Foodie Takeover: Getting Unconventional
Meet Jami, Madison and Paige - the minds (and stomachs) behind Unconventional Foodies. Read the interview to learn about their experience growing the platform, getting to know the foodie scene and their favorite (and least favorite) things about it.
** Interview has been edited for length and clarity. All pictures belong to Unconventional Foodies.
Let's start with a bit about yourselves.
Jami: I’m Jami. I started Unconventional Foodies in my junior year of college… I have always loved food and finding new things, so I decided to put it on social media and then I asked my sister and my cousin to join me and it kind of just grew into this super fun, exciting, expressive, food-centered blog.
Madison: I’m Madison, I’m Jami’s older sister and Paige’s cousin. I think above all things it’s been so nice being able to personally connect with so many people who work in the restaurant industry and people who appreciate food. This blog has been a great way for not just ourselves to connect with other people but to connect the viewers who are coming in with the same content that we’ve been able to receive ourselves.
Paige: I’m Paige, I am the cousin. So, just a little background, my mom and Madison and Jami’s mom are sisters. So we are first cousins, we grew up together and they are from New York and I am from Michigan. So, kind of building off of what Madison said, it’s been nice to connect with like everyone else but it’s been really nice for me personally to stay in contact with my two cousins who don’t live where I live. Throughout our whole lives our parents have instilled in us to stay connected and be close. I don’t have any sisters so for me it’s an extra layer of goodness. It’s been nice to be in contact with everyone and then just, ya know, we’re in constant contact, like everyday we talk now, not that we wouldn’t talk everyday but I don’t know that we would talk as much if we didn’t have Unconventional.
(Right to Left: Paige, Jami, Madison)
On working with family:
P: Actually it's really not hard, I feel like we like a lot of the same stuff and if someone doesn’t like it, since we are family, we can just be like “ew that’s ugly” and we’re just not afraid to give our opinions.
J: We all have different roles and different tastes, which I think adds to the Unconventional brand because we appeal to just about everyone.
P: Yeah, and we take all the pictures on our blog. So everything we post is something we have personally done or tried which is really important to us. It’s fun because we’ll take ten photos and send them in the group chat and decide together so it really is a collaborative effort even though we are eating individually or not with each other most of the time. It’s fun because we still get to share the experience and get each other’s opinions or tell each other about the really awesome meal we just had.
On their individual roles:
P: Well we’ve never really talked about [our roles], I think we just lean into what we personally like to do and what we’re personally good at. Like I really like doing the giveaways and we make stories announcing stuff. I do a lot of the creative stuff.
J: I do a lot of backlog and promoting and planning - I love doing that. I'm always finding restaurants to go to or saving and bookmarking things on Instagram so I can easily locate the foods and places that I want to try in any given place. I also do a lot of eating - that's a big part.
M: Listening to you both talk, I feel like you guys have more distinct talents whereas I try to A- keep up engagement and B- try to get information out of people who we’re going to go see. I always try to find the host or the chef and understand exactly what their vision was. Part of that was easier since I’ve been based in [New York] city - well I think there’s an interesting food story everywhere - but there’s such a range in the city and in such a small space that it’s interesting hearing like very almost different opinions on food depending on where we go and what we eat.
P: I can kinda tap into that too since I live in Michigan and the restaurant selections aren’t as abundant as they are in New York. I think that’s another place where we tap into our authenticity. Because there are so many restaurants on here that are just okay. And they’re not bad, they're fine, but I only put things on the account that I really love. And I know everywhere won’t be the best, that’s a given, but I’d rather try it all and then let you guys know what the best things are so you don’t have to go and have those mediocre meals.
J: Yeah we love that, like when we get a DM like, “which restaurant should I go to, I’m going to this city.” That’s always the best.
P: And we get to give our advice to someone who will actually use it. Like someone messaged us last week to say they were coming to Detroit and they were going to Ann Arbor too and it was cool because we’ve tapped into the Ann Arbor scene as well.
J: I think that’s one of the reasons why I loved having the blog when I was abroad [in Barcelona] even though it was just starting out it was so cool because I would meet all these people and introduce myself to waiters and it just turned into a different experience. I think that's a lot of what the blog is, it’s like finding experiences through food and meeting with people and connecting with people.
P: When it comes down to it, food is like a universal language. Everyone has to eat, if you don’t eat, you die. No matter if you speak the same language or not, ya gotta eat. So you can sit down and have a meal with someone who you may not otherwise think you have anything in common with. But say they make something for you that’s amazing, that’s your first common ground.
M: Food is the ultimate common denominator. I’d say with 99% of people you could talk about something with food or what they appreciate with food. Or things they can’t eat like maybe they have a specific diet and I think you could tune into that. I think Paige is really gonna be taking us places with that niche.
On being unique and authentic:
M: Well, when we first started, we asked ourselves, “why should people follow us?” and I think it really just came from looking at all the experiences we have had because of food and wanting to share those.
J: Yeah definitely, like we’d show views and things we’re doing and what we’re experiencing around the food. Like we’d post about the restaurant and then we’d post a lot of stories about what the ambiance looked like or what it was like. So when you’re going out to a restaurant you want [to know] everything and not just the good food. So a part of what we bring is showing people the top experiences and how to best experience life through food.
M: Just to add one more thing - It’s supposed to be for all these people who we don’t personally know and now we can feel like we do know them because it’s a community where people can interact about food.
P: And we are so adamant about only taking our own pictures which makes us really different. There’s just a lot of stuff on the Internet and a lot of it is just people reposting other people’s stuff, whether they’re saying it’s someone else’s stuff or not. We really keep it authentic so people can know that we actually had this experience and we’re not just suggesting this because we saw it and it looked amazing. Because as we all know, pictures and Instagram can be misleading and there’s a fine line between what’s real and what’s edited. We want to show people that we actually ate this and we can personally attest to it.
Unconventional's shining moments:
P: I love seeing people’s reactions when I tell them and show them the account. Like really anyone could really do what we’re doing but it’s our personalities and our vibes and our touch that make it what it is. And seeing reactions to that is super fun and validating.
M: Right and not that we base our worth on followers or approval because I think having to believe in yourself from the beginning of something is so important. Like really believing in what you have to share before you have a following that believes it too. Like for the first year, what were we? We were just another food blog. You just have to believe in yourself and your message and your brand and what you have to share. It’s been really cool being like, “okay I’m sure this is going to work so let’s keep pushing through this.”
P: I also love that there are three of us because we all have jobs outside of this and it’s so much work and also it’s eating out, like how many times are you eating out at a new restaurant? It just takes a little of the pressure off like if I were doing this by myself I’d probably give up and been frustrated by how it wasn’t growing that fast but having each other to be like “no look how far we’ve come let’s keep going” is really great.
M: Ultimately, it’s just so much fun. It’s like documenting your life.
J: Right like it doesn’t just remind me of the food I ate but also what I did before and what I did after and who I was with.
P: Food is such a memory linker like smells or tastes and you think about the mood you were in and everything.
M: That’s the thing though, right? Like the experience you have - yes, it’s unique for you - but it’s something that can be shared and that brings things together. Like the cider mill isn’t just about donuts but it’s nostalgic and the whole experience that brings you joy and that’s what we look for when we go to restaurants or make a meal.
P: You always want to go back somewhere that gave you a good feeling.
J: Service is also so important but we think it’s really important for that. When you can connect with the people you’re eating with or from it just enriches the experience.
Advice for Beginning Foodies:
J: Definitely content, engagement and authenticity - all three.
M: Respond to people and connect with people and make it into a community. We’ve met other foodies and bloggers through it and it’s becoming this really great community.
P: Also, there’s space for everyone and just be consistent and post a lot to - again - build trust.
M: Also having a clear purpose is really important and it doesn’t need to be reinventing the wheel or anything because let’s face it, everything has pretty much already been done but the way that you make it your own is how you differentiate.
M: Also, just in general, I want to thank everyone who is reading this and who has been there along the way. A huge part of where we’ve gotten is our friends and families and people we’ve met - like the chefs and managers who have engaged with us. So, thanks to everyone who have believed in us as much as we did!
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