She might be best known for her super cheesy shots, but Leah Shalbey of Wicked.Cravings is a lover of all foods thanks to her Italian father and Lebanese/Syrian mother — she has strong food genes. Growing up in Norwood, Shalbey was exposed to all kinds of cuisine and soon began taking photos of the beautiful things she ate to share them with others. Now, after three years she has almost 19K foodie followers on Instagram. She took time to chat about her go-to brunch spots, where to get the best cake she’s ever eaten, and possibly the next food trend — pickle pizza with a side of honey mustard (don’t knock it till you try it).
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
I was born and raised in Norwood, Massachusetts, so I grew up going in and out of Boston my entire life. My family has always gone above and beyond with all types of food, whether it was preparing at home or eating in restaurants. My dad was very Italian and my mom is Lebanese/Syrian—I definitely have the food genes in me! To be honest, there are not many foods I don’t like. I love everything and will try anything (except the one time I didn’t want to try beef cheeks, because they didn’t look appetizing to me lol!). Growing up, my family always ordered the best and most unique dishes on the menu, which exposed me to all different types of food. Some dishes would be so beautiful and delicious that I naturally would take pictures of them. One day I thought, “Why not post all of this on an Instagram for people to see and try themselves?” Here I am now, 3 years later, and food blogging is basically like a side job for me now and I have continued to grow my page! I also love traveling for food, because it is ALWAYS worth it.
Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.
- Lobster roll from Eventide Fenway —so incredibly unique and delicious. I could eat 5 of them.
- Fried Chicken Sandwich from Crazy Good Kitchen—everything there is amazing, but this chicken sandwich is made with a thick piece of chicken and the spice is perfect.
- Sushi from Koy—their sushi is extremely fresh and BEAUTIFUL. One of my top favorite sushi places.
- Blueberry Pancakes from Joe’s on Newbury—topped with a cream cheese frosting. Order them, and thank me later.
- Ice cream from New City Microcreamery in Cambridge. They make it homemade and have the best flavors. Don’t forget to add countless toppings!!
- Date cake from Sweet Basil (This is in Needham but a must-know). It is one of the most delicious cakes I have tried. It is “to die for.”
What do you think is on the horizon for restaurants?
Who knows right now, but I believe multiple new food trends will continue to come out and eventually become widespread. Once a new “food trend” comes out, restaurants compete to make that trend even better. I also think a trendier food scene can attract more people, especially in Boston, because I compare our city to other cities like New York and how well their food scenes do. I also think the pandemic prompted restaurants to become innovative. Many of these ideas, such as “take home kits” and “take out offers,” etc., especially outdoor dining (in the Winter, too) will become a HUGE staple now, and I am so excited for that!
Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?
I love following Frank Prisinzano. He is a chef that is very straightforward and doesn’t beat around the bush. He comes up with outstanding dishes, and he knows exactly what people want. He is full of knowledge and just a fun person to follow. He has a strong personality and isn’t afraid to say how it is—especially with cooking. Also, Gordon Ramsay… because who doesn’t like to follow him, right?? One of the most well-known chefs!
Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?
These have been my top 3 for so long!
- Devour Power—they eat the most insane food and find the craziest places. I love them & could seriously watch them all day.
- CheatDayEats— her videography skills are unbelievable. She is a professional, and I salivate watching her videos.
- TheNaughtyFork—she creates incredible content, and she is someone whose content looks very professional. And her posts are so fun to watch!
Describe Boston’s food scene in three words.
Becoming, Traditional, Delectable (and it’s starting to become trendier, too).
Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?
Gosh, there are SO many.
Rino’s Place. Lots more!
What’s your food photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome food photos?
I always try my best to go during the day, because that’s when you can get natural light, and natural light is best for taking photos. But I also have a light I carry around, so I highly suggest purchasing one for when it’s dark! I use my iPhone, and always have, so don’t think you need a professional camera to take good quality pictures. My top tips are to get multiple different angles and multiple different shots. Make sure the lighting is good—try to avoid shadows. Don’t be afraid to zoom in to get those action shots. Just hold your hand on the button and take tons of pictures. To me, I’d rather have too many pictures to choose from than just a couple. And GO SLOW! Cheese pulls don’t happen from going fast. The more detail, the better. To edit, I mainly use the Snapseed app. I know Lightroom is also a great app for editing.
Favorite brunch spot:
Abe & Louie’s — if you’re looking to splurge on brunch, look no further. AMAZING!
North Street Grille — both savory and sweet trendy brunch options.
Joe’s on Newbury — I recently went and absolutely loved it. Right on Newbury. Please get the blueberry pancakes!!
Lincoln Tavern—trendy brunch place and fun for drinks too! The food will satisfy you any day, whether you want something sweet or savory.
Favorite place for outdoor dining:
Legal Harborside —right on the water. I love getting a nice cocktail and some food overlooking the ocean.
Bay Pointe Waterfront Restaurant in Quincy—the BEST! Great food, right on the water. I love it there.
Favorite Pizza joint: Town Spa in Stoughton, MA. Order their pickle pizza with a side of honey mustard. Don’t ask questions.
Favorite neighborhood for food: For a nice Italian night, I would pick the North End. Can’t go wrong with some delicious, traditional Italian!
Favorite new restaurant: Source Restaurant in Harvard Square for their pizza!
Favorite pandemic takeout: Sushi from Bamboo in Dedham, MA
Favorite new restaurant innovation: Take out deals/ take home kits! So fun & interactive.
Meet The Tastemakers is a monthly column that shares the stories of those contributing to the conversation on Boston’s food scene.