Jeanine Donofrio is the brilliant mind behind the blog and cookbook Love and Lemons. Her vibrant recipes and veggie-focused ingredients make for a mouth-watering and eye-catching Instagram grid! The New York Times described her cookbook as "happiness in itself tossed in every bowl." Read on to learn how Jeanine got her start in the kitchen, as well as her top tips when it comes to food styling on Instagram!
Where did you learn to cook and what is your fondest memory in the kitchen?
I learned to cook by myself, loosely inspired by these three events - and a bunch of trial and error. Growing up, I'd bake a ton with my mom. My fondest memory is baking Christmas cookies with my mom and my little sister. Every year we'd bake these pretty poinsettia spritz cookies with red and green sprinkles - but the best part was eating the almond-flavored dough. In college, I had a vegetarian roommate. She would make these huge gorgeous burrito bowls and colorful, filling salads - it helped me rethink the boring chicken meals that I was eating, and I became interested in cooking fresh, healthy, vegetable meals. After I had married my husband Jack, we traveled the world together, and those experiences inspired me to recreate some of our favorite dishes at home - i.e., simple Mediterranean meals and that miso eggplant we loved in Kyoto.
Let's talk food and content – two industries that now seem to go hand in hand. As a food blogger & author, how has Instagram played a role in your approach? What advice do you have for those looking to break into the food blogging world?
Before I started Love & Lemons (and before Instagram existed), I was a graphic designer. I loved my work, but eventually, I got burnt out and turned to cooking as my new hobby and creative outlet. I'd be slammed at work, but couldn't wait to come home and cook. There's something cathartic about chopping vegetables, and I just love the color and beauty of a fresh vegetable-forward dish coming together. At the time I didn't see how I could make a career with food - I knew I didn't want to work in a restaurant and I knew I didn't want to give up on design altogether. Instagram (and blogging) made it possible for me to combine both of those passions. I'm not sure what advice I could offer to someone breaking in - these platforms change every single day so what worked for me six years ago, probably wouldn't work right now. My best advice is just to pour yourself into your work and love it. This is a very Oprah thing to say - but if you follow your passion, the success will follow.
Your Instagram and blog is perfection. What are your top tips for nailing the perfect food Instagram shot or food photography for your blog in general?
- Shoot in good light. I can't stress this one enough. I know we're all so tempted to take a photo of a beautiful dish in a dark restaurant - but don't! Enjoy the food and perhaps arrange a time to come back in the daylight and sit by a window if you really want that shot.
- Find your style and be (somewhat) consistent. I generally shoot my recipes the same background (my marble kitchen countertop), which has helped me define a light and bright style. I loosely follow an 80/20 rule - 80% of my photos follow this consistent style, 20% can be anything else - a picture of a restaurant meal, pretty vegetables from the farmers market, a pic of my dog... anything I'm inspired by.
- Plan your grid :). The best way to draw new people to your account is to have an A+ looking grid - I use PLANOLY to space out my photos in an order where shapes, colors, and types of photos feel well balanced.