A few months after Marissa Herman launched her Instagram account — Boston Mouthful — in November 2016, she knew she had tapped in to something special: the Boston blogging community. Below, she talks about how she transformed her hobby into a side hustle, what it takes to be an influencer (including how many pictures she likes on Instagram per hour) and why pastry chefs are some of her favorite people to follow online.
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
I ended up in Boston the way many others do – I came here for school. I’m from New Jersey but I went to Emerson College where I studied writing, literature, and publishing. Two days after I graduated I started what I thought would be the first step in my dream career by working in the legal department of a book publisher. I remained there for three years and did really enjoy my experience, but after a while I yearned for something more creative. I’ve always had a bit of interest in marketing, so I decided that maybe I would give it a try.
I honestly created Boston Mouthful as a test for myself to see if I would be good at marketing. I had always loved food and was a Yelp Elite, so starting a food Instagram just seemed like a logical way to go. It all just started as a fun hobby and I really didn’t expect much to come of it – I even kept it as a secret for months in case it failed. It wasn’t until I got invited to my first event a few months in that I started to understand the incredible world I had just stumbled into. It was like I had uncovered this secret society of food bloggers and influencers – I couldn’t believe that restaurants just invited normal people like me to openings and tastings. Once I understood the positive impact my Instagram could have on restaurants, and the potential it had as a business, I kicked my account into high gear. I started liking around 100 pictures an hour, commenting as much as I could, posting every day and trying my best to meet and learn from other influencers.
It’s been about a year and a half now and I’ve only slowed down my engagement a little bit. It’s a lot of work maintaining my account but I truly love every moment I spend in this Boston blogging community. Every influencer I’ve met has been so kind and working with restaurants is always a fun experience. I’m so grateful for all the doors Boston Mouthful has opened for me, including one to my new job as a Marketing Writer. Needless to say, creative opportunities are definitely not something I’m lacking in anymore!
Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.
Biscuits from Sweet Cheeks
Lobster Ravioli from Trattoria Il Panino
The Sophie from Boston Burger Company
Cube Toast from Double Chin
B3 ice cream from Toscanini’s
What do you think the next big trend is for restaurants?
I believe the next big restaurant trend is mindfulness. Recently, I’ve been seeing consumers really value the impact their food has on the world around them. There’s a strong push for grass-fed beef and farm-to-table style restaurants, vegan eateries and food trucks are becoming more popular, fast-casual restaurants are moving towards compostable utensils and some, like Spyce in Downtown Crossing, are even omitting straws altogether because of their negative effect on the environment. Even more than that, there are restaurants getting more involved with social activism as well. I feel like Boloco is constantly donating some portion of their earnings to various charities, most recently by raising money for two women’s shelters in Boston for Mother’s Day, and The Broadway just donated cupcakes to a local hospital for Nurse’s Day. Perhaps it’s because Boston is such a young city filled with college students and millennials who are really starting to see and understand how consumption effects society, but either way this is a food trend that I am very excited about. There’s no reason why food can’t taste good and also be good for the world as well.
Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?
When looking through my Instagram to decide which of the chefs I followed had the most drool-worthy food, I noticed a pattern which I swear was absolutely unintentional. As it turns out, I may have a stronger sweet tooth than I thought. With all of these chefs, I am so utterly impressed with how they make dessert a beautiful piece of art. When dining, you often choose some place based on the entrée, and that entrée is considered the main event. But with these chefs, they truly save the best for last. Dessert is no longer just your run-of-the-mill scoop of ice cream or slice of pie but an entire experience in itself.
@mercurybrian: Pastry Chef at Oak & Rowan
I’m constantly in awe with the complexity and presentation of his desserts. You can tell by his Instagram that he completely loves what he does and each plate is filled with passion for his craft. Those lucky enough to try one of his dishes know that his desserts are so much more than a feast for the eyes, but a multi-dimensional flavor explosion.
@pastrychefrobert: Pastry Chef at Cultivar
Though I’ve never been to Cultivar, the more I look at Chef Robert’s Instagram, the more I wonder why in the world I’m not there right now driving a spoon into the Passion Fruit Chocolate & Yuzu Coconut Sorbet or his colorful Black Current Panna Cotta. I love his ability to please your palate with his colorful palette. It’s incredible how he uses the whole plate to create his masterpiece, even if the dessert itself only takes up a portion of it. With every delectable dish, Robert truly makes you feel like you’ve done something great to earn such a delicious indulgence.
@joannebchang: Owner and Pastry Chef of Flour Bakery and Myers + Chang
I feel like Joanne needs no introduction. If you know restaurants in Boston, then you are quite aware of her work. Unlike the above two chefs, Joanne creates much more approachable desserts. From her famous sticky buns to towering cakes, Joanne’s pastries prove that you don’t need to have a lot time to stop and treat yourself. I love that I can look at her Instagram and think to myself “I can actually get one of these right now” and walk to Flour and have it be everything I hoped for from the photo. Everything she makes really is as tasty as it looks. And, if you do want a sit down dessert, you should definitely stop by the South End for the lemon-ginger mousse coupe at Myers + Chang.
Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?
@the_roamingfoodie: Often, when I’m out taking pictures, I find myself asking, “WWJD?” That’s right, “What would Joey do?” His whole feed is my food inspo because I love that he strays a little bit away from fine dining and photographs what people really want to eat: fried chicken sandwiches, tacos galore, French toast masterpieces and everything in between. How Joey seems to capture a burger’s best angles and make a plain slice of cheese pizza look like the most incredible drool-worthy food I’ve ever seen is something I’m still trying to master myself.
@bostonbehavior: Danielle is a blogging powerhouse who is capturing Boston’s food scene from every side: as an influencer, as someone who works in a restaurant and as someone who works in an agency. Because of this, she has a unique grasp on what her audience wants and has an incredible handle on the best eats and latest trends. When I’m looking for a new restaurant to try, I always stop by her feed first.
@bostonfoodgram: I honestly feel like Emily has exploded into the blogging community and for good reason, her pictures are incredible. Her ability to snap the perfect shot in a restaurant and also set up the most beautiful flat lay at home is something truly to be admired. I absolutely love her action shots and videos, and it also doesn’t help that she happens to be the sweetest human on the planet. (Editor’s note: Read our Q & A with Emily of Boston Food Gram here.)
Describe Boston’s food scene in three words.
Diverse, innovative, and irresistible (believe me, I’ve tried!)
Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?
Oh my goodness, there’s so many. I have a list in my phone of over 40 restaurants I need to try and it’s constantly growing. But at the moment, my top five are:
Rino’s Place (for their lobster ravioli)
James Hook and Company (for their lobster roll)
Za (for their mac and cheese pizza)
Mainely Burgers (for their BGC secret menu item)
Benedetto (for anything that’s a carb)
What’s your food photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome food photos?
My philosophy is: take pictures of what you would want to see on your feed. In general, I follow food Instagrams because I want to see the food. I’m less interested in artistic flat lays and more into more detailed shots that show what’s on the plate. So, that’s what I try to encompass. I want you to stop scrolling on your feed and say “wait, what was that? I need that immediately.” To achieve this, I tend to go for close ups where I really focus on one dish, instead of a few. I try to get the best lighting I can so most of my pictures are taken during the day. Lastly, I try to do the least amount of editing possible, because I really want people to get what they’re expecting when they go out an order what they saw on my feed (but I would be lying if I said I didn’t use the help of Snapseed to take my pictures up a notch). My best advice is to just snap what you honestly think looks delicious. Chances are, you aren’t the only one who thinks that cheese pull will look good. After that, good lighting is key, and try to photograph something that has color (you’ll rarely see a plain ol’ steak on my feed).
A Few Of Your Favorite Things:
Favorite brunch spot: Worden Hall
Favorite place for outdoor dining: Brewer’s Fork
Favorite BBQ joint: Sweet Cheeks (Honorable mention: Earl’s Kitchen + Bar. Although they aren’t a BBQ place they have the best ribs I’ve ever had in Boston.)
Favorite late-night: After Domino’s? Double Chin.
Favorite neighborhood for food: Southie
Favorite new restaurant: Buttermilk & Bourbon