Apr 25, 2011

Roos Brekelmans of Good Food in Berlin

It's been a while since I introduced the last culinary blog project on GCB, so I thought it was about time to portray Roos of Good Food in Berlin - a personal, English language restaurant guide to Germany's capital. How useful!

Follow the jump to find out about Roos's first blog which had to be deleted for being too successful, why she brings her camera to work each day, and why, to her, a blogger's gender doesn't really matter...

What's your name, how old are you, and what do you do for a living (or all day, for that matter)?

Hi, I am Roos Brekelmans and I am twenty-five years old. Originally I am Dutch (read: I am from the Netherlands) but I have been living and working in Berlin for the last three years. I work for an online video agency in Berlin Mitte and eat away at the city's restaurants for Good Food in Berlin. I am in the process of applying for a PhD in Medienwissenschaften (Media Studies) and I love my cat.

How long have you been blogging? How did you get around to blogging?

I have been blogging since the Internet was available in my life, which must have been around 1999. I was thirteen years old and coded my very first HTML website. As soon as I saw that people could 'make' these websites that everyone could see, I did not rest until I had built and written my very own. Back then I was still in high school and I made a fun website on my school and wrote an online diary, basically.

Sadly, in the end, the website became so popular, my high school made me delete it. (Apparently, pre-SEO, my website was the first hit that the school got, which they did not deem very representative.)

Since I have always loved writing and always dreamt of being a writer, I saw the Internet as a way through which I could express my literary ambitions and I continued building and writing blogs ever since.

What's your blog called and why?

My blog adventure at the moment is Good Food in Berlin, which basically says all. It is about good food in the wonderful city of Berlin. Where to eat it, how to eat it, and other culinary related information revolving around Berlin.

What are you blogging about? Why?

I blog about food, restaurants and their experience. It is not a bad food/ good food blog, I do not rate restaurants in a traditional kind of point system. I write about the experience of a place - and of course, how good the food tastes is connected to that. But more importantly I describe what kind of a restaurant it is, for what kind of occasion one would go there and how I ended up there.

Good Food in Berlin is a mixture of a diary and a restaurant critic - sometimes I write paragraphs filled with personal history. It really is my online baby and since I have noticed that people actually really enjoy and appreciate the website, I have been looking at ways to make it better. A Dutch saying says "one should never rest on one's loins", aka, never enjoy success and not keep improving it. At the moment I am starting with video reviews of restaurants, which is really exciting. Short interviews with restaurant owners and managers, combined with a view of the food, a chat with the customers. I hope it will catch on.

Who's your target audience?

I target English-speaking people living in, or visiting Berlin. Expats, international Germans and tourists, basically. I would love to start with a German sub-page as well, but my German is simply not flawless and I would need a native speaker to translate everything. Most people in Berlin speak a decent amount of German, though - and there are quite a few German restaurant websites out there already. So I basically hopped into the nice of the English reviews that go beyond a travel brochure.

Who designed your blog? How much was that? In case you designed your own layout: Where did you learn how to?

I designed my blog. I love coding and doing graphics and I have been doing it for years and years. I taught myself all of it, with online tutorials and some creativity. When a webpage's design does not feel good to me, I cannot write properly.

Which software and which host do you use? Can you recommend them?

I use Photoshop, which is essential to anyone who enjoys pretty designs. For my videos I use iMovie and Final Cut Pro, both are also fantastic. I host at all-inkl, only because my old boss recommended the place and I've been getting my domains there ever since. But they are very quick with their support service, which is both in German and English.

What role play photos, MP3-files or video clips on your blog? If you use them, would you mind showing us one?

Photographs are very important to a food-related blog. I recently purchased a new camera and a new camcorder to capture better and more visuals. I do have to bring them along to work every day, as I end up going out to dinner spontaneously a lot, so it was difficult to pick the right devices for my needs (good quality without having to carry a photographic elephant along all day).

Videos are going to be a vital part of the blog soon, too. I am aiming to produce one video review each week and I will initially test the success on youtube and see where it goes from there. The videos are also a great way to get in touch with the people involved in the restaurants. I think service and friendliness is always one of the most important things to eating out and getting some behind the screen info through a video, I think, can really help understand and appreciate a restaurant a lot more.

How many readers do you have? How many would you like to have? Does their number matter to you at all?

To me, the readers definitely matter. Especially feedback through comments, the Facebook page and twitter is the best. When I see response, I feel that I am not writing for no one and not sending the text off into the big void of the online. Participation is really important to the blog, as people should recommend their own restaurants and leave comments if they have experienced a certain place of their own.
At the moment the blog gets around one hundred of visitors a day, which I would love to see go up.

Can you learn how to blog? Do you need to know a lot about computers? Do you have any advice for beginners?

I think the most important thing about a blog and wanting to be successful at it is patience. Especially because most of us start doing it on the side. You will not get millions of visitors and if that is your only goal, you should probably not start. The secret of a good blog is continuous quality and doing it because you enjoy doing it.

Also, play on your strength. Do not start a blog on something you do not know that much about or are not that interested in. But simultaneously, probably also go for some degree of originality. If you want to do a fashion blog - think about an original angle that will make your fashion blog stand out from the crowd.

Have you made negative experiences with blogging, too? What kind?

Not really. One has to be careful about privacy, though. And server disruptions can be the scariest thing in the world.

And have you ever made money through your blog? If yes, how so?

No, I have not. I consciously chose not to include any ads on the blog, as I do not think a couple of hundred euros a month is worth the ugliness to the readers. But I would love to build the brand of goodfoodinberlin.de and make it into a well-known icon to the Berlin culinary world. An independent blog that cannot be bought, hired or stolen. That would make me feel really proud and accomplished. Whether money would eventually be involved - maybe indirectly. Everyone's dream is to be able to live off one's passion. If I could make money while eating in great restaurant, I'd say I was a very lucky girl.

Do you use twitter, too? Why (not)? What pros and cons do you see when it comes to twitter?

Yes, I do. I think twitter is a cool way to keep in touch with people that want to follow you, but do not want to do so through Facebook. Twitter is more anonymous and still informs fans and followers of any new developments.

Which other female bloggers can you recommend? Why?

I have to admit here that I never think of bloggers are male or female. There are probably a lot of there of whom I do not even know their gender. But I do love Hyperbole and a Half, of whom I am pretty sure that she is female: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/. A hilarious blog that shows how online empowerment works.

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