The Truth Behind The Naughty Fork
Hi everyone! Sorry it has taken so long for me to answer all of the questions I’ve received in the past couple of years. Truthfully, I have been extremely lazy lmao but I think it is time to get this all down on (virtual) paper. Before I get into your questions, I want to give you a little background into The Naughty Fork and why/how I got started.
Like most food bloggers, I started my blog because I love food. period. I love everything from cheeseburgers to kale salad and from Pâté to a Crunch Wrap Supreme. As a child, I was always fascinated by different foods and the remarkable pastime of enjoying a meal with people you love. I ate out a lot as a kid, and even more so as I grew up. I started eating sushi when I was 4 and always ordered the strangest thing on the menu just so I could try it.
I went to Florida State University to study biology and chemistry in hopes of following in my fathers foot steps and becoming a doctor. I was there for 3 years and created some of the best memories a college student could ask for. Although, one memory stands out in particular. I started The Naughty Fork when I was home one Saturday night while my roommates had gone out..I was obviously suffering major FOMO, but I had to study. My roommate had laughed at me saying that I post too much food on my personal account. Out of sheer boredom, I decided to move all of my food pictures to a separate Instagram, named “OopsIAteItAgain”. At that time I was just using my phone and posting pictures every so often. Because I was in college, you can imagine most of the food I posted was on the unhealthy side. My following began to grown around that, as did my brand. As I began to grow, I knew I had to start posting more often, so I began eating out for almost every meal. Before I knew it, I was a “food blogger” (at the time, I didn’t even know what that really meant) that focused on the more indulgent side of dining. People didn’t want to see the apple and peanut butter I had for breakfast, they wanted to see the honey butter chicken biscuit from Whataburger I ordered after a night out (still daydream about that chicken biscuit btw). At that point, I had to give the people what they wanted, right?
Unfortunately, my brand doesn’t completely represent me as a person. It only represents half of me. The other half of my life is spent eating vegetables, fruits, fresh fish and chicken, smoothies, and many other things that I don’t picture on my Instagram. This is not because I intend to keep this from you, but it is not what you all want to see. It’s that simple. My brand is focused on indulgent dining, and my demographic calls of it, so I have to maintain it and keep all of you happy! I am a girl who likes all foods (and that means the healthy ones too). Plain and simple. Anyways, I will now get to your questions and by the end of this, I hope you all leave satisfied with my answers 🙂
Do you eat all of the food you post?
No, No, No, NO! I do not eat all of the food I post. Like I said previously, as I began to grow I was forced to post more often and therefore, photograph more content. There are multiple instances where I am surrounded by food. Below outlines a few of them:
- When I go out to eat with my family, we all order different dishes and I take pictures of all of them. That doesn’t mean I ate 5 full plates of food, and if you see multiple dishes posted from one restaurant, that is whats going on.
- Another case are the media dines. Media dines are invitations extended to media personnel in order for the restaurant to gain coverage through social media or traditional media outlets. In this instance, we are all photographing dishes which are then shared family style. If you see a plate of 12 burgers, there are probably 12 people at that media table.
- Have you seen pictures on your menus? Or pictures on the website of your favorite restaurant? That is another instance. On numerous occasions I join in- house photographers to photograph multiple dishes, sometimes full menus, of a restaurant (which every restaurant does either when they open, switch seasonal dishes, etc). The food in this case is photographed for almost 3 hours or sometimes more, and usually taken back to the kitchen for the employees to enjoy. I never touch it.
- I have about 6,000 pictures of food on my camera roll, and another 10,000 on my computer files. This means that in many cases, the picture you see posted could be from a couple of months ago, last week, or a year ago. If a picture is posted at this very moment, that does not necessarily mean I am eating it that very moment. For example: if I post a burger, and then a pizza, and then a pasta. I did not have a burger for breakfast, a pizza for lunch, and a pasta for dinner.
- If you see a picture of a pizza, I am not sitting around eating an entire pizza alone. I do have a family with young siblings. This means that nothing enters my house without someone running up screaming “Can I have it? Can I have it??!!” A lot of the food I photograph at my house is eaten (or should I say ravaged) by family members. Sometimes, I can barely get a bite in.
- The last thing I want to say about this is: this is a job. Just like all of your jobs, I take this seriously. If I am at a shoot, I am there for a reason and usually the reason is not to simply eat and enjoy. I am there as a photographer that just happens to be photographing food. Most of the food I actually eat and enjoy is not photographed, and that is because if I go to a restaurant as a regular customer, I choose to leave my camera at home. Just like all of you, when work is over, its over. In this line of work, you sometimes lose a certain appreciation for enjoying a meal with friends or loved ones. I try to take the time and separate what is work and what is play, and that means a lot of my actual meals go un-photographed. I started this because of my love for food, and I always try to leave the work at home and remember why I began doing all of this in the first place.
This is an example of a dish that was ordered by a friend, not me. But I was able to take a few bites and absolutely loved the flavor so I posted it!
This is an example of an appetizer that was shared between 6 people. I did not sit alone and eat this entire dish. I had a few pieces like everyone else!
How do you stay in shape in this line of work?
Like I said in my previous answer, I do not eat all of the food I post and for various reasons. With that said, I do enjoy eating unhealthy foods (I ordered 2 Dominoes pizzas on Sunday night for myself only lmao) but there is always a balance in life. I love eating unhealthy foods but I also enjoy salads and lots of proteins! For example, a typical Monday would be: coffee for breakfast, morning workout, eggs and avocado for lunch, and chicken with rice and veggies for dinner. I don’t intend to hide that from you, because I really enjoy eating “healthy foods” as well! I studied biology in school and took a few classes on nutrition, so I am aware of how your body deals with food components (for example, egg yolks are NOT bad for you and you shouldn’t discard them!). I just don’t promote it because that is not what you all want to see. I do go out to eat a lot, and that means pastas and desserts and alcohol as well. This stuff is not bad for you in moderation! Another upside to this job is gaining a certain will power or self control when around food. I know when a pasta is worth more than a few bites, and I know when it is worth eating the whole plate! I am very big on family style so you get to try a little bit of everything. I highly recommend family style dining because in this way, you eat as much or as little as you would like depending on what dish you like best!
I do work out every day. They aren’t harsh work outs but I think an hour of exercise every day is important to maintaining a healthy body and mind. I run outside because I don’t believe a mile on a treadmill is the same as a mile outside. I do a lot of self-weight workouts and if I go to a fitness class, it has to be something fun like kickboxing or dance classes. Again, everything is a balance. Just because I run an “indulgent blog” doesn’t mean that is my whole life, nor should it be yours. It is a brand that only highlights one aspect of my life. The other half of my life balances the side that you all see.
If you don’t eat all of the food, how do we know if your posts are always of good restaurants?
Well, I want to make it clear to everyone that I am not a food critic. I did not go to culinary school and I am not a chef. I am simply someone who loves food and photography. I love pretty pictures of food and I share them with all of you. I am not here to tell you what is good food and what is bad food, because in my opinion, food is completely subjective. If you want to eat something a certain way, who am I to tell you it’s wrong? I personally love Hawaiian pizzas, and who is someone to tell me I cant eat it that way? Food goes into YOUR body, and you should eat it the way you want too. That being said, you do start to gain a better understanding of what makes a dish “good” as you eat more and more of it. For example, I have photographed at least 100 brunches in the past year, all of which included an Eggs Benedict dish. At this point, I can tell you what makes the perfect Eggs Benedict, and that is not because I went to school for it. However, like I said before, who am I to tell you how you should eat your food? My instagram is a representation of what I LIKE, and that doesn’t mean you should share my feelings. So in all, every dish I have posted was considered good, either by me or by the person who ate it, but you could totally disagree. That is why I stay away from reviews and critiques..i don’t think a specific dish will elicit the same response in everyone.
Disclaimer: I will not post a dish if it was bad, even if it was pretty. 99.9% of the things I have posted on my page I have at least tried, even if it wasn’t ordered by me. And if you DM me, like most people who do, I will tell you my personal opinions of restaurants, my favorite places, etc. All you have to do is ask.
What camera do you use?
Right now, I use the Canon 6D Mark 2. My first camera ever was the Canon Rebel SL1 which was great. Keep in mind that it is not the body, it is the lens that makes the difference. My favorite camera for the price is the Canon 70D. Its a wonderful body and lens and works wonders!
What does PHAAT stand for?
Ahhhh the age old question. It stands for….Pretty Hot and Always Tempting! I’m assuming the acronym was created to refer to people, but I think it works perfectly for food hahah. It was a way to brand The Naughty Fork further through use of a hashtag, but without using “naughty fork” in the name.
How did this go from a hobby to a business? How does the business work?
It was a very gradual process, but happened quickly at the same time. I began getting invitations to restaurants in Miami as a “media dine”. This basically means “hey, can you come into my restaurant and post a photo of our dishes in exchange for a comped meal”. That was how it all started. Unfortunately, I was in Tallahassee at the time for school, so I had to turn down most of the invitations I received. When I was back in Miami for summer, I started attending many media dines and meeting others in the same line of work. Meanwhile, my following had been growing rapidly, but I hadn’t really monetized it yet, just a few new job here and there. I was in Greece with my family at the end of the summer, a week before I had to go back to school, and I told my dad that I couldn’t go back. I told him that if I went back, I would be putting a very large opportunity on hold, and I wasn’t sure I would get the chance again. He was very supportive, and told me to go for it!
I took that semester off because I didn’t have enough time to apply to UM. I spend that semester creating a website, working with local restaurants, and networking. I then finished my education at UM while continuing to work on growing a business. I remember being in class and answering emails instead of taking notes haha but it was what I needed to do! Once I was towards the end of school, I knew I planned to take TNF on full time. I had a group of local restaurants I was working with, a few large companies that I partnered with, and other photography jobs that kept me going. It was something that couldn’t yet sustain me financially, but I was still working hard to grow it.
Now, big companies are changing their marketing strategies to include social media. For them, it is the easiest way to reach their target audience. To do this, you must go through people like me, “Influencers”, to reach those specific audiences. I also never work directly with the company, it is usually through a PR company. Therefore, the PR company reaches out with a specific campaign and budget, and I work with them to create content for their client, maybe Oreo, and post it on my social media outlets. It is fairly simple. The caveat to all of this is the inconsistency. I do not receive a pay check every two weeks. There is no guarantee every month. Therefore, I am pretty much a freelance artist. I have to actively work to make money every month, which is why I take all of this very seriously. I have bills to pay too!
Is it hard to grow and maintain a following? What are some key factors in growing your instagram?
In the begging, it was very easy to grow a following. Instagrams algorithm allowed for steady growth and high engagement. When Facebook bought Instagram, everything went to Sh*t. The algorithm was changed in a way that made it difficult for all of your followers to see your content. Some of my pictures from today have the same or even less engagement than pictures from 4 years ago, when I had maybe 30k followers. It doesn’t make sense. Influencers are constantly struggling with the algorithm, and are studying its changes constantly to see how else Instagram plans to ruin our lives haha. Some accounts with 5,000 followers have videos with millions of views, and some accounts with 400,000 followers have videos with 30,000 views. It doesn’t really make sense at this point in time, and I believe Instagram is finally starting to change it (lets hope!). Anyways, if you are starting an Instagram now, there are still a few key factors in growth:
- Hashtags: This is a good way to spread your content through key and unique terms. It might not necessarily grow your following right away, but you should always use unique tags to show up on large repost pages. That way, they might see your work and repost you to their following.
- Tags: Tag large accounts in your photo! Like I said above, this is a good way to get reposted. I remember when I was around 30,000 followers, Betches reposted my picture and I received almost 20,000 followers from it!
- Post Videos: Instagrams algorithm still seems to favor video content. If you want to show up on popular pages, try to post as much video content as you can. Generally, people stop and watch videos more than pictures! This is probably the best way to grow.
- Post Vertical Pictures: My biggest thing is posting vertical photos. That way, you are taking up more of your viewers screen and without them ever knowing it, they have stopped to see what you posted. The smaller the photo is, the more likely you are getting shafted. You need to catch the viewers eye!
- Original Content: there are many repost accounts out there. While there is nothing wrong with reposting content, and you can definitely grow by doing it, I think it is best to be original! Instagram is an incredible outlet for artists of all kinds, why use other peoples art to grow your following? I take pride in what I do, and brands know that original-content accounts have a unique following of people. If you post something on your page, you want it to be the first time anyone on Instagram has ever seen it! Thats the best advice I can give you. Be ORIGINAL! It is a lot more satisfying and your followers will thank you for it.
How does the photo process work? Do you have a lot of equipment, specific backgrounds, natural light, a food stylist, etc?
My food photography process is actually quiet simple compared to most bloggers and photographers. I love using natural light. As a Miami-based food blogger, I love using bright colors, blues, whites, greens, etc for my aesthetic. Most of my backgrounds are white lately, and that seems to be the aesthetic I’m going for. Anyways, I usually just bring my tripod and camera to shoots. I only shoot during the day and that is so I can use natural lighting. If I have a night shoot, which is rare, I have lighting equipment but for the most part, it is just a gal and her camera 🙂
How much of the food is free?
If I really wanted to, I could eat for free breakfast, lunch and dinner. That is the upside to this job. For a lot of influencers, that is actually the case. For me however, I actually pay for the majority of my food. Of course, media dines are free because it is essentially food in exchange for posting, but I have eased up on attending them. This is not because I don’t like free food..who doesn’t like free food? But I like choosing what I get to post. I don’t like the obligation of posting. I would rather go to a restaurant on my own terms, and photograph what I believe is either the best dish, or the one I enjoyed the most. Don’t get me wrong, media dines usually give you the freedom of posting what you would like, but I prefer having that extra freedom.
What is your daily work schedule like? How many restaurants do you visit a day?
Another crazy thing about this job is that if I wanted to, I could spend an entire week in bed. I am my own boss, and that means I create my own schedule. This makes it a little difficult to find the motivation to get up when you’re hungover and go to a shoot, or get up at 7am Monday morning just because you should. I try to fill up my weeks with a lot of work because I think it is important to always keep yourself busy. I usually have 2-3 shoot a day, depending on the type and how long they will take. I also create time to shoot my own content at home. As you may know, a lot of video content is stuff I make in my house. These videos usually take about 5 hours (planning, filming, editing). I try to film at least 2-3 of those per week. A typical day usually looks like this: get up around 7am, answer emails, go for a run, film a homemade video, go to a shoot at a restaurant, go to a media dine for dinner. Lately, the job has included a lot of traveling which is exciting! I am out of town almost every other week now.
Sorry for such long answers! I had a lot to say to you all. I hope this gave a little insight into the good, the bad, and the ugly of what being and “Influencer” means. I absolutely love what I do and I love sharing everything with all of you! While it is great that I have created a business out of something I love, I try to remember why I started all of this in the first place, and that is because I love all foods and the happiness it brings to people.