The Kitchenista’s pro tips for sharing food stories on social media
When Angela Davis started her immensely popular food blog, The Kitchenista Diaries, in 2012, two-year-old Instagram had just been bought by Facebook, and TikTok was still some developer’s far-off dream.
A decade later, Davis has retired both her blog and the hot take-heavy Twitter account that helped her become one of the genre’s defining Black voices on the Internet. Today, the self-taught cook and food influencer is based in Detroit and focuses most of her content creation on cooking and recipes in video form, shared to a loyal and hungry audience of Instagram followers nearly 200,000 strong.
Things have certainly changed for the Kitchenista, but it’s all been a learning journey — one her devoted fans have savored every step of the way.
Here, Davis shares a heaping portion of pro tips to anyone looking to break into the world of food content creation.
Honesty is the best policy
I wasn’t a professional chef when I started or have any culinary school experience, so I just presented what I knew at the time and didn’t try to pretend I knew any more. That was important in building trust with people and building interest. People wanted to see me learn and they saw my feed change over the years. I think that’s a misstep that people make now when they start out to become an influencer or a blogger. You have to take time to be good at it before you can teach it.
Own your story
I knew I was giving something different because I’m different. Everybody has their own viewpoint. It’s when you try to be like everybody else that it’s going to fall short. If you’re going for the same looks or aesthetics or the same sounds, that’s where it’s noticeable. You have to take a risk to break out of that and offer something different. It still needs to be high quality because you only have a few seconds to catch somebody’s attention in your feed. Show them something that they aren’t already seeing. That’s where I’m at these days.
Plan ahead, but allow room for spontaneity
If I were just starting out now, what I would do better is planning my content ahead of time and not waking up in the morning and deciding what I was going to make and scramble to post by the end of the day. It’s a little bit of a hybrid now. I still give myself enough room to bake a cake today if I want to. But I also think at least a few weeks ahead of time, especially if there’s a holiday or an event coming up.
Not all platforms are equal
It also depends on what platform you use. It’s less important to plan ahead on Twitter or TikTok, where the content moves so fast and people aren’t seeing it in chronological order. Whereas on Instagram and Facebook, things last a little longer. For Instagram, Stories are good for spontaneous content. But your Feed is your opportunity to be consistent with your brand messaging.
Know your goal and be intentional
I’m not attempting to grow to a million followers or go viral. That’s a choice. You have to make different kind of content to get there, and that’s not my art. For me, it was owning my story. I grew over the years. I started this journey when I was 30, so I was very much growing up. As I came into my own and was able to accept my story — the easy parts, the hard parts — the more I was able to share freely.
For me, the biggest change over the last two years has been transitioning to video after hearing a lot about how video is what people want to see. I was advised that I was going to be left behind if I stuck to photography. And I have to admit, it was a difficult transition. I was not prepared to be in front of the camera. That’s not how I started this journey. But now they’re seeing more of me and my personality. I had to get comfortable, but it’s opened up so many avenues. Especially if writing isn’t your strong suit, you might want to consider video and do voice-over to tell your story.
Chop it up!
I shoot the entire cooking process. For me, it’s easier to shoot it all. And when I’m in Reels, I’ll select the small moments that are meaningful for videos. But then I can chop up my content in different ways. Whatever you shoot, you need to think of all the different ways you can use it. It might be a recipe for fried rice. And then out of that video I might also have five minutes of footage of how to chop carrots or onions, and another two minutes of it are showing off my pantry ingredients when I cook Asian. Especially on a vacation week or an off day, when creatively you can’t think up anything new, I go back through my phone and look for content to repurpose.
Have the right tools for the trade
I started out with my cell phone and after a few years I transitioned to a Sony mirrorless camera. And over the years I’m still not anywhere close to being a professional photographer, but I’ve learned that with mirrorless, the automatic functions work so well that you can get by. The photography I’ve had to upgrade for my books. When I’m not working on a publishing day, my iPhone has been more than efficient.
Take your photos by the window for natural light, but also use a ring light. They make big ones now. Even if you don’t know how to manipulate lighting, it’s going to help.
The camera stand is huge, especially for food video content. To keep the phone still, an overhead camera stand is essential. And most of them are flexible, so you can hold the camera at whatever angle you need. A tripod is everything. Even for photography, a camera tripod for your phone or whatever device you’re using, just get a tripod for it. Blurry shots are not in — ever.
Keep it clean and natural
Don’t over-edit your photos! I like a look that’s close to natural. Just make the color pop and add a little warmth. Some people do a little too much editing. And clean your phone! People don’t clean their lenses. Get some lens wipes and keep them in your kitchen so they’re there whenever you need them.
Know your audience, but trust yourself
A question I was taught to ask is, “Is this thing I’m thinking of posting in line with my brand messaging? Is it showing people what I want them to see about me?” If it’s a “no” or I have to think about it, it’s probably something I shouldn’t post. If I’m not excited about it, I don’t post it. I know my audience and I have to choose my availability. I’m not going to post a brand new recipe and then say, “I don’t have time to answer questions.” You kind of have to know what your audience expects. So I tend to focus my more complicated recipes for, like, Sunday dinners for the times I really have time to dive into it. And during the week, I’ll post stuff where people just want to come and go. Over time, it’s just learning your audience. Use the tools that are available to you. Almost all the apps have analytics inside them. And you get better ones if you sign up for creator or business accounts. At least once a week, go in there and know your numbers so you can make educated decisions about what your audience expects. But of course, I don’t like to be beholden to my audience. You have to give yourself enough room to grow.
Don’t feed the trolls
I’ve dealt with a lot of online abuse over the years. I block. I use the tools to report people if they’re being malicious or there’s hate speech, because I also don’t want my audience to see that. There are times where I will respond and set the tone and say, “This is not what I’m expecting in this community.” It really just depends on what it is. As I get older, I’m learning to let things go and just block and move on and not let the distractions take me out.
Remember to unplug
I have trouble unplugging. When I’ve been successful, it means announcing I’m going to take a break and stepping away completely from social media for a few days. I’ve done it for up to a month. That’s the most effective. It’s like cold turkey solution. If I’m in it, there’s no slowing down. Its a 24/7 thing. I have to set time out of the week where I’m not using my phone. Taking a long bath, taking a walk in the park with my daughter — I try to get out of the house a little more. It helps with balance. I enjoy my work and if I could be selfish, I could do it all day.
If you’re a food content creator, we eat every day and we eat all day. I have to have days where I say, “OK, Angela, you’re not shooting this. You’re just going to eat.” And it helps creatively, too. Your art changes a little bit when you’re monitoring it. And sometimes it’s just good to be in a space by yourself. Try to remember how it was before you were a content creator. My kitchen was my safe space and my happy place before all of this. And I make it so that it’s still that place when I need it to be.
— As told to Mark Kurlyandchik