WHO ARE YOU?
I am Jeanne Horak-Druiff, a proud South African and was born, raised, educated and happily ensconced in Port Elizabeth all my life. That is, until fate intervened and I followed my husband who wanted to fulfil a dream of working abroad. We came to London with the intention of staying a year. It’s now 11 years later and we are still here, which just goes to show that life is what happens while you make other plans. I do visit South Africa at least once a year, so I can occasionally attend events there, if you get your timing just right!
WHAT DO YOU DO?
In past incarnations I was a criminal advocate (barrister) and defended many people on trial for murder, back when South Africa still handed out the death penalty. I also lectured commercial law for eight of the happiest years of my career at the former PE Technikon. For the past few years I have worked in law firms in a knowledge management role.
When I am not at my day job, I am a freelance writer and have written for various online and print publications. I am also a speaker-for-hire and apart from many years experience lecturing and presenting seminars, I have also spoken at international blogging conferences, covering topics such as legal aspects of blogging, writing style and voice, recipe writing & editing, and blogging for beginners. I am one of the founders and organisers of From Plate to Page, a regular hands-on food writing and photography workshop.
PRs – please read this first before contacting me about potential opportunities. It will safe us both some time and effort!
I have been blogging at CookSister since May 2004 and the blog has built up a solid following. My traffic stats (available upon request) are healthy and consistent. My readers are overwhelmingly located in the UK, South Africa and the US. CookSister’s Networked Blogs page on Facebook has 680 followers; I have over 4,000 Twitter follower;s and a Klout score of about 56.
I have a day job, so I am not usually able to attend daytime events. However, should the event involve travel outside London and be particularly interesting to me, I can arrange time off to attend, provided that I am given enough advance notice. Although I do not support myself financially from this blog, please note that my leisure time is valuable to me. If a PR agency is being paid by their client, I see no reason why I need to work for the PR agency for free, whether this is in the form of providing free content; developing recipes; hosting a giveaway; or any other time-intensive activity. You do not work for free, so please do not expect me to do so.
I am always happy to hear about the following opportunities from PRs:
- food and drink related events or launches
- press trips
- speaking or teaching opportunities
- restaurant visits
- paid recipe development opportunities
- paid freelance writing opportunities
- paid freelance photography opportunities (products, destinations or venues)
I do not generally:
- post press releases, videos, or other content on CookSister that I did not generate myself, even for payment (i.e. sponsored posts) – so please do not ask me to do so. If you want to display something on my blog, contact me for advertising rates.
- review or write about an event, product or place that I have not experienced or sampled
- Write a product review that does not include a recipe of some sort using that product
- Include paid for links in posts
- Fail to disclose that a review or link in a post is sponsored or utilised free samples (and yes, I have been asked not to disclose this. This violates trading standards rules, so please do not even think of asking me to do so!)
- host giveaways, unless I feel the prize would be of real benefit to my readers (to give you an idea – I only hosted one giveaway at the request of a PR in the past year, and that was to give away £400 worth of flights). Giveaways take work and I reserve the right to charge an appropriate fee for hosting them
- work for free “in exchange for exposure on our website”
INDEPENDENCE AND DISCLOSURE
This website is independent in the sense that it is not financially sponsored by any entity or individual. This means that all opinions expressed on this site are my own and are, as far as this is humanly possible, balanced and unbiased.
On occasion, I might earn money from services such as advertising, recipe development, writing or photography. These relationships will not affect or dictate the content of the site. However, if mention a consumer of one of the abovementioned services on the website, I will clearly disclose this relationship.
I do not as a rule accept any content that I did not write myself, particularly not in the form of sponsored posts, so please do not approach me with offers of free or sponsored content – you will be turned down. I also do not post commercial videos or promotional material in my posts. If you have a product or service to advertise, please contact me and we can discuss my rates for buying advertising space on Cooksister.com.
I do not participate in link exchanges. And no, it’s not going to help to say “but we’ve already added a link to your site” or address me as “buddy”.
REVIEWING PRODUCTS, PLACES & EVENTS
I have excellent traffic stats (available upon request) and a strong social media following and I am open to receiving products for review, going on press trips, attending media events, reviewing recipe books etc. However, free trips, meals or samples will not guarantee a good review. All views expressed in review posts are my own and I do not allow any product sponsor or PR agency to see my review post before posting it live to my blog. I also reserve the right NOT to write about samples and events/trips. When a product, trip or event is sponsored or complimentary I will always clearly disclose this in the text of the post. Where there is no disclosure notice in a review, you may assume that this meal or trip was paid for by myself.
Anybody who has read one of my restaurant reviews will know that it is more of a detailed narrative with pictures than a formal review; and that I tend to err on the side of kindness rather than unkindness. I aim to have readers live the moment with me and then decide for themselves whether they might like to visit the same place as I did.
ALL text and ALL photos on this site (except where I have specified otherwise) is mine. This means that copyright in all the material belongs to me and all rights are reserved, meaning that you may not in any form reproduce any text or picture from this site without my permission. If you are a recreational blogger (i.e. making a living from blogging), I am happy for you to use a recipe or picture, provided that you clearly attribute the text/picture to me and link back to this site. It would be nice if you asked first, too.
If you are a newspaper, book, magazine, or any sort of commercial website/recipe aggregator/blog you will always need to seek my written permission before you use ANY of my content in any way whatsoever.
If you like my writing or photographs so much that you would like me to commission me to write or photograph something for you, please e-mail me – I am always happy to discuss projects and negotiate rates. Please do not write to me and ask me to provide you with free content because you “the client does not have the budget to pay” and offer me “exposure” instead of payment. The answer is no.
WHAT IS YOUR RESTAURANT REVIEWING POLICY?
I am not primarily a restaurant reviewer and anybody who has read one of my reviews will know that it is more of a detailed narrative with pictures than a formal review; and that I tend to err on the side of kindness rather than unkindness. I want you to live the moment with me and use my photos and words to decide for yourself whether you might like to visit the same place as I did, not take my word as The Ultimate Truth. When a restaurant visit is sponsored or complimentary I will always clearly disclose this. All views expressed in review posts are my own – I do not accept sponsored text and I do not allow any restaurant or PR agency to see my review post before posting it to my blog. I will say what I think, not what you want me to say.
DO YOU HAVE A POLICY ON COMMENTING?
As a general rule, I don’t interfere with comments, other than to remove anything spam-related or that is obviously a punt for some commercial enterprise. I welcome discussion in the comments and you can say what you like, but if you make a snotty remark, don’t be surprised if you get a snotty response! Also please bear in mind that this is my cyber home. I wouldn’t tolerate people coming into my house and being rude to me, and I won’t tolerate it here. Play nice. And don’t even think of saying anything racist, sexist, insulting of a particular religion or otherwise inflammatory – I will remove it so fast it will make your head spin. This is a food blog, not a soapbox for people with an axe to grind.
CAN WE ASK YOU TO LINK TO OUR SITE?
I generally prefer to find blogs on my own rather than have them thrust at me, and I am hugely unlikely ever to add a link to a blog or commercial enterprise of any sort just because they asked me to. And no, it’s not going to help to say “but we’ve already added a link to your site” or address me as “buddy”.
HOW CAN WE GET HOLD OF YOU?
If you haven’t already found it elsewhere, my e-mail address is emailcooksister AT gmail DOT com. I love comments and sugestions and try to answer all e-mails, even if it takes me a while!
If you are a newbie blogger looking for advice, you are probably better off visiting the tremendously helpful posts by Delicious Days; David Lebovitz or sites like The Food Blog Forum or Food Blog Alliance which contains a wealth of information to answer your every blogging question. You are also free to ask me foodie questions, but nothing makes me angrier that spending my precious leisure time putting together a detailed answer to a recipe or restaurant query and then not even getting the courtesy of a simple “thank you” e-mail. It makes me want to ban your IP address and send all your future e-mails directly to the deleted folder. This is NOT my job and I do NOT get paid for it, so the least you can do is be gracious and thank me.
End of rant! I keep a record of all the reader questions that I have answered on my Cooksister Q&A page. Take a look – maybe I have answered your question already!
ANY FOOD PHILOSOPHY?
I love how food forms the backdrop to all the milestones in our lives – a wedding breakfast, a graduation dinner, a farewell cocktail party. It ties us to our past and our family with cords that can’t be broken. And even in a foreign land, you can recreate the favourite tastes of your childhood and take comfort from them. To me, the story of what I eat is the story of my life.
I try not to obsess too much about anything: not too overboard on low fat or seasonal or organic or whatever the fad of the day is. I will buy organic where it really makes a difference; and I will buy produce in season mainly because it just tastes better. And as far as cooking goes, I have realised that I will never be naturally inclined to make a Gordon Ramsay style dish with all its components and beautiful plating. I am far more of the Nigel Slater, real food school of thought – why faff with individually plated things when a rosemary roast leg of lamb can be brought to the table with just as much praise and less fuss? I also now finally understand what my mom meant when she said: “Cooking a fancy meal for 6 people once a month is a breeze compared to feeding your family a nutritious, balanced meal every night – and not bore them out of their minds.”
AND BY THE WAY, WHAT IS A COOKSISTER??
It’s a delicious plaited, deep-fried syrup-dipped pastry from (where else?) South Africa.