Culinary tips and tricks from Sara Wells’ Eagle, Idaho kitchen
By Nicole Sharp
Photography by Pete Grady
Five years ago, two friends, Sara Wells in Idaho, and Kate Jones in Louisiana, started a food blog. The modest goal of Our Best Bites (OBB) was to share recipes and ideas with each other. They never imagined that five years later, their blog would produce two cookbooks, the latest a national bestseller, or that they would be chosen as Better Homes and Gardens’ cook-off winners in 2011.
I spoke with Wells, the Idaho half of OBB, in her model-home perfect kitchen, where the magic happens. When Wells tells the story of meeting Kate Jones and starting a blog together, she laughs, “We didn’t start a blog with the intention of making a living. We both had newborns, and we wanted a hobby.” Together, the two put their love of cooking, Wells’s horticulture and landscape design degree, and Jones’s English degree to good use. The mixture proved to be a recipe for success.
Our Best Bites’ growing popularity has been organic. There was no marketing; Wells and Jones simply shared the website with a handful of friends, and it grew from there. Today they continue to do the same thing: “We have a loyal fan base and readership; it feels like a big family,” says Wells. That family continues to grow as more and more people share the blog, an engaging website with colorful design, warm photos, exceptional writing, and mouthwatering recipes that produce a true comfort food experience.
Wells has always been attracted to the emotional comfort of food. Life happens at the dinner table, and some of her best childhood memories are of her family sitting around the table at dinner time. It was important for her to pass similar memories on to her own family, a challenge in this fast-paced society. Starting with their first blog post, Wells and Jones set out to strike a balance for their busy readers by providing recipes for sophisticated food that was easy and quick to prepare.
Wells and Jones share the production of content on their website. They create a new post each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, every week of the year. If that sounds like a lot of work, it is. For each blog entry, there must first be recipe development. “Sometimes I make the recipe several times before I get it just right,” Wells says. Then the entire cooking process needs to be photographed. The photos, taken by the authors, are the gorgeous food pictures we’ve come to expect from food blogs. Finally, the content is written and the recipe can be posted.
Wells juggles keeping OBB’s website current with the demands of her growing family. Somehow, she managed to write two cookbooks, and she also has side jobs writing content and working on recipes for other companies. Being busy has “caused me to be more productive with my time,” Wells observes.
You might think that a woman who creates such beautiful food sits down to a gourmet meal each and every night. Instead, OBB tries to show normal, busy, everyday women that cooking a nice meal once or twice a week is manageable and can be fun. When I ask her how she manages her life, she replies, “I am normal, just like you, just like everyone else. That’s what we want our readers to know. We’re real moms, living real lives. Sometimes busy schedules get in the way and we reach for a box of macaroni and cheese.”
While Wells still loves food, things have changed since she first began. “Food is constantly on my mind now, but I feel like I’ve become more creative,” she explains. Wells dreams recipes in her sleep and keeps a close eye on food trends and products. In January 2014 OBB will begin selling their own olive oil, dipping oils, and flavored oils on their website.
Has cooking for the past five years become a job for Wells? She doesn’t quite see it that way. “I have always loved cooking, and I still love it,” she says. “It is still a hobby for me. Isn’t that what everyone wants? To love their job?”