Timna Nwokeji, who lives and works in Lowell, has channeled her love for small, independent businesses right into her blog and Instagram account — @lifeasamaven — where she highlights her favorite finds along with travel and fashion tips. She explores New England (and beyond) and shines light on hole-in-the-wall eateries and local businesses that enrich the communities around them. This busy Maven took some time to chat about how she creates organic photography, which spot brings her tastebuds back to Italy and how best to support restaurants right now. Get to know Boston again and, like Nwokeji’s t-shirts say, “Maven it up and support local”.
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
My name is Timna aka @LifeasaMaven and I have lived north of Boston for over 15 years now. I used to write these really lengthy reviews on yelp and my husband told me, why don’t you just create a blog? At the time I thought “how I could ever write that much”? But come to find out, I love to write and it evolved into what Life as a Maven is today — a place to share my favorite local restaurants, boutiques and travel finds. Everywhere I go outside of Boston I always try to find small, locally owned places as well and it has become about exploring more than just my community and sharing those experiences with my followers. I have also used this experience and expertise to help small businesses with social media management, consultation and marketing as my niche had been and will be small businesses and their connection with the community.
Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.
I have an extensive list of things I still want to try in Boston but if I have to name 5 here we go!
- Massive dessert platter from Zuma
- Brunch at Committee
- Brunch at Bistro du Midi
- Lahmacun at ilona (This is a flatbread topped with ground lamb, vegetables and spices).
- Frenchie Boston has been on my list for quite a while as well
What do you think is on the horizon for restaurants?
This has been a year of great change for all of us. The restaurant industry took a massive hit and they had to pivot to a great degree. I think we are going to see more of that as staffing needs rise and restaurants go through more unforeseen hurdles. It is up to us to really help them as much as possible while they navigate these unknown waters.
Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?
My favorite chefs to follow on Instagram are:
- Chef Christopher Viaud has an incredible restaurant with inventive dishes and creates plates that are filled with flavor.
- Chef Viviana Acevedo takes Colombian cuisine and elevates it to another level and explores different flavors within the cuisine while creating a unique take on it.
- Chef Jonil and Chef Rossy are fusion style chefs, and it’s wonderful to see fun inventive dishes like plantain beignets!
- All about freshness and flavor, Chef Kelcy Scolnick creates pastries and dishes that are about bringing you closer to their source.
- Chef Beni is a fantastic chef from Perugia who was trained in Rome and has a modern take on traditional Italian cuisine. I’ll eat anything he makes, he’s that good!
They are all innovative in their own way, and I love seeing what they come up with.
Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?
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?
Basically its all about the composition and the food. I am super big on in the moment captures, and like it to be as organic as possible. I also don’t follow a preset lighting structure because sometimes a picture might be really great but it isn’t artificially bright. It may be a bit moodier, and I love that about photography, so I really experiment.
Favorite brunch spot: Harvest – the chicken and waffles is amazing.
Favorite place for outdoor dining: Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen – great vibes and great fried oysters.
Favorite Pizza joint: Pizza and Pasta at Eataly Boston – takes me back to Italy.
Favorite neighborhood for food: Chinatown
Favorite new restaurant: Tora Ramen
Favorite pandemic takeout: Wingz & Thingz
Meet The Tastemakers is a monthly column that shares the stories of those contributing to the conversation on Boston’s food scene.