Every day, Betsy Couch single-handedly pulls together a
dinner of 25 to 30 dishes. From yellow-pepper soup to apricot-honey
chicken to chocolate-truffle tart, the menu is enough to make even
Martha Stewart blanch.
Ms. Couch is no caterer or restaurateur. Her daily meal is a
virtual menu on the Internet called "Surf for Your Supper." It's
part of Couch's creation, The Kitchen Link, a "guide to what's
cooking on the Net." The address is: www.kitchenlink.com
Couch's master index to more than 7,000 food and
cooking-related links on the Net is a cyber cook's dream-come-true.
Newspaper food sections, food business news, cookbook reviews,
message board, chat rooms, and recipes galore keep culinary
enthusiasts coming back for second and third helpings with a simple
click of the mouse.
The Kitchen Link is run by Couch out of her Rochester, N.Y.,
home. It made its debut in March 1996 and now hosts 75,000 visitors
from 85 countries every month, generating more than 1 million hits.
What visitors all share, not surprisingly, is a passion for
food, cooking, and recipes.
Emphasis on recipes, chat groups
Unlike other food sites, hers is a one-woman, independent
operation not associated with a particular magazine or corporation.
The Kitchen Link's emphasis is on links, recipes, and chats.
Complete with a search engine, it is fast becoming known as the
Yahoo of food.
At a time when the Internet attracts new devotees by the
minute, The Kitchen Link is a welcome site for online folks who
just want to grab a bite, so to speak. They can check out the
bulletin board, pull up a recipe for zucchini bread, or join a chat
group to talk about anything from cookie recipes to make-ahead
meals. It is emblematic of how the Internet facilitates online
community, where people with common interests gather - in this case
around a virtual kitchen table.
Carol Burciaga has visited hundreds of food sites on the
Internet. She says The Kitchen Link is her favorite for one reason:
"She conscientiously maintains what has become an awesome
group of links to cooking and recipe sites on the Web. There is no
other site that is so well-maintained on a daily basis as is The
Kitchen Link. Betsy actively participates in the message board, as
well as the chat. Her standards are very high," Ms. Burciaga says,
adding that it's like coming to visit a friend in her home and
Industry kudos for The Kitchen Link have come from Web Now
magazine and Better Homes and Gardens. PBS's Discovery series "Life
on the Internet" calls it "the most expansive site in the food
business, the one that has everything...."
Passion for food drives Web site
For Couch, The Kitchen Link has been an eight-hour-a-day
hobby in addition to her fulltime job in computer graphics at a
Her passion for food started early. Her father was in the
restaurant business, and at home, life centered around food and the
kitchen, not surprising for an Italian family, Couch says. When she
was a teenager, "something clicked," she remembers, during a phone
interview. "Any recipe I could get my hands on, I clipped or
copied." She began a cookbook collection that continued to grow
after she got married. Later, she started several cookbook-writing
Meanwhile, Couch and her husband, Bob (affectionately
referred to as Bobbio - rhymes with Fabio - by Couch's online
friends), fell in love with computers "early on." One day, about
five years ago, Couch was surfing around on the Net and found that
the cooking sites seemed repetitive. It was then that she decided
to start The Kitchen Link.
"I was just consumed - up all hours of the night. I created
it and then shelved it," she says, explaining: "I had to consider
the level of commitment I knew I had to give it."
Daily, weekly, monthly updates as well as fixing links,
adding links, creating more features, and moderating chats take
many hours each day. …