Home Living Jewish Inside the world of Jewish food influencers

Inside the world of Jewish food influencers

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The most kosher social media platform out there has to be Instagram.

Posting updates via smartphone was originally sloughed off as a way to tell other people what you had for lunch. Now, those same food pictures can be big business.

The popularity of the social network was such that Instagrammers were the loudest voices at last fall’s Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem, perplexing ink-stained wretches who wondered what journalism had been reduced to. Yet, the reach of their digital platters eclipse most newspapers.

So, what does it take to join this influencer tribe?

The related business models range from hands-on consulting to online advertising. Some are extensions of larger media outlets, some have found philanthropic backing. And it’s been possible to get a job after proving you can get followers for yourself.

But they all have something in common: a desire to talk about what they had for lunch. And dinner. (And breakfast, too.)

The CJN reached out to a few prominent Jewish foodie accounts, to find out their secrets and get some tips for those looking to enter the trade.

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@kosherguru

GABRIEL (THE KOSHER GURU) BOXER

2,160 posts – 42.3k followers

Canadians compare his patterned jackets to Don Cherry. But the guru knows a lot more about Canada, since his journalist father, Timothy Boxer, was born in Winnipeg.

Facebook was where the Kosher Guru began. That’s where he posted updates, as he began consulting for the food industry. He gave Instagram a try about three and a half years ago. Now, he credits it with changing his career – and his life.

Steaks are his most popular food posts. But lately, more likes are showing up for pictures of Boxer himself.

“Be you, do you and it will take off eventually.” The guru’s advice to aspiring Instagram stars is to ignore the trolls and learn something from the Kardashians – whose show he swears he doesn’t watch.

The Kosher Guru keeps it kosher.

The popularity of Boxer’s persona is partly due to the popularity of Instagram in Orthodox communities, where it’s preferred over other social networks.

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@whatjewwannaeat

AMY KRITZER

1,770 posts – 39.2k followers

The only Jewish food blogger in Austin, Texas. After quitting her corporate job in New York to attend culinary school, What Jew Wanna Eat started as a website, but it was her Instagram account that gained Kritzer notoriety.

Keep in contact with inquisitive followers. Kritzer tries to respond to every message that comes her way, interactions that she credits with helping boost her follower count.

The triumph of her rainbow hamantashen. These got over 5,000 likes on Purim. Kritzer was also proud of a Halloween post, in which she dressed up like one of New York’s legendary black-and-white cookies.

Messy food close-ups are what people want. Successful posts of Jewish food make the details visible, with a little help from natural light. Also, an actual drip or a bite taken out of the food adds to the authenticity.

Fewer likes occur for bagels or matzah ball soup. It’s also tough to get people excited about salad pictures. But she keeps on trying.

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For many, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Passover is gefilte fish, topped with a spoonful of horseradish and a coin shaped round of carrot. The visual is clear, but well the taste, that is another story…😉 Today on the archive, we're sharing a truly delicious recipe for gefilte fish from Patti Kolodny and her daughter @johannakolodny, made from scratch using every part of several types of freshwater fish. This treasured family recipe was recorded one year when Patti's mother fell ill leading up to the holiday. Not wanting to miss her scheduled fish delivery, she carefully wrote the instructions on a nurse's notepad and passed the reigns to Patti. 🐟🐟 Link in bio for the full recipe and story. 📸 @pennydelossantos ✨@judyhaubert 🍽 @vintagethriftnyc

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@jewishfoodsociety

NAAMA SHEFI

221 posts  – 17.8k followers

Instagram is helping Shefi realize a dream. Shefi launched the Jewish Food Society to connect her Israeli background to eaters throughout the United States, and to catalogue Jewish recipes from all over the world. The society’s goal is to “preserve, celebrate and revitalize Jewish food from around the world through a digital archive.” The Jewish Food Society’s website allows people to submit their favourite family recipes and the stories that go along with them, which Shefi and her team use to create photos.

Old photos tell the story of “grandma chic.” Shared family archives can include a vintage picture, or attaching human faces to something they cooked for the kids.

Food stylings can be accessorized. Sunglasses, newspaper, lipstick – Shefi has found that it helps to tell stories by creating a scene, rather than just showing the dish itself. An old-world backdrop enhances an old-world recipe.

Storytelling is also about the future. Part of the idea of the Jewish Food Society is that people on Instagram will be inspired to cook the dishes themselves.

The history is always cyclical. Since the concept relies on personal submissions, popular social media foodies have sent their family creations to the archive, then show off the resulting snapshot to their followers.

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@jakecohen

JAKE COHEN

3,498 posts  – 70.6k followers

“A nice Jewish boy who loves food.” That’s how Cohen begins his official bio, to explain how studying at the Culinary Institute of America led him to a restaurant cooking career that segued into media.

It started with sharing what he ate. Expectations weren’t high when Cohen started using Instagram as a visual diary to accompany his website, Wake & Jake. But now it’s central to what he does for a living.

Pasta twirls have their own cult following. Case in point: he received over 10,000 likes for a “self care” bowl of spaghetti that he shared, the kind of dish that takes on its own mystique when shot while looking down at the bowl.

Polenta and porridge are also popular. Comfort foods rule on Instagram, according to Cohen. Big table spreads, not so much.

You don’t need a fancy camera. He does it all with an iPhone.

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@jewishfood

SHANNON SARNA

917 posts    27.5k followers

The personal becomes the professional. Sarna has her own popular Instagram account, so the social network was bound to play a role when she became the editor of the Nosher, which is part of the website, My Jewish Learning.

Instagram strategy is a team effort. The staff discuss how they can reflect the diversity of Jewish food, to bring more attention to it, especially among younger followers. And the dynamics of popularity keep shifting.

Memes are part of the magic. The Nosher doesn’t just do food pictures: “Jewish Food March Madness” became its thing, with the final four consisting of bagels vs. latkes and challah vs. matzah ball soup.

Again with the natural light. Sarna suggests taking a photo outside, or near a window, on a bright and beautiful day, as the best way to bring out the photogenic aspects of food. Even when that food is matzah.

People like pastrami less than bagels. “Sad, but true.”