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Who is @DCfoodporn?: An interview with Justin Schuble

food for thought

<p>Justin Schuble — better known as his Instagram handle @DCfoodporn — eats and snaps photos of delicious food for a living, but what is it really like to be a "food influencer"?</p>

Justin Schuble — better known as his Instagram handle @DCfoodporn — eats and snaps photos of delicious food for a living, but what is it really like to be a "food influencer"?

Do you ever wish you could reach through your phone and grab what’s on the other side of the screen? If you’ve never felt that way, just wait until you check out @DCfoodporn

With pages and pages of the most satisfying and ambrosial food items, @DCfoodporn’s social media accounts will have you yearning to teleport to each location — if only I could snap my fingers and devour a Fruity Pebble constructed ice cream bowl from New York City’s Midtown Creamery. Sometimes the camera is the best way to convey the luxurious tastiness of food. 

I had the pleasure of talking to the social media icon behind one of the most screen-delicious food accounts, Justin Schuble, to learn how he built his Instagram platform of over 500,000 followers. 

“I’ve always loved food, but I did not go into college wanting to become a food influencer,” Schuble explained. He studied finance and marketing at Georgetown University’s business school in Washington, D.C., thinking he would pursue a career in real estate. 

“In college, I got sick of eating at the dining hall, so I started to explore around Georgetown,” Schuble said. I laughed at this remark because, as a Duke freshman, I could absolutely relate: It’s a good day at Marketplace when they have grilled chicken and sweet potato casserole. (Sorry vegetarians, I know the tempeh can be questionable.) Schuble began to take pictures of the food he would get and share them on his Instagram account, which was originally named @freshman_foodie. 

Schuble curated his aesthetic by posting pictures he hoped would captivate his audience’s taste buds and by only including food he truly enjoyed. Schuble stays away from sharing any negative content because he wants his social media account to support businesses and promote positivity. After his brand grew throughout college, Schuble decided to make @DCfoodporn his full time job when he graduated. 

For Schuble, every post is strategic: “If it’s a warm day out, I will share ice cream; however, if it’s cold, I will post hot soup... As a food influencer, you must always be able to adapt to what your audience would want at the moment.” 

This adaptive mindset also applies to unexpected world events, such as the coronavirus pandemic.

“The majority of my feed is traveling and going to restaurants,” Schuble said. “So I was a little freaked out about how the pandemic would influence my content.” Schuble took to his own kitchen and found another way to appeal and connect to his @DCfoodporn audience. 

“I made the shift to recipe content. I began to play around in the kitchen to appeal to the everyday person,” Schuble said. With the majority of the world staying home due to COVID-19, grocery shopping and dining-out are not as accessible and safe as they were in the past. Schuble, cognizant of the times, focuses his content on easy recipes with just five to ten ingredients. 

Most of the recipes on @DCfoodporn are easy and quick, using ingredients you are likely to have in your pantry. These recipes are easy to view on @DCfoodporn’s Instagram reels and his Tik Tok @justinmschuble. Recipes include items such as a radiantly purple protein smoothie bowl, a cookies-and-cream latte perfect for a rainy day and an upscale avocado toast.

“With my shift in content, I have picked up a lot of grocery store brands and clients,” Schuble said. “It has been good for business and pushed me out of my comfort zone.” 

Often, a brand will email Schuble and ask to partner on a campaign. As a part of this collaboration, the company will pay for the content @DCfoodporn produces. However, the relationship has its challenges. 

“One of the hardest parts of working with brands is that they have a clear vision and forget they hire influencers,” Schuble said. Typically, though, brands reach out to influencers who they know will fit their product well. For Schuble, this means brands who connect with him usually share his emphasis on food, travel and lifestyle. In fact, several airlines reached out to Schuble to collaborate before the pandemic — an opportunity to dine and travel the world at the same time.

Cathay Pacific, an airline based in Hong Kong, reached out to Schuble for him to advertise the Hong Kong food experience giving him the ability to explore the city, try their delicacies and share them on @DCfoodporn. Schuble described Hong Kong as “one of the coolest places” he had ever traveled to, as well as Tel Aviv, Israel.

“I went to Tel Aviv twice, once with an airline and once with Birthright,” Schuble said. On Instagram, Schuble would show the beauty and deliciousness of Israeli food and how that is attainable through Birthright Israel, an organization that sponsors ten-day trips to Israel for young adults of Jewish heritage. 

Social media influencers have the strength to promote a message, a story and evoke emotion. Instead, many influencers place greater focus on boosting their personal fame and followers with fast-paced content. It is rare to find an influencer who genuinely cares about the relationship between their content and their followers. Justin Schuble’s @DCfoodporn defies the standards of social media. Even with an Instagram following of over half a million, Schuble still connects with the people who have helped him build his success. 

“I want to be relatable and personable,” Schuble said. “I don’t want to just be pictures, but a person as well.” 

Schuble’s Instagram story is almost always filled with polls and questions for his followers. In one series, called “Let’s Assume,” Schuble’s followers submit their assumptions about him, and Schuble then rates them on a scale from true to false. Schuble even seeks his fans’ opinions on home decor for his own personal projects. As seen in Instagram pictures of Schuble with his family, there is a human — with a full, rich life — behind the lens snapping those pictures of flavorsome food. 

@DCfoodporn demonstrates how a passion can become a full-time job. For inspiration, photography and positive content, follow Justin Schuble’s food account. I bet your mouth will be watering within minutes.

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