From table to phone: NYU’s food influencers on standing out online

From saturated fats to saturated markets, the New York City food scene is a social media playground. NYU food influencers are here to play.


Aaliya Luthra

(Illustration by Aaliya Luthra)

Kasey Goldenberg, Contributing Writer

The phrase “phone eats first” is emblematic of today’s food world’s obsession with aesthetics. Social media is changing the way people dine, drink, cook and interact with food, and the New York City dining scene reflects this ever-changing industry, which is covered by some of the city’s best writers, photographers and content creators. 

NYU’s food influencers are at the center of NYC food trends and media. Navigating the sea of “food porn” that dominates social media feeds, viewers want to be more than impressed; they want dining to be an aesthetic experience. They want to be awed and amazed. 

Food influencers must be fully aware of audience demands to create appealing content. Global Public Health and Nutrition junior and influencer Sian Auer said the key is making food aesthetically pleasing, appetizing and exciting.

Auer is no stranger to the food media scene. He is part of NYU’s Bite Club, the school’s online food publication, for which he writes and takes photographs. His background gives him a strong insight into both the artistic and scientific elements of food media. 

“The big thing was food photography, and making sure the plate has the oils right or there’s contrast between each component on the plate,” Auer said. “But it’s expanded much more beyond that now. I break down nutritional content, and I recommend healthy recipes, or I post my recipes.”

As food media becomes saturated with restaurant reviews and recipes, influencers know the importance of having a specific niche in order to both stand out and gain a following. For Auer, relevancy is achieved through understanding his audience and leaning on his nutrition knowledge. 

“I’m aware of food trends, and I think critically about how nutrition science shapes the food industry or, vice versa, how the food industry is shaping our understanding of nutrition science,” Auer said. “A big thing for me is I approach things with a very numerical and scientific approach. I was interested in the science behind what allows trends to take off.” 

Trends in food media move quickly and change constantly, making it difficult to always stay ahead. However, when someone is passionate about the world of food, their content becomes more real and personable, and trends feel less important.

Grace Wongchaiwat, a junior majoring in Nutrition and Food Studies, is a food influencer who embodies the concept of personable and interactive food media. Wongchaiwat is known for her food and lifestyle Instagram account, @tastygracies, where she posts what she likes to call “edible art.”

“Food is fashion, food is art,” Wongchaiwat said. “Food is symbolic of culture, community, all these other symbols — like medicine. It’s just interesting to see it play out in your day-to-day life and conversations with your friends and family.”

Wongchaiwat’s account features a wide variety of content created with the aim of interacting with her audience. Unlike Auer, she does not have a specific content niche, but instead makes audience interaction her forte. 

“I get such positive engagement,” Wongchaiwat said. “I have a tight-knit community of people, like food influencers, that follow each other, and comment on each other’s pages. I get a lot of inspiration from other people’s pages.”

Despite the high competition, the food media industry has fostered a community of like-minded people who can channel themselves and their various interests into food. While it can be difficult to gain a massive following, NYU’s food influencers, like Auer and Wongchaiwat, demonstrate how any platform, big or small, can make an impact on its audience. 

“Everyone’s a food influencer, but the only thing I’m interested in is letting my account and my page take me where it takes me,” Auer said. “I want to continue creating a page that I’m happy with because it delivers the message of food I want to my audience.” 

Standing out and being different can make influencers more popular, but sharing passions is what makes these pages truly unique. 

“You don’t have to care that everyone’s already done it. It’s really whatever you want to make of it,” Wongchaiwat said.

Mariapaula Gonzales contributed reporting for this article.

Contact Kasey Goldenberg at [email protected].