Marcella De Vincenzo is a foodie and a blogger. She got involved with San Francisco-based Dishcrawl, a new startup that recently launched in Montreal. And we thought it would be interesting to explore how she got involved, and Marcella’s perspective on social media, technology and food.
Her answers to the future of social media, technology and food are the most interesting. What we’re seeing is the use of social media and technology to seriously shake up an industry, and go beyond advertising or deals on food but to change how people find good restaurants, get recommendations and speed up that entire process.
NextMontreal: How did you get involved with Dishcrawl?
Marcella: Despite all the high tech social media solutions out there, this connection was made the old-fashioned way, an introduction by a mutual friend (Alistair Croll). Even though Tracy (founder of Dishcrawl) and I work in different social/business networks and are on opposite coasts (of different countries) Alistair saw a mutual passion for food between us and suggested that we talk. Tweets quickly grew to emails and then to Skype calls as we discussed all things food related. Tracy explained her vision for Dishcrawl and her desire to bring it to the Montreal foodie community. I was honored with the title of Montreal’s first Matchmaker and we agreed that I would take point as her Montreal ‘person’ responsible for arranging monthly Dishcrawls as well as writing weekly restaurant reviews.
NextMontreal: What’s your background?
Marcella: My formal background and studies are in Human Resources, and I worked in that capacity for several Montreal technology companies for a number of years. In fact, that’s how I first met Alistair (Networkshop and Coradiant). I was certainly good at it and appreciate all the people and projects I got to work with, however HR was never really my true passion. It took me some time to realize it fully, but food was where my heart always was. Be it cooking with family, visiting markets, going to restaurants, taking cooking classes, or even organizing food related events, I was not happy unless I was doing something with food. Once that realization crystallized I decided to jump into the food realm with both feet. It was a leap of faith in many ways.
NextMontreal: What interests you about the Dishcrawl concept?
Marcella: Everything! I really do mean that. Getting the opportunity to know the people behind the food for one (i.e. meeting the chefs, their teams, the restaurateurs…) This allows me to really understand their passion and drive, and most importantly their food. Then there is the opportunity to bring people together who feel incredibly passionate about what they eat, and who are ready to explore new dishes with amazing delight. Montreal foodies are so eager and open to discover new things about food, chefs, the people they’re dining with, and themselves. I always say, “there is so much you can learn about someone just by what they eat.” And finally there is the food… Where there is a Dishcrawl there is amazing food, and where there is amazing food you will always find me
NextMontreal: How long have you been blogging?
Marcella: Like so many other bloggers I didn’t take a straight approach into it. To be honest, I never really thought I had anything interesting enough to post or at least that anyone would want to hear. I started by freelancing for online sites like Sweetspot.ca several years ago. I would write product, culture and restaurant reviews and eventually even had a column dedicated to ‘Best of Montreal’ lists. No matter what or who I was writing about (or for) it seemed that I would focus on, food, stuff like ‘The event was fantastic but here’s what we ate’… or, ‘This year’s trend setting must-have is available today, you can find it at the store next to that fantastic bakery’ . I wrote for some time and got the best reaction to my food and restaurant reviews. This past year I was asked to write about Mamma Agata, a lovely Italian lady and fantastic cook from Amalfi with a unique and wonderful story (truly a remarkable woman). She had just launched her first cookbook and I (taking a page from ‘Julie & Julia’) figured the best way to get to know her before meeting her in person was to cook through all her recipes. So, from January to May I frantically cooked, blogged (www.agataandme.com), had groups of taste testers over for meal upon meal, and finally even got to meet her at her home in Ravello Italy (better ending than the movie). The entire experience was a dream come true for me and I even got to help edit the second print of her cookbook. When I got back from Italy I realized that this was where I needed to be, with a focus on my Italian culture and traditions. So that’s where I came up with www.eataliangirl.com and what could be considered my first true “blog” endeavor.
NextMontreal: Do you see a lot of new activity with respect to social media in the food business in Montreal?
Marcella: Absolutely! Food is definitely a hot item in media today with more foodies than ever and new shows and events launching seemingly daily. People have become more and more interested in what they eat. They want to know where a certain product was purchased, is it local, organic, etc.
Adoption in the food industry is the same as any other industry starting with the younger chefs making a name for themselves, and followed up by the more traditional restaurateurs after they see the activity and good money social media brings. I see Montreal going in the same direction as places like San Francisco and New York where chefs are more active on Twitter and restaurants leverage sites like Facebook to communicate events and entice patrons with online deals. While I certainly don’t think restaurants are in any danger of disappearing they will have to embrace tools like social media as their patrons become more educated (and as such more demanding) about food. As I organized the initial Montreal Dishcrawls for example, I was able to see just by the restaurants’ responses who was plugged into social media and who doesn’t have the concept down yet. Food is a huge part of this city so I think it’s only going to get bigger and better, and it will happen quicker than most people think.
NextMontreal: Where do you see the future of social media, technology and food?
Marcella: Between smartphones, other web enabled devices, cameras and cheaper/faster connection types we are only going to see more and more social media activities arising. Less than a year ago a person would attract attention if they took out their camera to photograph their meal in a restaurant, today the servers are making lighting suggestions for a better shot. Ask yourself who has more influence between a food critic for a local paper or a blogger with thousands of subscribers/friends and more importantly access to immediate feeds? In the short term social media will be used to communicate discounts and for obvious advertising benefits, but ultimately I think it will force everything back to the food. Despite all the hype in the world, if your food isn’t good, the network will know. Restaurants will need to be plugged in and able to react quicker than ever as social media continues to gain ground and speed. Perhaps in the future Zagat rating stickers in restaurant windows will be replaced with up to the second social media reviews
NextMontreal: Can you share some photos from the most recent Montreal dishcrawl?
Marcella: Here you go!
From L’Original: Spicy tuna tartar and bison tartar with fried capers and a tomato compote:
From DNA: Squid ink spaghetti a la chitarra with homemade ricotta:
From L’Atelier: Crispy square of braised lamb with a thin slice of brioche topped with foie gras: