Are you tired of deciding where to eat for dinner? SAME. After too many “I don’t care, what do you want to eat?”s exchanged between you and your family or friends, have you ever just picked a restaurant at random and ended up with a terribly blegh meal? SAME. Well, Brooke Eliason of the powerhouse food blog Female Foodie is of the opinion that life is waaaaay too short to eat a bad meal. With a site full of appetite-whetting content, an Instagram account boasting nearly 40,000 followers and the most drool-worthy food photos, Brooke and her team of contributors are helping end the dinner (and lunch, dessert, and breakfast) debate by providing the best recs for your next meal. No matter where you live — or what you’re craving — Female Foodie has a great five-star bite for you to try. I had the opportunity to meet Brooke when she lived in Austin, and not only is she great at what she does — discovering and reviewing the greatest dishes — but she is amazingly kind, dedicated, and passionate. She is a pleasure to know. Everyone, meet Brooke!
How did Female Foodie start?
I started Female Foodie in the summer of 2010 when I was living in West Yellowstone, Montana for the summer. I was living above a restaurant with a bunch of girlfriends and we all waited tables at several different restaurants in the tiny touristy town. I’ve always loved eating out and had recently taken up food photography and decided to start an online journal or blog of restaurants I was trying that summer. It was a really simple, bare-bones blog but I loved taking pictures and jotting down a few sentences about where I ate and what I had ordered. I slowly (verrry slowly) continued posting over the years and eventually jumped on the social media bandwagon in 2014, which really helped propel the growth of Female Foodie as a whole. It felt so great to be a part of a community where people loved eating out so much, and it made sharing restaurant recommendations infinitely more exciting.
How did your upbringing inspire Female Foodie? Were you always adventurous with food? Favorite food traditions?
My mom has always been an amazing cook and she has her own blog (A Bountiful Kitchen) where she shares delicious recipes. Being exposed to constant cooking in the kitchen really gave me a love for food, and when we did eat out (on vacation or sometimes once or twice a month as a family), my mom was always very selective about where we ate. She wanted to make sure that the food would taste great, because in her words, “Eating out isn’t worth it if I can cook something better at home.” My entire family is pretty adventurous with food and we love to eat at all kinds of restaurants together from Mexican food to sushi to greasy spoon burgers to authentic Italian pizza. We had a lot of fun traditions involving food growing up but some of my very favorites were going to get burgers and frosted root beer at Hires Big H in Salt Lake City and then going to a University of Utah football game or basketball game.
How have you been able to grow your business over time to include a larger team and greater reach? What skills have been necessary for you to learn?
I never thought about growing Female Foodie outside of my own posts or contributions, but within the first year of being married to my husband, Cody, he suggested that I find other foodies who were equally as passionate about the restaurant scenes in other cities so that I could share more local favorite spots in cities other than just Salt Lake City. It’s been a huge learning process for me but in the past 3 1/2 years, I’ve worked with over 50 contributors who are more inspiring, talented, and incredible than I could have imagined. I’ve had to learn how to be an organized leader, adapt to different personalities and backgrounds, and find that very fine line that dabbles between being a friend but also being a focused team leader.
What lessons have you learned about running your own business? What have been the biggest challenges?
I learn new things every single day as I try to grow Female Foodie, but some of the most important things I’ve learned are:
1) Go for it. If you have an idea or dream and it tickles your fancy, you’ll never know what it could become if you don’t just try.
2) Put small consistent effort into your dream every single day. The success or growth doesn’t happen in a day — it’s a transformation over time.
3) Have an open mind. Be willing to pivot, take advice, and re-think decisions. Ask for constructive feedback and surround yourself with people who believe in you and believe in the work that you’re doing. Biggest challenges are learning through trial and error and never feeling like there’s enough time in the day!
What have you found helps you balance business with motherhood?
I’m always trying to be a better blogger and an even better mom. Doing them together seems like a constant juggling act, but my most recent focus has been to eliminate “multi-tasking” and give my time to one thing and one thing only. When my baby is awake and it’s our time together, I’m not working on a blog post or sending messages to my team. That time is for me and him (although we do try a new restaurant every day together, but he likes that too. 🙂 I work hard and efficiently on my blog early in the morning, during naptime, and typically for a few hours once he goes down for bed. I really love work and it would honestly be easier for me to work on my blog all day, but I feel strongly that my baby should be my highest priority, so, for now, this is what works for us.
Top five favorite meals?
In no particular order:
1) Eggs benedict with tangy hollandaise and some avocado wedges.
2) Nigiri sushi featuring any kind of fresh fish- my very favorite way to eat Japanese food.
3) An authentic Mexican lunch or dinner with copious amounts of guacamole and tacos al pastor (don’t forget those juicy pineapple wedges on top).
4) Neapolitan pizza- the charred crust, fresh mozzarella, and crushed tomatoes always make my foodie heart sing!
5) Thanksgiving meal is the holy grail of all meals to me. I love it all from the stuffing to the creamy mashed potatoes. And a few small slices of pie always.
For you, what makes a great Female Foodie recommendation?
A GREAT Female Foodie recommendation is a restaurant that I’d enthusiastically and unapologetically recommend to my mom or a best friend. A great Female Foodie recommendation is almost completely all about the food. Environment and service are important too, but those are so variable and we all like different things. We recommend restaurants that make you pause and raise your eyebrows after that first bite — restaurants that, kind of like a great movie, stay in your mind for hours and days following. We avoid chain restaurants and we never recommend spots just because “everyone else is doing it.”
One dish everyone should know about?
I wish that everyone had more exposure to great breakfast tacos. We spent a year living in Austin, Texas and it’s the biggest thing I miss about living there. We all love a great breakfast burrito or breakfast sandwich, but breakfast tacos are truly next level. And if you’re in Austin, my very favorite place to get them is Veracruz All Natural.
What is your ultimate vision for Female Foodie?
My dream for Female Foodie is to bring noteworthy, trusted restaurant recommendations to every major city in the US (and potentially beyond), because we firmly believe that life’s too short to eat bad food.
What advice would you give aspiring food bloggers or entrepreneurs?
Don’t delay sharing whatever it is that you’re passionate about. We all have unique gifts and talents that have the potential to make the world a better place, but they’re no good remaining dormant in your mind, completely unshared. Wite that first blog post, go to your first networking event, share your idea with a friend, or start an Instagram account. In the words of Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
The Fun Qs:
What is one food you can’t stand?
I almost always pass on eggplant.
Latest Netflix/Hulu binge?
Absolutely loving the Street Food Netflix original series!
Next meal or restaurant you can’t wait to try?
I’ve had Blue Hill (farm to table restaurant in NYC) on my list for YEARS, ever since I saw that first season of Chef’s Table! Someday.
Song you can’t get out of your head?
Now that I have a one-year-old it’s usually “Baby Shark” or “Five Little Ducks.” 🙂
If you could dine with anyone (living or dead) who would it be?
My husband and I would love to have brunch with Freddie Mercury someday.
Follow Brooke on Instagram @femalefoodie or visit the Female Foodie site to find your next great food rec. In NYC, Utah, or Austin? Brooke’s got the citys’ best restaurant recommendations ready for you.