March 16, 2015 Last Updated 10:31 am

Culinate launches recipe app for Williams-Sonoma and the book publisher Weldon Owen

The stand-alone app offers four weeks worth of recipes for free, then will require either a monthly or annual subscription going forward

When last TNM wrote about Culinate the mobile app company had just released an app for Joy of Cooking, that famous cookbook first published by Irma Rombauer in 1931, and made fun of in the film Julie & Julia. Had the iPhone been made before WWII there is no doubt the Joy of Cooking app would have been a runaway success, but the brand Culinate rode with was old and tired, it needed a more up-to-date cooking brand and perhaps it has found one now.

RecipeDay-iPadRecipe of the Day from Williams-Sonoma is an interesting idea for a cooking app: new recipes, one per day, free at first, but then requiring a subscription – $1.99 for a 1-month subscription and $11.99 for an annual subscription. This seems like a pretty low profit venture, but then again Culinate is not an app giant, either.

The app was originally launched last month for the iPad only, and on Friday received an update that adds iPhone support. The first two written users reviews are pretty thoughtful: one gives the app 1-star due to the small number of recipes and the subscription requirement; the other gives the app 3-stars and says that they like the app, and like a previously released app from Culinate, but says the lack of artwork for all the recipes lessens the quality of the content.

To create the app, Culinate had to work with the Bonnier book division, Weldon Owen, which publishes books for the Williams-Sonoma brand. Williams-Sonoma is an incredibly conservative company, despite being headquartered in San Francisco. They rarely change much in their stores, their monthly catalogs are virtually identical to one another, and they are not very adventurous when it comes to digital ventures. Then again, Culinate is hardly digital publishing wizards themselves: the lead story on <strong>their website is from 2013 (to be fair, they have kind of given up on that site and are now using a subdomain for their apps, though that site says about the new app “Please check back soon”).

I like this app – especially liking the fact that it can be used in both portrait and landscape (landscape is vital for most cooking apps). It would better with more graphics, video and the like, but otherwise there is a lot to like here.

The only question I have is why was it done by Culinate? Of course, I understand Culinate’s motivation here, but why would a book publisher owned by Bonnier need a partner to create a cooking app for their client? Couldn’t they do it themselves?

I admit, I don’t understand Bonnier, they can sometimes appear to be very digitally savvy, and at other times completely helpless. Their digital magazine apps have recently gone off the digital publishing platform they themselves created and moved over to the Adobe DPS – with those that were native digital editions becoming PDF replicas.

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