For 20-something fashion lover Elissa Garza, exploring Boston’s food scene is just one of the many reasons why she chose to study in the city and stick around after college. The Texas native now lives in Chelsea, helps run social media for Boston Urban Hospitality — Boston Chops, Deuxave and dbar — and posts about her personal adventures to her own following of 11,000+ on Instagram. Here, she shares the best place to snag clam chowder and explains why her food photography philosophy shifts depending on who she’s dining with.
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
I moved to Boston in 2007 to attend Emerson College, and the rest is kind of history! I quickly became a Boston gal choosing to spend summers here in New England rather than heading back home with the rest of the students. After graduation I was working at a small asset management firm in Cambridge and feeling really creatively unfulfilled, so that’s when I launched Style Wire, both on Instagram and on the site. I wanted a platform to document my personal style and adventures while also serving as a creative outlet. I had no idea the connections I would make and what it would lead to!
Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.
Ohh! The Fried Chicken at Brassica in Jamaica Plain (bonus points if you get it with waffles during brunch!), the Dope Yolk at Ruckus in Chinatown, the Clam Chowder at Mooncusser (Chef Carolyn is known for her soups and they are always excellent!), the Foie Gras at Deuxave (always perfect, always thoughtfully paired), and the escargot at Marliave (always bubbling and fresh)!
What do you think the next big trend is for restaurants?
Hmm… I really have no idea — but I promise I’m not a picky eater, so I’ll try it!
Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?
I’m a little bit biased — @ChefChrisCoombs is one of the first chefs I started following on Instagram. I’m now running social media for Boston Urban Hospitality (@BostonChops, @BostonChopsDowntown, @deuxave, and @dbarboston), and I have had the opportunity to really learn from him and get to know him better and his philosophy on food. It’s been a real game changer for my career and an absolute privilege to be on his team.
In addition to Chef Chris, my boyfriend @zackcooks is a Sous Chef in the Greater Boston area, and I love getting to see what he’s working on through his channel. I hear him talk through his ideas and concepts at home but I’m always impressed with how he translates that to the plate and brings it to life in ways I never would have expected or envisioned. I also follow @drewramseymd; while not a chef per se, I have his cookbook. Dr. Drew teaches a philosophy of food as medicine and eating the rainbow to help combat depression. He’s truly inspired me to eat more complete and experiment with veggies in ways I never would have before.
Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?
There are so many! I could get lost in the #bostonfoodies! I love @christinaorso; she’s a social media manager for local restaurants too so I love seeing what she’s doing with her clients, where she’s eating and where she’s adventuring with her adorable new puppy. @sharefamilydinner, because I get their farm shares at home twice a month and I’m absolutely obsessed. This week we got some incredible shishitos, squash, and eggplant. They share some awesome recipes, what other share recipients are cooking up, and behind the scenes from the farms where they source their products from. And @jilcooks cause she’s a killer at-home chef always inspiring me to play with new ingredients and adapt old recipes, plus her photos are amazing.
Describe Boston’s food scene in three words.
Fickle, Diverse, Robust.
Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?
I love cajun so I’ve been dying to get over to Bootleg Special for some of their southern seafood. I have had drinks at Kamakura, but I have yet to go for dinner and that is most certainly at the top of my list, and of course, the Fox & the Knife! I know this female dominated team is doing incredible things!
What’s your food photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome food photos?
When I’m out to eat with friends, less is more. I try to spend as little time as possible taking photos of my food when it’s not “for the feed.” When I’m shooting for Instagram specifically, more is more! I look for the best natural light in the house and I have a little mental checklist of angles I like to get– from above, straight on, by itself, angled a bit with a beverage, styled with some utensils, with an app, etc.
When natural lighting isn’t readily available I filter my iPhone flashlight through a piece of paper or scrap of receipt paper, it stops the light from reflecting so intensely on the plate and lets you control the shadows and intensity a bit more. I try to get as much content as possible out of every shoot!
A Few Of Your Favorite Things:
Favorite brunch spot: Trident Cafe — their Stuffed Ricotta French Toast has been my favorite for over a decade.
Favorite place for outdoor dining: River Bar has one of the best patios year-round, I love hanging by the fire with drinks and apps into the fall.
Favorite BBQ joint: Durk’s in Providence — worth the drive!
Favorite late-night: Tasty Burger. Never not craving at Spicy Jalapeño burger and their crispy tots!
Favorite neighborhood for food: Mine! With Ciao Pizza and Winnisimmet Lounge in Chelsea, we don’t have to go far for great food.
Favorite new restaurant: Nothing has blown me away lately; I think with the current restaurant scene in Boston, it’s important to keep supporting the local businesses you love and want to see thrive so you’ll see me at all of my old favorites!