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Meet Jeanette Mai of Foodnette in Orange County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeanette Mai.

Jeanette, before we jump into specific questions about your work, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started Foodnette as a food diary and outlet. My relationship with food is something I actively work on each day. When I was in my first year of college, I would have random weeks where I didn’t have the desire to eat at all. I am grateful for my friends who supported me and kept me company while I ate dinner even when they already ate. Since I couldn’t enjoy the taste, I would focus on the aesthetic. I paired my photos with ratings of my experience to track my thoughts and remind myself that even if I am indifferent about food now, in seven days, I will be happier again.

I started by taking photos using my phone and editing with free apps. Then I discovered the power of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Even then, I was nervous to use my DSLR camera. I wanted to be more creative so I decided to face my fears. I started bringing my DSLR camera with me every time went out to eat. I would take backup shots on my phone just in case I didn’t like the photos I took on my camera. I realized that shooting and editing often helped me notice the aspects I wanted to improve on. This allowed me to constantly improve as I was growing my Instagram account. To this day, I’m still learning more about my camera and how to create a photo that evokes hunger.

Last spring, I created the opportunity to collaborate with over 70 businesses during my ten weeks of school. I did this by simply asking. I knew I could provide a more affordable alternative to traditional media and I wanted to build up a portfolio. I have actually helped many Instagram food content creators reach out to local businesses for collaborations. Some creators that I have assisted had a follower count ranging from two to eight times the size of my own. Other entrepreneurs have been very generous with their business advice and one has even sent me examples of contracts and invoices.

Has it been a smooth road?
I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet local entrepreneurs and content creators while learning more about influencer marketing and photography. One of the biggest challenges I have come across is communicating my intentions through captions. I started with more directly honest reviews in my captions because I wanted to address the issue of pretty food not tasting very good. Because of the words I chose, people perceived me as a pretentious food critic.

This perception did not align with who I knew I was. I know my opinion is not the most educated because I have not tried all the different flavors the world has to offer. I was only documenting my personal experience but my communication style was too blunt and people who did not know me personally would perceive my intentions in a different way. I realized that my tone was something I needed to change if I wanted my voice to represent me correctly. I now focus on highlighting the strengths of a business because it gives the viewer a better idea of what to look forward to when they order particular dishes at each restaurant.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
Foodnette is a content creation and photography business. We cover the must-visit food spots in Orange County and the Bay Area. We are known for vibrant photos with a human touch. We are proud to be started by a young woman of color. We highlight the strengths of each restaurant and dish so viewers have a better idea about what to order.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Orange County has a diverse selection of restaurants to choose from making it a great county to start a food Instagram in. Shooting different foods gives me a new thrill each time. From what I have seen, the foodie space in Orange County is very saturated but finding what makes you different will set you apart.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Headshot: Vivian Nguyen
All other photos: Jeanette Mai

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