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Dish it Up People still love food, and photos of it

Baltimore is immersed in foodies with a following. Any rumors of a decline in blogging, it seems, have been greatly exaggerated, at least for these three social-media influencers, armed with their handheld lights, menus and growing platforms.

Recipes and write-ups
For Jordan Zelesnick, widely known as @jzeats on Instagram, it’s always been about cooking. Friends often asked for her recipes, so the Federal Hill resident assembled them in a blog and began
to post her favorite food pics on Instagram, often toting portable lights in pursuit of the perfect
“Instagram-able” photo. In her own words, she “became a lover of all things food at a very early age.” And the way she cooks now stems from how her dad taught her in the kitchen.

“He cooks from scratch, and he doesn’t follow a recipe. He taught me how to smell something, taste something and understand how those flavor profiles will meld together, which I think is unique,” she says. “I don’t know if that’s a skill that somebody can learn. I consider it more like a talent. It always impressed me that my dad was able to do that.”

Years later, she decided to take the plunge and start her foodie account at a time when food bloggers “weren’t all that popular.”

“I feel like four years ago, there weren’t many food bloggers out there. Also, influencer marketing wasn’t a huge thing back then,” she says. “I was having lunch with one of my friends who had a makeup account, around 35,000 followers, which I thought was amazing. She said to me, ‘Hey, you only post about the food that you’re cooking and places you’re going to eat, why don’t you start an Instagram account?’ I’ve always worked in marketing, but I wanted to learn more about social media. She taught me the basics.”

Most of her days start on the computer. First, she helps a couple of her freelancing clients with their social media, and then she tackles her projects. Every Monday and Tuesday, Zelesnick shoots that new recipe. The next step in her day is crucial: where to dine for lunch or dinner.

“I will cook at home a lot, but I try to go out to eat several times throughout the week because I want to keep up with creating the content for my audience,” she says. “Instagram loves to see Instagram stories, and the fastest way to get that content is just going out to eat.”

But she is less strict about planning out content on a scheduling platform.

“Every two posts on my feed is now a new recipe, so I have that organization in my feed. But the rest is really whatever I feel like posting that day,” she says. “I also try to stay away from those trending hashtags like #TacoTuesday. It just feels cheesy to do that.”

And while she is invited to various restaurants and events, Zelesnick says she will only post photos on IG of dishes she loves.

“I don’t post about anything that I don’t like. I post whatever is delicious. If I had a contract with somebody and I had a bad experience, I let them know,” she says. “I’ll allow them to redeem themselves depending on what it is. Otherwise, I’d say that I’m not posting about this if I had a bad experience.”

Winning cookies
Adam Yosim, aka @thanksalatke, is a former Fox 45 reporter turned PR novice who loves to cook, bake and explore various food spots around Charm City.

Yosim got his start in the food-blogging world as many did, by posting photos and recipes to Facebook.
“I have been a big fan of cooking, especially when I got to college. Before I had Instagram, I would make meals and I would take pictures and post them on Facebook. It’s amazing to see the difference of quality in my work between now and then in terms of plating composition, lighting and also the technological limitations of previous phones and smartphones,” he says.

Once he started gaining a following, he decided to upgrade his camera equipment, join the platform and even create a website to host his work.

“I usually come home and make dinner, and before I eat it, I plate it. I make sure the lighting is just right, and  I take a couple of pictures. After dinner, I’ll edit some photos and write some captions,” he says. “I know some bloggers and influencers; they’ll plan out in a week’s worth of content, maybe even
a month, and toggle the layout and aesthetics. I don’t do that. I like to do my posts the day of. Then, of course, if I get invited to a restaurant, I will showcase what’s on the menu on my page.”

While Yosim has received many accolades for his creative dishes, one in particular has won over someone special — his wife, Marisa. All it took was a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Yes, you read that right.

“This recipe won my wife over when we first started dating,” he says. “It’s still the number one dessert she requests.”

He happened upon the recipe as he was scrolling across one of his favorite food blogs, Serious Eats.

“There are a few differentiating things about this recipe that make it stand out,” Yosim says. “First is browning the butter instead of creaming the butter. When you brown it, you get a lot of caramel undertones, and it tastes like coffee. Also, instead of chips, you should roughly cut chocolate chunks to give it less of a uniform look. Then you freeze the dough overnight. It makes it slightly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.”

Before the birth of his daughter, Yosim baked three dozen cookies to give to the nurses.

“According to the OB, they were still talking about those cookies two months later,” he says.

A food map
Baltimore native Simone Phillips, the creator of @charmcitytable, also shares a long-standing passion for food. Despite her full-time job as a student advisor at a tech company, she still averages three to four posts weekly on her blog and Instagram.

“I’ve always been one of those people. I love to cook; I love to try new recipes. So I figured I could bridge those two things, my love of Baltimore and showing off the city with my passion for food,” she says.
Naturally an early riser, she says she is most creative first thing in the morning.

“I wake up around 5:30-6 a.m. to edit photos and do my posts for the day,” she says. “If I have gone to an influencer event the night before, I will pick the best ones and create a story behind it.
I do this because people are really receptive to Instagram stories now.”

Then she works on her day job.

Sometimes from an office, sometimes from home, it all depends on the day, with her workload sometimes spanning into the late hours.

“Most events start around 5 or 6 in the evening and then go into the night, and that’s sometimes on weekends, too. I also try to take one or two days out the week to go somewhere with family or friends — some new places that I wouldn’t otherwise visit, the places that don’t have a PR team behind them,” she says. “It’s about finding that cool little neighborhood gem.”

She adds that some food trends are fail-safe, like comfort food or popular Baltimore staples. “Think chicken boxes, snowballs, crab cakes,” she says.

She always incorporates that into her content because it resonates so well with her followers. “While Baltimore has a lot of new, exciting fare to offer, the staples are still part of what makes our city great and sets us apart from other foodie cities,” she says. “So I think it’s exciting for my followers or out-of-towners to see the places that offer these options.”  She adds, “You can always find a little bit of everything on my page.”

About Adranisha Stephens

When Adranisha Stephens isn’t chasing down a story, she is traveling, blogging, photographing or spending time with family and friends. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Frostburg State University and a master’s degree in journalism/digital storytelling from American University.

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