Speaker Spotlight: Russ Crandall

Russ Crandall, sitting on steps
Russ Crandall

Russ Crandall stays busy. He works full-time as an active-duty Russian translator and teacher for the US Navy. Every Tuesday he publishes a newly developed recipe on his award-winning blog The Domestic Man, which has a following of more than 64,000 people. He’s published two cookbooks and has a third coming out this summer. Plus, Russ is a regular contributor to Food and Wine magazine and was recently featured as a Yahoo Food Blogger of the Week.

Russ brings a candid but nuanced approach to food blogging, informed by his background in history and languages. He focuses on traditional, unprocessed, Paleo-friendly foods, and many of his recipes are inspired from cultures around the globe. Russ came to the Paleo movement after suffering a stroke at the age of 25 and then being diagnosed with an extremely rare autoimmune disorder called Takayasu’s Arteritis in 2007. After three years of frustration with the continuous steroid and immunosuppressant therapies used to treat his condition, he happened upon an article about how this crazy new thing called the Paleo diet could reverse autoimmune symptoms. Since Russ started eating a Paleo-friendly diet, he’s been able to end steroid treatment and look forward to a long, healthy life.

The stunning photographs that Russ takes of his food also makes The Domestic Man a treat to read. He currently uses a Canon 6D with a 50mm lens, and the care he puts into his photography and the overall look of his site really shows.

We’re so excited that Russ was able to tear himself away from his home in Pensacola, Florida, to present How I Found My Voice at Press Publish Phoenix on April 18 (and you can still get a ticket!).  We know you won’t want to wait that long to know more about him, though, so here’s our traditional speaker spotlight interview with Russ:

Q. What made you start blogging on The Domestic Man?

A. My friends and I had started a blog in 2007 that focused on movie, music, and video game reviews.  It was a lot of fun, but we had outgrown the concept by 2010.  I still wanted to keep blogging, so I started up The Domestic Man to pursue one of my other passions: cooking at home.  It was pretty haphazard at first, but I changed my eating habits later that year to focus more on the burgeoning Paleo movement, and it was only then that I found my voice and direction.

Russ holding The Ancestral Table
Russ holding his first cookbook, The Ancestral Table

Q. What kept you (and still keeps you) posting regularly?

A. Initially, I used the blog as a way to keep me accountable.  I figured that if I publicly declared that I was trying a new way of eating, I was going to have to stick with it.  After a while, I realized that other people were actually reading and using my recipes, so I felt accountable to them, too.  At this point, I like to think of my blog as a service to my readers.  Many food bloggers and cookbook authors seem to eventually move away from the “dirty work” of developing recipes and shift to a more lifestyle-centered blog.  I made a decision early that I’d always focus on the food, and everything else would be a bonus.

Q. What are a few of your favorite posts, and why?

Russ Crandall's Paleo Sweet and Sour Chicken
Russ Crandall’s Paleo Sweet and Sour Chicken

A. It’s hard to only pick a few — I think I’m my own site’s biggest fan!  One dish in particular that I am really fond of is my Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe.  Initially, I tackled the concept of re-creating a Chinese-American classic with pretty low expectations; but once I made it, I was blown away at how easy and tasty it was.  My readership agreed, and it’s been such a great experience that I’m writing a cookbook on that very concept (Paleo Take Out, out this summer).

Another favorite post is this one called A Brief History Lesson: Beef Bourguignon.  In the post, I deconstruct the individual history of every ingredient used in the dish, to show the amazing amount of history in every bite we take.  It was a lot of effort to check all of my work, but it was totally worth it.

Tendergrass Farms, photographed by Russ Crandall
Tendergrass Farms, photographed by Russ Crandall

Lastly, I really enjoyed writing this post about visiting and staying at a local farm for a weekend.  I spent the time discussing not only how the farm operated, but really dug into some philosophical questions about the direction of our farming industry.  It was enlightening and fun to spend time to think a little more deeply about how the food we eat gets onto our dinner tables.

Q. Tell us a bit about your writing process: do you keep to a set routine? Do you edit a lot or not at all? Do you have trouble finding time to blog?

A. I’m active-duty Navy, so it is difficult to keep the blog afloat.  In my first year I realized that I couldn’t post more than one recipe a week, so I made that my self-imposed requirement.  It’s worked, because I haven’t missed a week since I started the rule in 2011!  I learned early on that I needed to batch-develop most of my recipes in order to keep up with that schedule.  So on the weekend I’ll develop and shoot several recipes, which I can then spread out over time.  That night I’ll usually process the photos (tweak their attributes and resize them). I won’t start the front-end of the recipe (the history behind the dish, variations, etc) until a few days before I publish it, and I like to go over it at least three times before hitting the “Publish” button.

Q. How have readers responded to your writing?

A. I get all walks of life reading my blog, from the diehard Paleo eaters, to foodies looking to branch out, to harried parents just looking to put something on the table.  Each one responds differently, but I’ve found that despite blogging about food and diet (both very personal subjects), my commenters are really civil!  The feedback to my posts are mostly questions about the recipe – variations, clarification, or suggestions.  I love that, because it helps me tweak my recipe development and writing style.

Q. Why did you choose to blog with WordPress?

A. I played around with other blogging platforms first, but kept coming back to WordPress.  I love the simplicity and all-inclusive nature of platform – every tool I need is easy to find in a single source.  The social approach of WordPress is awesome too – from troubleshooting to sharing, I always feel like part of a community.

Q. If you could go back to when you were getting started blogging and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

A. Quality is always more important than quantity.  It’s better to write one unforgettable post than ten mediocre posts!


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