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 chatted with Bon Appétit Senior Editor Julia Kramer (@juliakramer) a about how moms invented Instagram, unfollow triggers, and turning FOMO into inspiration.
How much time do you spend on social media?
This question is like when the doctor asks you, "How many drinks do you have each week?" No one actually tells the truth, right? I'm addicted to Instagram and open it basically every time I look at my phone. I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat but I only go on them when I'm avoiding doing something I really don't want do.
What draws you to the food Instagram space?
Why do I post? To be honest, if Instagram didn't exist, I'd probably be taking a lot of these pictures anyway, but just emailing them to my mom and sister. Basically, ever since my mom get an iPhone, anytime she has a dinner party she'll send my sister and me a dozen pictures of the table and of everything she made. I'm like, mom, do you know that there's now an app for this?
Why do I spend so much time on the app? I guess I just love looking at pictures of what other people are cooking and eating, especially people I'm friendly with, like Bon Appétit's food director Carla Lalli Music and my former colleague Alison Roman. Weirdly, it doesn't (usually) give me FOMO....I just feel like it's this chance to learn more about and be inspired by people who I wish I could spend more time hanging out with and cooking with in real life! So I guess that's what draws me to the world of food on Instagram. That and of course narcissism.
What was your journey to the world of food/food media?
I went to school outside Los Angeles, so I started reading Jonathan Gold's reviews, which were then in LA Weekly. Up until that point, I had never known that "food critic" was a job one could, like, have. In fact, when I told my parents that I was going to work at a magazine, they insisted I take the LSAT anyway, because I would "obviously change my mind within five years." I never thought of myself as being "into food" because honestly I had no idea that there were people out there who weren't into food.
Anyway, I had always liked to cook and go out to restaurants, and in college I learned that I liked to write short stories, so I thought food writing would fuse those things. I wanted to move back to Chicago, so I got an unpaid internship at Time Out Chicago and lived for three months off the money I won from a short story-writing prize at Pomona College. At the end of the internship, Time Out hired me as a staff writer, and I started writing restaurant reviews. I ended up working as a restaurant critic for TOC for five years. I ate dinner out at restaurants almost every day for five years, and I drank at somewhere around 300 different bars. It really was my life. Toward the end of that time, I met Andrew Knowlton, who was at that time the restaurant editor at Bon Appétit. He suggested I send my resume to him, and now I've been at BA for three years, and I work closely with Andrew on our annual list of the Hot 10, America's Best New Restaurants. Even though I still spend a lot of time eating out for work, I love that BA has given me the opportunity to go back to what got me into food in the first place: cooking!
You seem to travel often for work—do you use Instagram for recommendations in new places?
All the time. If I'm going to New Orleans and remember that someone I follow was recently there, I'll go back in their feed and look at where they went. (I realize only now that that makes me sound like a stalker.) It's helpful for researching the Hot 10 because I can follow restaurants that look intriguing and get a sense for what people are cooking around the country. And yeah, if I see someone post from a restaurant in New York that I haven't heard of or been to, I'll screenshot it, look it up, and probably go there within the next couple weeks! A lot of times it's how I find out that a place has opened.
How has social media offered connection for you? Do you have real-life friends now that you met online?
I get a lot of story ideas from Instagram. I mean, it's where I (and 100k other people) discovered Tara Jensen, AKA @bakerhands, whom I then went down to Asheville, North Carolina and spent a couple days with and wrote about in Bon Appétit. There's one person I follow on Instagram who works at Condé Nast and every time I see her in the hallway, I say hi, and she gives me a blank stare, and then I remember that we've never actually met and I am a complete psychopath. So that's weird.
Instagram is a cornucopia of content—do you have any "unfollow triggers"?
Conventionally attractive people in bathing suits (*special exception for Kim Kardashian).
Do you have any rules or advice for folks who are working to develop their social platform?
Quality likes over quantity likes!