so different; we have different strengths and talents and there is the opportunity for success for so many but not necessarily in the same way that you’ve seen for someone else.

    Would you like to know how many people are most likely envious of you because you have a book coming out? Or because you have a voice that is valued enough to speak at important events?

    It’s good to hear you did a litmus test and rediscovered for yourself what your measure of success is…because from what I see at this distance; you surely have achieved it.

  15. Don’t forget about your passion and commitment. Those are great strengths.

  16. I agree with Mardi. The only person who thought you weren’t totally tearing it up in the blogosphere was you.

    I love what you do. You make a difference every damn day. I think I told you this once in a DM but I have always felt that you were the gold standard in cooking with kids. Everyday you change someone, infect them with your spirit, make some kid who has never been in the kitchen love cooking. You make a real, palpable difference in the world.

    And that has nothing to do with whether your traffic is better or worse than someone else’s. Or whether your pictures are good enough to be in Bon App. Who gives a shit? You are the real deal. The Washington Post gets it and now, you do, too. Awesome!


  17. Gina says:

    I really enjoyed this post. We’ve known each other for over a year but it seems like a dozen, and we’ve both grown in so many ways. I can tell by reading this, that BlogHer Food was just what you needed to bring this all together in your heart and head…and I’m so thrilled for you!

    It’s always a great thing when we can recognize our strengths…and weaknesses. I’ve been doing this lately too. It’s not always fun but I believe that learning these things about ourselves can inspire great work.

    I’m so proud to be your friend, Michelle.

  18. Many many many thanks to you all – I actually got tears in my eyes reading all of your comments and feeling your support and love.

    I can’t tell you how relieved I feel to have finally figured it out. It is hard not to compare ourselves to others – but it is a huge weight off my chest to finally realize that I am successful in my own way. The best part is that I realize that my work matters. It helps kids and their families and for that, I feel blessed.


  19. Michelle,
    I love your honesty about being insecure about your blog! I have been there so many times, but don’t admit it (well, only to my mom!) You are super awesome so no need to doubt yourself. 🙂
    ~ Alison

  20. TidyMom says:

    you are AWESOME!!……..we all compare our selves….I love what you do!!

  21. Joanne Roach says:

    I really really enjoy this blog, so whether it is measurable or not, it’s definitely in my top ten. Your enthusiasm and practically with wee ones is infectious and inspiring. Keep it up!

  22. Maria says:

    Great post. Success is different for everyone and there is plenty of room for ALL bloggers:) I LOVE your blog and YOU! So glad we were able to meet at BlogHer Food. You are a gem! I am so excited for your book!

  23. shauana says:

    As you and I wrote about after you finished this post, it is all about doing the work you love. You do wonderful work. Wonderful.

    Until I went to that conference, I only thought of myself as The Little Engine That Could. Not that many people read my site, I kept thinking. I’m just a gluten-free food writer. I’m not one of the Big Bloggers.

    What the heck does Big Blogger mean anyway?

    I was overwhelmed at that conference by how many people wanted to meet me and Danny (and heck, they probably just wanted to meet Lucy!). We were moved to tears by what people said about what our site means to them. And I will never, ever forget the experience of talking with Molly and Michael Ruhlman in that last panel.

    I really believe that the only thing that matters is that we do the work we love, the work we feel is important. Doubt is not only part of the process. It’s vital. If we didn’t doubt, we’d stop thinking of ourselves as The Little Engine That Could. We’d stop being kind and listening to others.

    I love what you are doing here. Keep doing it.

  24. Thumbs up from a fan over here! You’re in the trenches for a good cause, and that’s plain as plain.

    Can’t wait for that cookbook!

  25. Chez Us says:

    Michelle, you are the first person who comes to mind when I think about who is trying to make a difference in our area’s lunch programs. I don’t even have children but still find it such an important cause as well as educating our children at home about food, where it comes from and how to make it! I applaud you every day!

  26. Damaris says:

    Funny, I always thought of your blog as extremely successful. You have a strong following. You have a strong voice. It’s fantastic to read about your activism. Refreshing even.

  27. Lael Hazan says:

    A teacher who can communicate about food, it is a winning combination and I look forward to following the difference that you will be able to make in the schools in San Rafael and beyond. You have both the enthusiasm and knowledge to achieve positive change! Great post.
    Thank you,

  28. Chris says:

    Yeah! I am so excited for you…for everything! I love what you’re doing and am stoked to see the continued impact you’re having on everyone with whom you come in contact. 🙂

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