For someone who grew up eating Twinkies and mozzarella sticks, Amy Cao sure has her pulse on New York City’s culinary scene. The self-proclaimed “foodie who doesn’t cook,” is a food blogger who refuses to boast about her gastronomic adventures and invitations. Amy is also the creator of the popular web series, “Stupidly Simple Snacks” and is Head of Social Media at Foodspotting.com, a new food sharing website and phone app. Fusing her love for food, photography, and social media, Amy creates a gateway for emerging cooks and food lovers of all ages and backgrounds. Her snacks may be stupidly simple, but Amy is one smart and ambitious cookie.
You’re actually a New Yorker from New York. Did growing up in Brooklyn help you develop your appetite for writing about food?
Brooklyn was not the gastronomic destination that it is now back when I was growing up. As a family, we did not dine out that often, we would eat at home a lot but I always knew where to go in the neighborhood to get the best mozzarella sticks or pizza bagels.
Where did you develop your curiosity then?
I would say college. I went to Boston University and we had a pretty amazing dining hall on the west campus where I lived. That dining hall was famous for having all these different stations; it was an all-you-can-eat buffet the entire day. I would just spend hours over my lunchroom tray with my friends and classmates.
Is that where you got the idea for your blog?
The idea for my blog came after I worked at Zagat Survey, which is a restaurant guide. I was an editor and I left in ‘08 to start freelancing. I had all of these writing clips and had nowhere to put them so I started a website as a kind of writing portfolio.
And your “Stupidly Simple Snacks” Videos?
The videos came from my boyfriend Jason making fun of me. He would say, “You write about food but you can’t cook it?” It was partly his ridicule and also because I loved these banana shakes at Caracas in the East Village. I go through food phases where I get obsessed about something. I was obsessed with these banana shakes for the summer of ‘09, and Jason said, “Why don’t you make banana shakes?” And it just blew my mind that you can make them because it just required banana, milk, and cinnamon in a blender. It’s a stupidly simple snack, so that’s where the name came from.
What sets your blog apart from other food bloggers?
I have video, that’s the obvious one. I don’t review food on my main blog, AmyBlogsChow.com. They’re longer pieces which reflect on the dining experience and the way we now interact with our food; it’s picture-focused. On my Tumblr site, I may make a recommendation but I don’t write full-fledged reviews. I like to show rather than tell because I want you to make up your own decision. I also don’t think it’s my place to put anyone down. If I don’t enjoy something, I won’t post it, but if something’s amazing I want all my friends to know, so I’ll post a photo and provide some background on how I came across that dish. I know when food looks good and I want to capture it in a way that reflects the way I experience it. That’s why my blog is very photo-driven and I like to think that people think the videos make food approachable. You can love food and not be able to cook it and that’s fine. And unlike recipe blogs, I don’t write out my snack recipes.
You must get invited to a lot of events, how do you decide which ones to go to?
I prefer intimate events and I don’t cover events on my blog anyway since it’s an experience you can’t repeat. I don’t need to rub it in that I went somewhere and ate something amazing, unless it’s from a restaurant where you can get that same food again.
What do you do for Foodspotting.com?
I’m Head of Social Media so I am the person behind our various social media platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, and our blog. I produce videos and help with event planning in New York City. We’re a small team so we all do a little of everything. Basically, I’m trying to shape our voice as a company and the way people perceive us, especially online.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
If I can help someone help himself, that’s awesome. There are a lot of young, emerging cooks as opposed to non-cooks like myself who may benefit from a user-friendly “cooking” show, I think. Aside from reading my blog, I always appreciate suggestions on what to make next. I have thought of opening up my main blog to contributors. Maybe I’ll open it up to videos by other people who do their own “Stupidly Simple Snacks.” The sky’s the limit.