By Mary Daily
Published Jan 1, 2012 12:00 AM
Sarah Gim M.B.A. '03 thinks about food preparation all day, every day, but almost never cooks. Running an Internet "food porn" website out of her Los Angeles home office leaves little time or energy for the kitchen. Besides, "I love to go out," she says.
This is not your typical cyber-food site. Gim runs Tastespotting.com, a self-described "community-driven potluck" that is one of the most coveted online placements a food blogger can land. An aggregator of the best of food on the Internet, ad-supported TasteSpotting gets as many as 1,000 submissions a day from all over the world and more than 5 million clicks a month from visitors looking for inspiration for their own creations.
To win a TasteSpot, a blogger must submit photos that are sharp and well-composed and show food that looks enticing. And the post must link to a site that offers something substantial for readers. Gim carefully considers each photo and often marks some as "maybes" that she'll assess again later. She hates to say no, and when she does, she tries to write a thoughtful response, offering constructive advice for next time.
The bloggers she rejects occasionally bite back in angry e-mails, because landing on Gim's site means steep peaks in traffic to the bloggers' sites. "I sometimes feel like one of the most hated people in the food world," she says.
Gim moved around a lot growing up but came to the San Francisco Bay Area as an undergraduate to attend UC Berkeley, where she was surrounded by restaurant choices. That's when her love affair with food took off. After grad school, she began her career with an interactive agency and then an Internet start-up — jobs that paid well but proved stressful. In the meantime, she remained obsessed with food and food magazines. So in 2005, just for fun, she melded her passion for food with her experience in online marketing to launch her own blog, The Delicious Life.
Two years later, seeking an additional outlet, she started TasteSpotting, at first gathering all the photos herself. Soon, food bloggers came calling and their numbers grew until Gim had to hire photo editors to assist her. Today, she finds her current job more time-consuming than any previous ones, but that's OK. She likes to focus on food 24/7.
"I think about making some of the tempting recipes," she says. "I'll think, ‘It would be great to have this buttermilk fried chicken tonight.' "
But ,meanwhile, submissions keep coming, and she's glued to the screen.