You might spot Tori Gillern hunting down some street art, munching on a breakfast sando at Crave in Beverly, or tossing back a pile of pasta in the North End. This New York native mixes her Italian American family traditions with her marketing prowess to show off Boston’s food scene through her Instagram account @Torisfoodstory. Gillern took a detour from her noshing journey to dive into her favorite outdoor dining spots, share the scoop on her go-to pandemic takeout choices, and chat about her bonus bucket list dish (hint, it involves a buttery croissant and lots of maple).
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
I grew up in a tiny suburb of Rochester, New York which is located in the Finger Lakes region. It’s a beautiful area of New York with a super underrated food scene. I come from a large, close-knit, Italian American family and food played a huge role in our family celebrations and gatherings. I remember watching my grandfather cook Sunday Sauce and learning how to make meatballs with him in the kitchen. My father is also a fantastic cook and he was always making me try new things to expand my palate. I think this is where my love of food really comes from.
I attended Johnson & Wales University, both the Denver and Providence campuses, and graduated with a marketing degree. After college, my aunt and uncle who lived in Boston convinced me to move there. Moving to Boston was the best decision I ever made. I got an MBA at Northeastern University, grew my love of food and the city, made new friends, met my long-term boyfriend, and got a ‘real’ job. Now, I’m a Marketing Manager at Go Ahead Tours, travel is also a passion of mine. I run my foodie account in my free time for fun.
My Instagram account had always been full of food pics, but after I met my boyfriend Ron, who is just as food-obsessed as me, and we started exploring Boston more, food became all I was posting. My page grew over time and eventually, I decided I should make it more legit so I changed the name to @Torisfoodstory and turned it into a business account. I’ve started focusing my content more on the North Shore recently. Ron co-owns a restaurant with his brother in Beverly called Crave (a must try for breakfast sandwich lovers), and we bought a home in Beverly to be closer to the business. I hope to continue to highlight the growing food scene here in addition to Boston and beyond.
Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.
- Caviar sandwich from Little Donkey. Buttery and decadent and you feel fancy eating it.
- Souffle pancakes from Bootleg Special. They’re so fluffy!
- Lobster roll and 242 fries from Row 34. These fries will change your life.
- Spaghetti and clams from Aqua Pazza. So simple, yet so perfect.
- Steak tartare from Saltie Girl. The buttered brioche and mountain of snowlike parmesan cheese is unreal.
- Bonus Dish: the Northshore breakfast sandwich from Crave! Maple bacon, egg and cheese with maple aioli on a buttery croissant, what could be better?
What do you think is on the horizon for restaurants?
I think the COVID-19 pandemic has forced restaurants to be more creative with take-out and outdoor dining as well as rely on a smaller staff. While more fast-casual style restaurants were able to weather the storm, sit-down restaurants were challenged to make changes and innovate to survive. I think, and hope, the unique take-out and outdoor dining options are here to stay.
Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?
One of my favorite local chefs to follow Jamie Bissonnette. His restaurants are some of my favorites in the city – Little Donkey, Toro, Coppa – he posts a lot of dishes from these restaurants and cute pics of his French bulldogs.
My boyfriend got me into Sam the Cooking Guy a couple years ago. He’s more of a YouTube sensation, but we watch his videos all the time. He’s hysterical and his recipes are fairly simple, and his food is incredible.
I also have always loved watching and following Ree Drummond – Pioneer Woman. I have her cookbooks and LOVE her recipes. A part of me has always wanted to move to the middle of nowhere and live on a big farm or ranch, so I love getting a glimpse of her wholesome ranch-life.
Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?
- I love to follow @bostonfoodjournal. I’ve been following Brittany for a while. I love how her page has evolved to blend food and fashion.
- Another account I’ve been following is @a_couple_fatties. Jayme and Greg take drool-worthy food pics and I love that they often give the North Shore some love.
- One of my favorite accounts I started following a few years ago is @jewishfood. My boyfriend’s family is Jewish and after my first Passover and Hanukkah I became obsessed with matzo ball soup, challah bread, latkes, borekas, sufganiyot, shakshuka…. the list goes on.
Describe Boston’s food scene in three words.
Evolving. Eclectic. Authentic.
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?
For me, I try not to take myself or my account too seriously. Once I start feeling overwhelmed or I start putting pressure on myself to get the perfect photo, that’s when I stop having fun. This is a passion and hobby for me, so I never want it to feel like a job. That’s why I use my iPhone still to take pics and you’ll notice I take week-long breaks here and there from posting.
And, sometimes I do respectfully decline offers to promote brands or visit restaurants if I’m busy or don’t think it’s a good fit for my page. That being said, my top tip to getting an awesome food photo would be lighting! I try my best to take all of my pics in natural daylight which really makes editing a breeze.
Favorite brunch spot:
Favorite place for outdoor dining:
ReelHouse – beautiful views of the city from East Boston.
Legal Harborside – as the name suggests, it’s right on the harbor with fantastic views and you can watch the boats go by.
Lookout Rooftop Bar at Envoy Boston – also great views of the harbor, but on a posh rooftop.
Favorite Pizza joint:
Regina Pizzeria – a classic in Boston!
Source – their pepperoni pizza is incredible.
Favorite neighborhood for food: South End & Cambridge
Favorite new restaurant: I have yet to visit Time Out Market Boston since it opened and it looks awesome. I’ve also heard good things about Pammy’s, Krasi, and Contessa. Excited to try those new restaurants as well.
Favorite pandemic takeout: Zo Greek – their zucchini & feta fritters and their pork gyros are incredible.
Tony & Elaine’s – some of the best meatballs in Boston.
Kimchipapi – their corn dogs are amazing.
Favorite new restaurant innovation: Smaller, streamlined menus and high-quality take-out.
Meet The Tastemakers is a monthly column that shares the stories of those contributing to the conversation on Boston’s food scene.