Gastro genius

Julie is the mastermind behind Julie’s Matblogg, one of Norway’s most popular food blogs. In addition to blogging, she has (among many other things) run a catering company, created a burger for the upscale burger chain Munchies in Oslo and written two cook books! We’re impressed, and asked Julie some questions about foodie life.

You’re one of Norway’s most well-known food bloggers. How did you start?

 

Quite randomly, really. I started a food blog 7-8 years ago as a joke. At the time, it was just called «the food blog». Slowly, but surely, I got readers outside my own group of friends, and I was signed by a small blog network called Grayzine, which doesn’t exist anymore. When United Influencers got established, I started blogging for them, but pulled out after a year because I’d rather be an independent blogger and get my own, relevant clients. I have had commercial collaborations on the blog for three years now, but it’s only the past year or so that I’ve been able to make a living of the blog and blog-related jobs alone. Now, it’s my full-time job.

What about your background, is your education and/or professional experience linked to what you do today, or did you completely change course?

School was never for me, so I don’t have any education past the first year of high school. I never, ever imagined that it was food I would end up working with, so that was also pretty random, actually. I got a job at a small, cute bakery through an acquaintance when I moved to Oslo at 17. I had a very inspiring boss there, and that’s how I became interested in food. I started the food blog while working there, which later became Julies Matblogg (Julie’s Food Blog). Without an education, you have to work hard, and networking is extra important. I have a pretty long CV from before I became my own boss. I have worked with different food related things, but also a lot with text and dissemination. 

What does a normal work day look like for you?

 

No days are the same, luckily! But they usually start with me snoozing through an hour of alarms before I get up. Breakfast is the most important meal, so I always make time for a good breakfast and coffee. Then, there’s e-mailing. E-mailing is an enormously large part of my workday. During the most hectic periods, I write maybe a hundred e-mails a day!

As a food blogger, it’s important to get things done while it’s daylight, so food shopping is usually done in the evening, so I can make the most out of the hours it’s light. I cook for the blog and other jobs 2-3 days a week, and then usually a couple of recipes at a time. The rest of the days, I have meetings or go to events. When the daylight disappears, I eat dinner and watch series to relax. Then I might do another round of e-mails again in the evening.

You previously also ran a catering company, what was the main thing you learned running a business like that?

That the day doesn’t have enough hours! To start a physical business like that is extremely exhausting. It’s of course a lot of fun too, or no one would be bothered? I learned to function on little sleep, and prioritize what was the most important – and not necessarily what I wanted. I don’t think I ever want employees again. It’s an incredible responsibility. But I don’t regret the years I did catering for a second, because I gained business knowledge that’s invaluable for how I work today!

Many bloggers have been criticized for advertising for unethical products for money, for not labelling their posts as advertisements, or similar. How do you stay true to yourself and your readers?

I choose my collaborators carefully, and always test the products before I consider whether I can vouch for them. In addition to marking the posts that contain advertisements, sponsored products, etc., I always explain why they do. I also have a page on my blog that lists all my collaborators. As a full-time blogger, it is tempting to say yes to everything that comes your way because you need the money, but I can proudly say that I don’t do that. I just said no to a large project that paid as much as a normal month’s salary, because I would never actually use the product myself. So this month, I’m trying to sell some stuff on Tise to make ends meet instead, haha! 

What are the main challenges to being self-employed?

 

Definitely to balance work and social life. To get up early enough, and stay focused throughout the day. This year, my New Year’s resolution was to not work on the weekends, and I actually think I’ve almost managed that! So I’ll continue with work-free weekends. To get work enough to earn the money you need is of course also a challenge, and it’s a bit like life in general – it has its ups and downs. But I’m rarely stressed out or think that it’s not going to work. You just need to have patience the days you don’t have any money in your account!

You write on your website that you are following the Sunn Fornuft (Common Sense) guidelines against eating disorders on your blog. What responsibility do you think bloggers and others with a public platform have of being, in lack of a better term, “good role models” in the very looks-oriented society we live in today?

It is definitely a big responsibility, and especially for me because I blog about food. I don’t want to encourage anyone to diet, but to eat healthy and good food that gives the body good energy. I therefore do my utmost to avoid writing about calories and training.

Better, more environmental friendly food production and less food waste are incredibly important steps to fight climate change and hunger. How conscious are you of the ingredients you choose, and where do you try to improve?

I’m pretty conscious, but know that I can get even better. I buy organic when possible, and try to buy produce that’s local and seasonal, but I commit a couple of sins: avocado, for example. A fruit that’s cultivated very far away, requires an enormous amount of water to grow, and that’s almost endangered. I know it’s bad, but I just can’t help it. It’s so filling, and tastes so good. But I’ve stopped buying imported berries outside of the season, and that’s been hard for a berry junky. In the summer months, I practically live off of strawberries, sweet cherries and raspberries!

What’s something we all can do to make better choices when cooking?

Think about what’s in season, and buy as much local produce as you can. It can be a bit challenging during the winter months in Norway, so really, my best tip here is to pickle the spring- and summer vegetables when they’re at their best. And I also want to encourage people to eat a bit less meat, and choose more sustainable meat and fish the times you choose to eat it. I wrote about this in my cookbook, Julies Grønne Kjøkken (Julie’s Green Kitchen).

And last, what we’re all thinking: you cook all the time and probably taste some incredible dishes for work, but what’s your favourite chill dish for a regular night in, no cameras?

Anything with cheese, really. I’ve recently discovered a new favourite dish that combines two of my favourite things, kimchi and mac’n’cheese! It almost doesn’t even feel guilty… not that I care what’s guilty and not! I think you should eat whatever you want and not be ashamed, unless you know you’ve supported a bad industry.