Nicole Brathwaite might have started her Instagram @mydietistrash on a whim just over a year ago, but her decadent, scrummy food photos are catching all the eyes (and making stomachs grumble) around town. This talented Marketing Manager knows what her followers are craving — yes, colorful cupcakes and lots of sticky-sweet, syrupy waffles, but even more importantly— food that represents special memories and moments of connection over a simple meal. In between cooking, gramming and hunting for her next nosh, Brathwaite chatted about her top five dishes, thoughts on fried lobster meat, and her photography advice (hint: you don’t need a fancy camera).
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
I’ve lived in Boston my entire life, born and raised. Although it’s all I know, I imagine myself living in a warmer climate at some point in my life. Well, not anytime soon, as I recently purchased my first home in December 2020, but a girl can dream. I work in the financial industry as a Marketing Manager. I love all food, so it’s almost impossible for me to narrow it down to one type, but I wasn’t always a foodie. As an adolescent, I was a very picky eater. I stuck to the basics: French fries, chicken and plain burgers (no condiments). Fast forward to now, I’m the complete opposite! When I’m not eating, I love to travel. I have a strong desire to see the world in all of its glory while I’m young and able. Unfortunately, my travel plans were put on hold in 2020 due to Covid-19 but when the time is right, I have every intent to continue my travel endeavors.
I started my Instagram page simply based on my passion for food. I would dine out almost every single day and post food to the Instagram story of my personal page. My followers were interested in knowing the restaurant locations and constantly pointing out the fact that I was always eating out. In these story posts, I would sometimes include #MyDietIsTrash – crediting my poor eating habits, and that name stuck, hence my IG handle. Story posts are only temporary and I didn’t want to flood my actual feed with food, so I started a new page. It was a completely impulsive decision. There was no real strategy behind it, other than a central place to post my food outings. By no means did I think my page would grow a following beyond a couple hundred people, or be of any inspiration/influence, but I’m thankful for it.
Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.
I haven’t even made a dent in the Boston food scene. There are still so many places I have yet to visit on my bucket list but if I had to recommend 5 of my best food dishes, in no particular order, here they are:
- Fried Lobster from Smith & Wollensky. You’ve probably tried fried lobster IN the shell but have you ever had large chunks of lobster meat deep fried? I had this for the first time at Smith & Wollensky and it was so unbelievably good that I went back a week later just to have it again.
- Steak Rice Bowl from Mariel: An Instagram-worthy restaurant that offers Cuban food packed with so much flavor your taste buds will be dancing.
- Shrimp & Grits from Buttermilk & Bourbon: With this dish, they serve jumbo fried shrimp on a bed of buttery, creamy grits. Add a side of the warm honey glazed biscuits if you’re feeling ambitious!
- Oxtail, Thai Basil Rice and Sweet Plantains from Zaz Restaurant: If you live in Boston, you’re probably already familiar with this small, black-owned restaurant. This is one of my go-to spots. I’ve been there at least a dozen times and I’ve never had a meal I didn’t like.
- Cake Batter Blast Ice cream on a Rice Crispy Cone from Emack and Bolio’s: This is an ice cream spot I had to add to the list. Not just any ordinary ice cream parlor, this one offers some pretty unique ice cream flavors, but the real star of the show is their ice cream cones. My cone appreciation skyrocketed after I tried their Rice Crispy cereal flavored cone. They also carry other cereal cone flavors such as Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms, and the list goes on.
What do you think is on the horizon for restaurants?
It’s hard to tell. I know a lot of small restaurants have taken a hit from COVID-19 and many of us heavily rely on them for our favorite meal. In 2019, a lot of my money went toward dining out, but that significantly slowed down in 2020. One skill I gained from quarantine is cooking. I always knew how to bake but cooking not so much. It’s become something I’ve really taken a liking to. I think restaurants will always be an essential business, but if anyone else is like me and refined their cooking skills during the quarantine downtime, then less people are dining out. I still find myself craving that restaurant experience so I’ve been trying to find a good balance and more importantly, continue to support restaurants –small/big, black-owned and local, all while staying safe. My hope is that any restaurant/s being affected will find the relief they need to come out on top.
Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?
Erica Barrett –has an Instagram page filled with drool-worthy Southern dishes. She’s a chef based in Atlanta, but I would definitely take a trip to try her food.
Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?
First, I’d like to start by saying everyone that I follow has incredible food content. There are so many talented and original content creators on social media, it’s always a challenge to narrow it down to favorites. I would love to plead the 5th on this one but I’ll shed some light on some of the food accounts that I’ve been enjoying recently:
1. @chiclittlecakes.co —she makes some of the most beautiful cakes. Her account is a dream to look at. I really enjoy baking and once explored the idea of baking cupcakes full time, so I really admire her persistence in cake decorating. It really is an art.
2. @bourbonbitesandbeauty —we have been following each other on Instagram for some time now, and we mutually have shown one another so much support (she’s such a sweetheart). I’ve watched her account grow and her content evolve, as she incorporates so many great themes into her posts. Not to mention, her love for bourbon is right in line with my love for food.
3. @midsmenu —is easily one of the most authentic foodies I follow. Her content feels very genuine, in a sense that I would trust the places she recommends on her page. She’s also a Boston foodie, like myself. I have to say this, although it’s not food related, but her nails are always on point! I’ve already told her this a number of times so it’s old news (to her).
Describe Boston’s food scene in three words.
Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?
What’s your food photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome food photos?
I don’t currently own a high priced, fancy camera –for the time being, I use my iPhone to take all my photos and videos. I think as long as you know how to capture good angles and lighting with the right editing apps, you can produce quality content. I try to use natural light in almost all of my photos. Over time, I learned that the clarity of the photo is more pronounced when in natural light vs. a dimmed setting with harsh or yellow light. I still have so much to learn about food photography. It’s a lot of trial and error, and perfecting your craft doesn’t happen overnight. I’m very hard on myself when it comes to my content because I only want to put out my best version, but I’ve learned sometimes your followers want a relatable photo/video over a perfect one. So while it’s fine to strive for greatness, sometimes your highest engagement comes from the imperfect content. Keep that in mind any time you’re hesitant to post something that isn’t “your best work”.
Favorite brunch spot: That’s a tough one, brunch is my favorite. The first spot that comes to mind is Yaz’s Table.
Favorite place for outdoor dining: Six West has really cool rooftop dining in the warmer months.
Favorite BBQ joint: I haven’t found a BBQ restaurant in Boston that I love yet. That’s not to say that one doesn’t exist but of the ones I tried, I just wasn’t blown away.
Favorite neighborhood for food: Boston Seaport has some really good restaurants.
Favorite new restaurant: Rhythm ‘n Wraps. I’m not a vegan but I had my first vegan dining experience here. I was floored by how accurate the flavors were in comparison to the real thing. I tried an assortment of vegan foods and it changed my entire perspective. I’m definitely a fan!
Favorite pandemic takeout: Zaz Restaurant
Favorite new restaurant innovation: I love the igloo dining concept. It’s a fun way to eat out and have a private dining experience.
Meet The Tastemakers is a monthly column that shares the stories of those contributing to the conversation on Boston’s food scene.