Food Blogger Spotlight: Exclusive Interview with Nora

What inspired you to start blogging the foods you eat on IG?

I started my food blog on Instagram about 5 years ago when I was a sophomore in college. I would always take photos of the meals I shared with my friends, effectively creating a food diary, so I started a separate Instagram account dedicated to journaling the different foods I enjoyed while in college.

In the beginning, the account was more a place for me to upload all of the photos I’d taken. Over time, more and more of my friends and even strangers began to follow me, and the account evolved into a place for me to share not just photos of food I was eating, but personal recommendations, experiences, and my own unique finds from all over the Bay Area and beyond.

What kinds of food did you grow up eating?

My parents are from Taiwan, so I grew up around a lot of classic Chinese and Taiwanese dishes at home. I’ll always love my mom’s beef noodle soup (牛肉麵) and braised pork over rice (滷肉飯), but my go-to home-cooked dish is tomato and egg over rice.

Favorite snack growing up? Favorite snack now?

I grew up on all the different snacks you could find at the Asian supermarkets. Bin-Bin rice crackers, strawberry YanYan, Pocky, little mantou cookies, shrimp chips, and Yakult are some of my favorites. Now, as Asian snacks are becoming more mainstream, I’m constantly discovering new favorites at markets like H Mart and 99 Ranch.

I’ll still indulge every once in a while on the snacks from my childhood, but I usually choose healthier options now by opting for fruits instead. I usually eat whatever fruit is in season, but my favorites are watermelon and mango.

What’s your favorite thing about being a foodie blogger?

There’s a whole community of food bloggers on Instagram and running my account has given me such amazing opportunities to connect with wonderful people from all over the world. I love being able to talk to so many people who enjoy food as much as I do and discover new foods, techniques, and skills along the way. There are so many kindhearted individuals and business owners out there and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to forge new relationships with them all! 

Of course another perk is all the delicious food I get to enjoy. Since I started collaborating more frequently with restaurants and brands, I have been able to try so many new foods and cuisines while sharing the products and dishes I love.

What do you dislike about being a foodie blogger?

The benefits greatly outweigh the negatives, but one thing that I have to be mindful of is the amount of time needed to publish a post and stay engaged on Instagram. Since I have a regular 9-5 job, it can be a little exhausting to clock out of work and plug straight into social media.

What are some interesting things you learned through the process of blogging about food?

Running a successful food blog and publishing content that I am proud of takes a lot more time and effort than I initially imagined, especially for collaborations with local restaurants and businesses. The time it takes to communicate with social managers, driving around the Bay to pick up food, taking the perfect picture, editing the picture, and writing the caption easily spans a whole day or multiple days! 

Another difficult lesson I’ve learned is to not focus on the numbers so much and to just post for my own enjoyment. 

What’s one of your favorite foods and drinks you’ve posted on?

The pandemic has certainly affected local restaurants and small businesses. Recently I’ve been trying to partner with more restaurants to highlight their takeout or safe dining options. One of these collaborations led me to discover Ettan Restaurant in Palo Alto. Their take on Indian cuisine in a contemporary Californian style is extremely unique and their dishes are so beautiful and full of flavor. The ambiance of the restaurant as well was so gorgeous and inviting, perfect for photos for the gram!

Another local favorite of mine is Boba Drive. They’re a cute local tea shop in Sunnyvale that serves refreshing drinks with great flavor combinations. I love their watermelon oat drink that I’ve never had anywhere else. It’s refreshing and fruity, but creamy at the same time, perfect for hot summer days. 

When did your IG start to gain more attention from people? And what do you think triggered it?

Things really picked up this summer after I completed my graduate studies and had more free time at home during lockdown. I was able to put more effort into my posts and started to publish content more consistently. I also spent a lot of time experimenting with new recipes at home and many of my posts sharing my successful creations actually gained more attention than I expected! 

What inspired your style of posting content on your IG?

Lighting is everything! I tend to create brighter photos with warmer tones and I try to highlight the texture of the food with closeups. I generally take medium and wide shots to highlight everything on the plate or the entire spread on the table. I like using natural lighting and take many of my photos by large windows or outdoors. I think my style is also heavily influenced by many other foodies I follow on Instagram. There are so many talented creators out there!

We love your work! How do you plan for food/drink photoshoots? What kind of equipment do you use? Is photography a hobby? 

When I began I only used my iPhone 8 Plus to take all of my pictures. Now I also use my boyfriend's DSLR camera and lenses alongside my iPhone. We use a Canon 6D usually paired with a 50mm f/1.2 or 24-105mm f/4 lens. On the DSLR we always shoot RAW and I use Lightroom to edit. Equipment certainly isn’t the most important. I know many successful food bloggers that only use their phone to take pictures. I’m still constantly learning about photography as I run this account. 

What is your full-time job?

I work full time as a speech language pathologist at a rehabilitation hospital. The patients I work with have cognitive disorders or other physical ailments that impact their ability to swallow food properly. It’s my job to make sure they are on the safest diet texture. I also work with them to improve their memory, cognitive, and language skills. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

My typical day starts at 7 am. I’m in the hospital by 7:45 am and make rounds to see all my patients until my lunch break. After lunch, it’s all paperwork and reports. I get home around 4:30 in the afternoon and the remainder of my day is split between relaxing, reading, and running my Instagram account. I use most of my time after work editing photos, engaging with my followers, and writing captions for future posts. 

On some weekdays I also take long walks with my boyfriend and his husky, Kelbie. On the weekend, I love being outdoors and try to find new local hiking trails or revisit my favorite parks and places around the Bay Area. A part of the weekend is also dedicated to discovering new restaurants and collaborations with local businesses!  

What are some challenges you encountered to get to where you are at today (as a food blogger with 5k followers)?

Logistically there haven’t been too many challenges associated with running my account. Sometimes there are instances where I overextend and put too much on my social media plate while I juggle a full time job and my personal life. It’s definitely important for all of us to remember to take a break from social media every once in a while! Instagram will always be there and our mental and physical health should be prioritized more. 

What is your long term goal with food blogging?

My account will always be a place for me to share my love of food with others in the form of a diary, recommendations, and experiences. I would love to be able to partner with more local businesses and restaurants to help them share their stories as well, especially when we all begin to recover after the pandemic. 

I’m not sure where my account will take me in the future, but I will never take for granted the friends and amazing relationships I’ve made along the way. I would love to meet more people and get to know my followers, so feel free to drop a ‘hello’ in my messages!

Any advice for people who want to start a food blog?

My number one piece of advice is to just have fun! There are no rules to running a food blog. Many of us started with just our phones while visiting our favorite restaurants! If you enjoy what you do, everything else will fall into place naturally.

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