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Jun / Jul 2011
Recipe for Success

WRITER: Alex Ritman

Dirty Kitchen Secrets, the foodies’ blog by Lebanese-American Bethany Kehdy, is starting to gain a serious international following. With her charm, wit and easy-to-follow guidelines, Kehdy is converting the uninitiated to the wonders of Middle Eastern cuisine.


Upon first glance, sounds like the sort of website that would see most Middle East visitors instantly greeted with a friendly ‘this site is blocked’ message from their local Internet provider. Despite its suggestive name however, Dirty Kitchen Secrets has had the tongues of thousands lolling for purely innocent reasons. The brainchild of Lebanese-American Bethany Kehdy, this highly-regarded food blog has quickly become one of the best online resources for Lebanese cuisine, with hundreds of tried and tested recipes, detailed descriptions of the key ingredients in Lebanese dishes and even videos of the chef herself cooking from her kitchen in Brighton, England.

What began as simply an online extension of Kehdy’s ever-expanding word document of recipes has now become a full-time job, with various other food-related projects spinning off from the website. “It all happened in a single night,” says Kehdy, just back from one of the Taste Lebanon tours she now organises. “I came across the food blog and thought to myself, ‘I can’t believe you can publish online’. Yes, it was a little tardy, but I was so inspired and spent the next 24 hours reading up on the world of blogging and set up DKS the following night.”

This was back in 2008, shortly after Bethany moved to the UK after spells in Hawaii, Miami, Montreal and Dubai. Born in Houston and raised in Lebanon, she remembers her father setting up a farm on ancestral land after the family had moved to the mountains during the civil war. “For the greater part of my childhood I helped to water orchards, harvest fruits and vegetables, chase after chickens, make cheese and even milk the odd cow.”

A year after setting up Dirty Kitchen Secrets, with the financial crisis catching up with her and the company she worked for shutting down, Kehdy thought it was the right moment to put her heart and soul into it. “I decided now was the time to go for it. I put together a business plan and never looked back, except for a few times when I thought I’d lost my mind!”

Working on the blog soon helped Kehdy realise it was what she was devoted to. “It wasn’t that I thought I had something good with the blog, but more that the blog had worked to confirm that I wanted to pursue a career in food because that was where I felt most inspired. And if I could also help build a positive Middle Eastern image, then for me I’d hit the jackpot.”

And now, just two years along the line, the website is boasting between 10,000 and 60,000 visitors a month, and has helped establish Kehdy as a full-time food writer, recipe developer and all-round guru of Lebanese cuisine. It has also helped highlight another of her skills, namely, that of a food photographer, with colourful snaps of her tasty-looking creations brightening up the website’s pages.

She’s not the only food blogger out there by a long shot, with thousands having taken to the internet to transmit their culinary obsessions. But with DKS she’s still managing to keep her site unique in an increasingly crowded workplace. “Lebanese/Middle Eastern cuisine is very unique in itself – there is still a great deal that is not known about it. It’s not all mezze, you know.”

And now it’s other food bloggers that Kehdy is now looking to support with another side of her business. In 2009 she launched Food Blogger Connect, Europe’s first and biggest food blogging conference. Celebrating its third event this August, Food Blogger Connect aims to bring together food bloggers and writers from all over the world, providing a useful resource, network and forum for all things food and blog related. Among the guest speakers are award winning bloggers, journalists, critics, photographers and editors, each passing on their advice from setting up a blog to finding a niche, and watching the stats with the likes of Google Analytics. “I founded Food Blogger Connect because there was a real lack of support and community for food bloggers in the UK and Europe,” says Kehdy, adding that this year’s conference will be the biggest yet. 

The Taste Lebanon tours, which Kehdy arranges twice a year in conjunction with the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism brings her closer to home. These culinary journeys see food fans invited into people’s homes across the country to learn the authentic techniques behind such specialities as kebbeh, baklawa and Arabic bread along with trips to olive groves, vineyards and wild za’atar fields. “The next tour is going to be turned into a documentary,” says Kehdy. “These trips are the most exciting discoveries for me as I’ve always been compelled to change any one-dimensional opinion of Lebanon.”

For Kehdy, what started out as a simple method of publishing her recipes online has turned into a full-blown business, with the cook/writer/photographer among the pack-leaders in the increasingly powerful food-blogging community. With her website, along with her number of side-projects steadily growing, it’s likely Kehdy’s kitchen might remain dirty for some time. 

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