I had the pleasure of hangin’ with the Buns & Bites ladies for a couple of days and getting the inside scoop on how they put it all together.

 

Their Instagram is blowing UP in my hometown of Providence, RI, so I had to find out what they’re all about!!

 

Meet Julia Choi, a talented food stylist and creator of  (Give Me) Baby One More Bite .



 

I was scrolling through Instagram one day, looking through different hashtags related to food as most of us do when no one is looking. I wish I could remember which one I was looking through on this day specifically, but I guess that’s not important right now…

Anyway, I was scrolling through the ‘gram when I saw a STRIKING image. I stopped and thought “wow, WHAT IS THAT” because of how it stood out amongst the other images. I clicked on the Instagram name (@babyonemorebite) and continued to scroll through the account amazed at how striking all of the images were. They were all captivating, creative, and even immersive in a way. I couldn’t get enough.

I clicked the link in her bio’ to visit her website, I had to.

After landing on the website, I noticed even more beautiful images and an overall website layout that was warm and enticing, I was hooked. I went to Julia’s about page and began to read about her, after reading her short biography, I was interested in hearing so much more. I thought she was so talented that I couldn’t help but to reach out and at least have a conversation.

I made it clear how much I loved her work, how she provided me with inspiration and asked if we could meet to talk about a possible interview. I wanted to make sure the chemistry was right before actually attempting to capture her story.

I can’t remember what month it was, but it was so fucking humid outside that I could barely take it. I walked through Union Square and arrived at the cafe that Julia and I agreed to meet at. After waiting about five minutes, Julia popped up with a very warm “Hi! Nice to meet you”.

We sat down, had some caffeine, and talked about how she ended up where she is today. She talked about how she was working in advertising years ago, but felt unfulfilled. She decided to enroll in culinary school in hopes of pursuing a new career in something that she was more passionate about and was so happy that she did. Another thing she said that I remember vividly, is that the photos up on her website weren’t even her best stuff (SAY WHAT?!).

View this post on Instagram

#pasta night 🍝

A post shared by Julia Choi-Rodriguez (@babyonemorebite) on

After meeting Julia on that first day, I knew her vibes and story were both on point which are major keys for anyone that has anything to do with Beyond The Eats. I don’t care if it’s the most known person on the planet, I won’t work with anyone in any capacity who I’m not really feelin’, but that was FAR from the case with Julia. We set up a time to do the interview and went our separate ways.

Fast forward to the day of the interview, and honestly, I was wild hungover from having one (or two or three) too many bourbon drinks from the night before. I let Julia know that I was definitely on the first seat of the struggle bus, then she just laughed it off and assured me that it was no big deal. The only thing motivating me to move or do anything that day was knowing that I was going to capture Julia’s amazing story. I wanted people to hear it.

Julia quickly thought on her feet and decided to make pancakes for a shoot on the spot.

Important to note – I’ve made pancakes many times before, but Julia added a few ingredients and had some equipment that made the whole process seem like magic to me… don’t ask.

Anyway, she whipped up the pancakes wit’ the crazy wrist game and basically freestyled a food styling setup. It was kind of like watching a producer make a beat. She started off slowly, setting up her backdrop, getting all of the props she would like to use in place and things like that, but she quickly started getting into motion. Moving cloth from left to right, drizzling some chocolate here, placing some sprinkles there, I really respected the artistry of it all being put together.  

(below is a photo from the day of the shoot. You can see Julia setting up in the video)

Julia got a few good shots and was ready for me to ask her questions. I  tried to tailor the questions towards helping anyone who is new to food styling and wants some beginner tips on props, things to remember, and how to develop your eye as an artist. I think I did a good job of this, but if I didn’t, you can scream at me in the comments. 

I loved capturing this story because it was drastically different from any other story I’ve captured up to this point. Although I love to interview restaurant owners, this was the first of what will hopefully be many times that I was able to get the story of people who work with food in other ways. It was a lot of fun seeing it all come together. 

What did you think of the interview? Was it helpful? Did you gain any new perspectives? Let me know in the comments!

– Rouk

 

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NEXT UP

Those are the first two words I think of when I hear “Soul Truck”.

Here’s how I ended up on this interview…

I was scrolling through Twitter one day, laughing my ass off at my timeline being wild, (irrational), and out of control as usual. I saw a logo for Soul Truck and was IMMEDIATELY drawn in. First I noticed the green letters and vibrant red background, you couldn’t miss it, I loved that. Then I started to think about the name, Soul… Truck… Soul food? “This is calling me”, I thought.

I clicked the link and started looking around. I saw a really dope themed truck, pictures of GREAT looking food, and raving fans. Usually a combination that makes for some good eats. Sidebar – I’ve eaten at A LOT of places where the food looks good online, but isn’t that great in real life, just more of an Instagram win. That will probably be something I write about one day, but for Soul Truck that is not the case, anyway…

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I knew I had to try this food and see who was behind it. I mention this in a lot of posts, but I feel like it’s important to restate more often so here goes….

I do not interview people if the food isn’t good. I do not interview people if the vibe I get from them is not right.  

Meaning the food and vibe was on point with Soul Truck fast.

I reached out to the Twitter handle at @soultrucknyc, and asked where they would be the next couple of days, got the info’, worked it into my schedule, and headed to Soul Truck. To my surprise, I got there around 3PM which was considered late! But, that was the day I met Chef Tony Desouza’s father who told me to come through WAY earlier next time. I asked a few opening questions for background, and immediately loved the small part of their story that he told me on that first day. I really hoped the food was good because I was drawn to the story off rip.

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I had some free time the week after, and I brought my brother with me who admittedly knows a lot more about food than I do (for now). He’s one of the toughest food critics I know, so it matched the occasion perfectly (it also doesn’t hurt to try more menu items because you’re with someone else). He ordered the curry chicken with rice, and I ordered a “Bless Up Soul” meal which is jerk chicken with rice & peas. I am pausing in my writing as I type this, because I can’t find the words that can accurately describe how delicious it was. Although the jerk chicken was spicy, it had a distinctively sweet “kick” to it. The rice was cooked perfectly, and of course, I tried a few pieces of my brothers curry chicken which was also amazing. Flavorful but also not too heavy which is huge for me, personally. After that meal, and the small part of their story that I did know, I really wanted the interview.

I’m about to fast forward a little bit, but I approached the truck, went back and forth with Chef Desouza, and now this post is here…

This story is special to me

For my fourth story, I got to interview Chef Tony DeSouza who’s the co-owner and head chef of Soul Truck.

This was a special story for me to capture because I believe that Tony and I come from worlds that parallel in a way. In a world where cooking, writing, & reporting on food is predominantly white, he is in the rare space of being a proud and prominent black chef. Oh, and did I mention that he’s just 26 years old?

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Chef Desouza started from the bottom. As a kid who was addicted to watching the Food Network, he always knew he wanted to be a chef. He went to one culinary school and things didn’t go as planned, so he went to a second school and finished up. Then, after working very long days and night for years, he saved up enough money to open up SOUL TRUCK with his father as his business partner. This story is more than one about a food truck opening. This is someone’s childhood dreams and thoughts manifested into real life. Manifested into something that has started a family business and partnership which is dope.

Chef DeSouza serves up food with the most nonchalant style, while doing the work of 2 – 3 chefs and making it all look easy in the process. While I was shooting for this interview, customers kept coming by talking about how much they loved the food at Soul Truck. I kept hearing things like “everything is good”, “everything is so fresh”, “they use the best ingredients”, “the chef is talented”, and  “I would eat here every day if they were here every day”.

Chef Desouza switches up his menu daily like he’s simply switching outfits. During the summer, he likes to serve light meals that customers can pick up and eat while walking or during a quick stop, and I can personally say that he kills this. During the day of the interview, I ate a chopped bbq chicken po’ boy that was on the menu (I also recently wrote about the history of the po’ boy here). It was PERFECT for a summer day. The bread was very light, and the ingredients weren’t packed on too heavy or too oily. After finishing the sandwich, I felt like I could go on a 5 mile run if I had to with no problem. I hate cold weather, but I’m excited for when it’s around so that I can try the winter meals.

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Now, you’re probably thinking something like “I wonder if I should try it”, and the answer depends on how much you like soul food. If you can enjoy good, fresh, wholesome cooking from the soul, then your life is INCOMPLETE until you try out Soul Truck. If you’re not a fan of good, fresh, & wholesome food, then this might not be the spot for you! ha ha.

HUGE thank you to Chef Desouza and his father. All I can say is the hype is growing fast and I’m glad I caught them early enough. In the future, I hope to see a Soul Truck restaurant so that I can order winter meals when I’m feeling extra greedy during the summer.

See you next story,

Rouk

 

 

Meet Andrew Zurica, the chef and owner of the infamous Hard Times Sundaes burger truck and new brick-and-mortar location.

When I originally reached out to Andrew, I thought it was more of a shot in the dark than a request for an interview. The hype around this truck was real and has gotten even more real since, for good reason. It has been featured in publications such as Eater, New York Times, Grubstreet, Zagat, Gothamist, & was recently ranked the number 1 burger in NYC according to Bloomberg!

HTSTruck

The first time I went to Hard Times Sundaes was on a weekday. Andrew posted his location for the day on Facebook as he typically would when the truck would sometimes be in different places. This was before he moved over to Williamsburg in the Pfizer Building parking lot. I took the trip to Mill Basin, Brooklyn because I knew this was a good chance to get my hands on the infamous burger, without having to wait in a huge line. Once I got there, I couldn’t help but realize all of the happy people outside of the establishment. After talking to a couple of them, I found that It was in front of a family owned real estate office, and proceeds from sales of the truck would be going to a great cause that day. As I approached the window to order my burger, I could barely hold back my excitement, because I’m a huge fan of well-crafted burgers. I placed my order and waited patiently for what I hoped would be amazing. I could have approached him about the interview right after I ordered, but 

your food has to be good to be featured on Beyond The Eats!

So you know, I would never lead anyone who follows my food adventures to somewhere I don’t like. Anyway, I received the burger and it looked DELICIOUS, Instagrammable to the max’, but it was time for the real test. Does it taste even half as a good as it looks? As I took my first bite and surveyed, I immediately said out loud,

“marbled to perfection!”

TheFood

After quickly devouring the first burger, I knew two things. 

1. I needed another burger ASAP 

2. I REALLY wanted to get this interview

 I ordered my second and followed it with “hey, my name is Farouk, nice to meet you” after a quick glance, Andrew responded, “I have a friend named Farouk”. This threw me off as it was far from the typical response I usually get… Anyway, I continued with “hey, are you open to doing an interview?”. Andrew asked some clarifying questions such as “who’s it for?”, and “will this be a video?”, but he was ultimately down to do the interview. I was honestly amazed that he would support the “little guy” considering he had been featured in larger publications, even at that time.

Fast forward a couple months of building Beyond The Eats, and I was ready to go! Admittedly, there was some lag on my end, but I reached out to Andrew and we eventually scheduled a time that would work.

On the day of the interview, I circled the large Pfizer building in search of the truck on a FREEZING cold day, It was about 19 degrees outside. I even made this quick video. 

 

 

 

 

After some searching, I found the truck in the large lot and approached it. I waited outside for a few minutes as he and his crew (of 2) got ready for a day of serving these perfect burgers. A man named Mike who also works on the truck with him asked me “you here to see ‘Drew?” To which I responded, “Yeah, I’m supposed to interview him today.” “He should be out in a couple of minutes” Mike said, and Sure enough, Andrew emerged from the building a few minutes later. 

Upon seeing Andrew, he asked if I would want to reschedule for another day as it was cold out. Although I appreciated the thought, I felt like it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, even if I had to get frostbite to get this one! It was important to me to suck it up and get it that day, which I’m glad I did. After the interview, I devoured a burger and it was even better than the first time I had one. I went back the following week and ordered 2 (because yes, I love burgers that much).  

After the interview, I had a burger, then packed up. Andrew went out to do some deliveries, and I was on the truck just chillin’ with Mike. I found it hilarious and telling that he told me “I work on this truck almost every day, and I still don’t get tired of these burgers”.

 

 

 

I want to give a huge shoutout to Andrew for not only doing the interview but for motivating me through his own actions. He is so hands on with his own business that it’s inspiring to witness. I’m sure he could delegate at least half of what he does to other people, but he doesn’t. He puts in the effort to make this burger truck everything that it is and is being recognized for, and I’m glad he’s getting the recognition.

If you’re ever in the area of either Mid-town east or Williamsburg, stopping by this truck or location in Urban Space Vanderbilt is an absolute MUST. This is a top 5 burger in NYC without a doubt, regardless of your original preferences in burgers. 

– Rouk 

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          Welcome to California in New York City 

 
Have you ever been to a place or met a person who just gets “it”? It being a connection, something different, or just something that genuinely grabs your attention in a new way. Well, Summers Juice and Coffee is one of those places. I promise!

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I think the best way for me to describe my experience would be to share the story of the day I interviewed the owner, Chris Taha. On this day, I woke up excited as f***! I had heard about Summers from my (only) friend who regularly knows more about restaurant destinations than me. By this point, I had obviously done my homework and was very excited. Upon my first interactionSummerspost2 with Summers as a brand, I realized how young and fresh/cool it seemed. Videos of skateboarders drinking fresh juice, sidewalk signs with curse words blocked out (due to complaining), and general restaurant decor that is very clearly built around surfing and skateboarding culture. All of these small elements contributed to what I knew would be at least a half interesting interview/experience. It definitely was. 

Summers as a brand, I realized how young and fresh/cool it seemed. Videos of skateboarders drinking fresh juice, sidewalk signs with curse words blocked out (due to complaining), and general restaurant decor that is very clearly built around surfing and skateboarding culture. All of these small elements contributed to what I knew would be at least a half interesting interview/experience. It definitely was. 

I waited for Chris for roughly 30 minutes. While waiting, I took a walk around the area, got some footage for the interview, and just took a good look around the restaurant. The first thing that I realized was that all of the employees seemed happy. It didn’t seem like it was a burden for them to be at work, which is huge. In my opinion, this is usually a good indicator of who is at the top, how much they care about their employees, and how well of a job they’re doing. It’s easy to get people to do a job, but it’s tougher to get people to do a job with a smile that is not forced. The second thing I realized was the reggae music, because you could not miss it. Believe me when I tell you, this reggae music selection could rival any reggae night in NYC, no lie, it was LIT. After examining the spot for a while and waiting for Chris, I received an e-mail from him saying he was at his second summerspost3location in SoHo, while I was in Brooklyn (oops). I got an egg sandwich before leaving, ate it while speed walking to the train, and got to the 2nd location fairly quickly. Upon arriving at the second location, I saw Chris and was greeted with an immediate

“YO! I am so sorry about the confusion!”

but it was cool. Little did Chris know that I learned a lot more about Summers Juice & Coffee from just being at the first location and studying what he had done to make it really feel like California in New York City. I got it. 

After getting all set up and ready to shoot at the second location, Chris and I were just chatting about everything under the sun from Instagram, to Hip Hop, to ingredients/cooking, he even fed a customers dog a couple of treats from his doggy treat container. Yes, a container of dog treats just for customers’ dogs, so cool! Chris is just a guy that truly and wholeheartedly cares about his summerspost4business, and you can feel that as a guest. He wants to teach kids how to drink/eat healthy and maintain an active lifestyle. He wants to employ great people who might not get the same job at a similar type of place in Manhattan, and he does something that is both unique and courageous by bringing a piece of who he genuinely is into his business.

We finished the interview, and he even walked me through how the infamous egg sandwich is made within the video. All of the ingredients used in summers are of the best quality, and extremely fresh.

This interview made me wish that other restaurant owners would truly own their overall restaurant theme, and tie it back to who they are as a person or to a goal. This makes such a huge difference when owners not only do something that is unique in its own right, but is also true to themselves as owners.

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If you’re ever in the SoHo or Williamsburg area, check out either location of Summers Juice & Coffee for one of NYC’s greatest breakfast sandwiches and a fresh pressed juice. Also, please use the hashtag #BeyondTheEats to let me know you went, and what you thought. 

See you next story,

Rouk

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        12/17/2015

 

Have you ever had one of those bites? You know the type I’m talking ‘bout. That type when you take a bite and are immediately taken back. You might even have to put the food down for a second just to take in the greatness of what you’re actually eating. Well, that’s what Prince Street Pizza was for me the first time, and still continues to be to this day. outsideprincesplash

 It was a couple of months after I moved to NYC. My brother came home talking ’bout how this slice was the best he ever had in his life. My brother is the toughest food critic I know, so his review had definitely peaked my interest. I did my Yelpwork, went a couple of days later, and ordered the pepperoni square slice. After I got this pizza, sat down, and basked in its greatness, I knew I’d be back on the regular. I have a personal policy of letting people who work at places I go to often know who I am (and you should too, it ALWAYS has its benefits, trust me).

On about my 3rd visit, I knew it was time to strike up some conversation. I saw a man whippin’ up pies like his life depended on it. I had noticed he was there the last time too. This was how I ultimately met Frank, who is the co-owner of Prince DSC_0507Street Pizza. We’d always exchange jokes back and forth, and I would always praise the pepperoni square. I went back and forth about telling y’all this, because I didn’t really want to show favoritism, but f*** that. This is by far my favorite slice in the city as of the time of this writing!

 Fast forward a couple years and hundreds of pepperoni squares consumed. One day I came to Frank and said “Yo Frank, I need a favor!” Frank immediately had that “wtf is he about to ask me for” look on his face. I proceeded.. “I need to interview you! On camera!” with no hesitation he immediately said “Ok! Let’s do it!” we exchanged numbers and found a time that worked.

 On the day of the interview, I was nervous as f***. It was my first time recording anything, it was dark inside, thereDSC_0494 wasn’t much space, and I had no clue what I was actually doing. But after seeing the final product, I was gassed! I was proud! I know every videographer out there is saying something like “Well it sucks because blah blah blah”  and my response to that is I’m learning along the way. If you have a problem with me learning, don’t watch! : )

Anyway, thank you for reading this, and thank you for (hopefully) watching the video. If you have any constructive feedback or comments, I’m all ears and you can find me on Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. I also like meeting new people, so don’t hesitate to reach out to me via my contact page.

 Finally, if you like this post, please share it. I’d appreciate it.

 Sincerely,

‘rouk