Welcome to Eat Sleep Instagram, our weekly series of conversations with Instagrammers behind the most drool-worthy accounts about how they're navigating the digital age, deliciously.
This week, Taste Talks contributor Amanda Odmark spoke with Executive Chef Daphne Cheng (@_daphnecheng) at East Village restaurant Mother of Pearl (@motherofpearlny, home of highly 'grammable cocktails like the Shark Eye) about vegan burgers, finding meaningful connections across the globe, and New York City's versions of the clubhouse.
Taste Talks: How much time do you spend on social media?
Daphne Cheng: I have a very nerdy answer to this: I use an app called RescueTime that tracks computer and mobile activity. When I first started tracking, I was on social media an insane 50 hours per week. That was an eye opener! Now it's down to a much more respectable 10 hours per week.
Taste Talks: What draws you to the food Instagram space?
Daphne Cheng: I was taking food photos of every meal long before Instagram came along, but thank goodness it did! I love how Instagram makes it so quick and easy to share photos and discover others sharing beautiful photos too. Instagram is an authentic way to share your story, and authenticity attracts a loyal audience and customer base. Images have always been the primary way to express, entice, and market, so a platform for images puts a traditional means of marketing on steroids.
Taste Talks: You have a lot of fun projects going at once! How does social media play into that?
Daphne Cheng: (Laughs) Yes, I like to keep busy. Social media is such a great help keeping in touch with friends and makes it easy for them to see what's going on with me too. People think social media disconnects people, but for me it really enables better connections. Everyone is always busy in New York, so it really helps keep us connected.
Taste Talks: How has social media offered connection for you? Do you have real-life friends now that you met on Instagram?
Daphne Cheng: There are many people who reached out after finding me on Instagram who have since become my great friends. It's also funny to know of someone because of their Instagram account before meeting them in real life. It is somewhat odd because you feel like you know them but it's only in a very shallow way. And Instagram is obviously only the curated highlights of a person's life.
Taste Talks: What was your journey to the world of food, and specifically to the plant-based community? Has Instagram helped play a role?
Daphne Cheng: I was already very much obsessed with food by the time Instagram came along. I got into food around age 14 when I became vegan. I started to cook for myself out of necessity but soon grew to really love cooking. I didn't join Instagram until a few years after it launched, but I'm very glad it's here now. Since social media is international, it's amazing to find that people all around the world are seeing my photos and are interested in what I'm doing. Specifically, a social media post in China that became popular has led to me planning a trip to host dinners and potentially start ventures out there. The world is truly more connected thanks to digital platforms.
Taste Talks: Tell us a little about your Society C project. How do you envision that growing?
Daphne Cheng: Without revealing too much, Society C. is a curated club of established and emerging influencers. We're launching an incredible clubhouse space first in New York and plan to expand globally. People can request an invitation to join at societyc.co
Taste Talks: As a vegan chef, how do you feel about the Impossible Burger (the new plant-based burger that tastes like meat)?
I think the Impossible Burger sounds amazing. While I personally don't crave meat or miss the taste, I know that the majority of people do love it and have a hard time imagining giving it up. Any alternative that helps satisfy the cravings while being more sustainable is wonderful. And if they have David Chang raving, then it's definitely exciting. I'm also a fan of their marketing angle, it focuses on the pleasure of eating a good burger, without being negative or preachy. Many vegans don't understand that by proselytizing, they're actually turning people off veganism, rather than towards.
Taste Talks: Do you have any rules or advice for folks who are working to develop their social platform?
I think the best way to learn how to develop your social media platform is to really study and learn from those who have succeeded with it. What are they posting about? How often? Instagrammers have their unique style that makes their page instantly recognizable. What's yours? Be authentic, don't copy, but learn and observe.