An Interview with Beth Moncel, the Chef Behind 'Budget Bytes'
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Meet Beth Moncel, the microbiologist, cook, and blogger extraordinaire behind the incredibly successful food blog, Budget Bytes. I first stumbled on the website years ago, when I was still a student and desperately looking for decent, and cheap, recipes. Today, Beth is the proud author of Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half. A food lover and Budget Bytes fan myself, I decided to ask Beth a few questions about her background, the blog, and what future surprises she has in store.
Q: Who’s Beth?
I'm a 35 year old woman living in New Orleans, LA. I hold a bachelors degrees in both Nutritional Science and Clinical Laboratory Science. Before going full time with my blog, I worked as a microbiologist in a hospital laboratory. Now I get to feed my creativity and entrepreneurial drive by working on my blog full time.
Q: Where did you learn to cook?
I started cooking at a very young age with my mother. We had a family of seven, so it seemed like she was always in the kitchen. I hung around out of boredom and ended up learning the basics. I thought I was a good cook when I started my blog seven years ago, but I’ve learned so much since then that I would almost say that I’ve learned everything I know through the blogging process.
Q: Why start a food blog?
I was bored and broke! Blogging is free (in the beginning—it can get quite expensive the more you grow) and it gave me a project to keep my mind busy. I barely knew what a blog was when I started, so I just googled “how to start a blog” and dove right in!
Q: When Budget Bytes first kicked off, did you see yourself continuing with it seriously?
No, not at all. It was purely a personal project in the beginning. A few friends had expressed interest in what I was doing, but I thought it would end there. After getting some exposure through food photography sites, it was clear that there were a lot of other people who were interested in how to cook on a budget, so I kept going.
Q: Tell us about your book. Will there be a second?
I was contacted by an editor at Penguin in 2012. She was a personal fan of my blog and could see how much of a need there was for the information I was providing. It took 18 months of very hard work before it was published in February 2014. While it was an excellent experience, I think it makes more sense to keep publishing online, where readers can get the information for free and it doesn’t take so much work on my end.
Q: I think it’s safe to say your blog has been an immense success. Looking back, what do you attribute to that success?
Yes, it was kind of a perfect storm of circumstances that made it what it is today! Not only did I start the project when food blogging was really becoming a thing and the great recession was just starting, but blogging also happens to involve several of my passions: food, photography, graphic design, coding, and data analysis. I literally love every single aspect of it, so it’s easy to throw my entire being into it.
Q: What advice can you give to the aspiring food bloggers around the globe?
Do it for you, first and foremost. Don’t do it for the endgame (book deal, internet celebrity status, or work-from-home lifestyle). If you don’t love what you’re doing, you won’t enjoy the long hard journey that it takes to get to that endgame. :)
Q: What are your future plans for Budget Bytes?
There are SO MANY open doors at this moment that I’m having a hard time choosing one path to follow. The internet is constantly changing, so it seems like there is a new opportunity to expand or explore new avenues. Right now I’d love to dive more into video and I hope to put together some downloadable recipe collections or meal plans soon. If only there were more hours in the day!
Q: Who’s your favourite chef?
I don’t think I have one. I don’t pay attention to celebrity chefs much because I don’t have cable television and I’m always too busy working to explore what other people are doing.
Q: What’s your favourite cook book?
I rarely look at cookbooks anymore, but the classic Better Homes and Gardens cookbook with the red and white gingham cover will always hold a special place in my heart. I remember exploring that book cover to cover several times over as I grew up. It was my inspiration for including step by step photos in my blog posts.