Nick Coffer's My Daddy Cooks blog has become an internet sensation with viewers tuning in in their thousands to watch him and his son Archie's adventures in the kitchen. With a regular BBC radio show and a book deal, Nick is living proof that blogging can change lives.
What inspired the blog?
In early 2009, I became a stay-at-home dad. I had been running a business for seven years but things were slowing down due to the recession. I decided to close down the business and move on to new projects. This proved to be much more difficult than I had expected it to be - it's not easy to create new business ideas in the middle of a recession.
I have always been a passionate foodie and an excellent home cook, and I had Archie in the kitchen with me from the earliest days - he just loves hanging out with me there. So I decided to launch the blog, just as a creative side-project, something to keep me stimulated.
Even though I had no experience of filming and editing I thought a video blog about me and Archie cooking together would be much more interesting than me simply writing about it. So, we filmed a few videos, I put them on the blog, and within days I had people visiting the blog from very far afield. Although I had started it purely as a bit of fun, it became clear that visitors loved watching my adventures with Archie in the kitchen and, equally importantly, they loved the food we made too.
Do you work outside of the blog?
The big irony of the success of my blog is that it has spawned a whole new career - and yet, it was only ever meant to be a bit of fun. Maybe it's the old cliché of "if you look you don't find and if you stop looking, you will find". I have other commitments now, such as my weekly food and drink show on BBC Three Counties Radio - I suggested the idea to the station editor and to my surprise he agreed to it. I absolutely love presenting it. It's called "Three Counties Kitchen" and we basically eat food and drink wine for 2 hours. It's like an intimate dinner party and we have had some stellar guests including top Michelin star chefs, TV chefs and food authors.
Do other people take your blogging seriously as a job?
This is an interesting question! I have always been self-employed, always done my own thing so the fact that I have pursued a creative idea has not come as a surprise to people who know me. The most important thing for me is to produce content which people enjoy, be that on the blog, on the radio or in my book. If I am producing good content, then people will hopefully continue to take what I do seriously.
What do your family think of it?
I think there is a mixture of bemusement and pride. The bemusement comes from the fact that no-one could have predicted where this has taken me - and the journey continues to throw huge surprises at us all the time. The blog is still not a year old and it has taken me on the most amazing roller coaster ride. They are also just really proud of what has happened in the last 12 months and also very proud to hear me on the radio or see me on the television.
Have you ever had to abandon a video because it has all gone totally wrong?
The great thing about the videos is that they are not planned or "storyboarded". How can they be, when they involve a 2 year old?! So things can - and do - go wrong. We made South African custard tarts in the summer and they were, well, horrible! The video was great though and there was no way I wasn't going to put it on the blog. The videos are simply a reflection of what goes on in our tiny kitchen and I would never not publish a video simply because something has not worked as planned. Everyone has kitchen disasters - and myself and Archie are no exception to the rule.
How aware is Archie of the whole process?
Archie is 100% aware of the whole process and that awareness has grown organically with the growth of the blog. Initially, my plan did not involve him being on camera at all in the videos. He was going to be a "presence" in the kitchen, but not a visible one. Over the course of the first few videos, it became clear that I could no longer hide him from the camera. He loves watching the videos back with me (and he finds himself funny!). He gets a huge amount of validation from being in the videos and this is really important for a little toddler. And I never ever do anything with him that he does not want to do, I never ask him to "perform". Whatever we do together, it has to absolutely always remain a case of him just hanging out and having fun with his dad, for example, when I was asked to cook at the Harvest at Jimmy's festival, I wasn't at all expecting him to want to join me on stage in front of 1500 people but I couldn't keep him away in the end! He was so funny and he was clearly enjoying all the attention.
Do you cook everything from scratch at home?
No! We love fish fingers as much as anyone else! I would hate for anyone to think that we eat gourmet meals three times a day. However, I do cook from fresh ingredients as much as possible. I try to show on the blog that cooking fresh meals is more often than not way more cost effective than serving ready-made meals and it can be just as quick too. Often on the blog, I give classic dishes the "My Daddy Cooks" treatment, meaning that I show how to prepare them in double quick time, without losing any of the taste.
What do you hope people take from the videos?
More than anything, I hope people just really enjoy them. I love it when I receive comments from people saying that the videos brightened their days. It's not only parents who watch the videos either. People of all ages and walks of life watch them. And I know that Archie has lots of fans of his age too. In fact, some nursery school teachers have told me that they play his videos at their nurseries! The videos really do show that even in extreme circumstances (you know, like if the cake mixture goes all the way up Archie's arm rather than in the cake tin!), we still produce extremely tasty food. I think this gives people more confidence to cook. They watch the videos and think, "If Nick and Archie can do it, so can I". And obviously I want the videos to inspire people into the kitchen with their kids.
Your wife is expecting - will you cook with your new baby, or is this very much you and Archie's blog?
We'll see first if Number 2 (due in January) actually shows any interest in cooking!
As everyone has told me that siblings are always very different from each other, I wouldn't be surprised if Archie's brother or sister was less interested in cooking. As with Archie though, we will still try to encourage them to have a good relationship around food - and there is no better starting point for that than in the kitchen itself!
We hear you have a book deal! Can you tell us about it?
Just after the New Year in 2010, I received a call from BBC London news, saying they wanted to come over and film me and Archie. Shortly afterwards, the London Evening Standard put Archie on their front cover and published an article on us. This created a huge amount of interest and a number of publishers got in touch, saying they wanted to publish the "My Daddy Cooks" cookbook.
I started to work with Clare Hulton, a highly respected literary agent, and then had the excitement of meeting eight brilliant publishers. In the end, I signed with Hodder & Stoughton and the book will be published on May 26th 2011.
It contains over 100 recipes, 90 of them brand new. They are all tasty, easy to prepare and are suitable for the whole family.
What's the best thing about cooking with kids?
Having kids in the kitchen is a great bonding exercise. We get so much pleasure hanging out together, making a mess, enjoying creative play. But beyond that, especially as he grows older, I do think he is proud that he is a part of what I do and this, in itself, definitely strengthens our bond together.