Thanks to her insatiable obsession with both photography and baking, Alaina Chou (C'22) has run a baking blog called Crumbs & Nibbles since the age of 13. The passion project functions as a kind of time–capsule, effectively capturing her journey as she ventures through the multifaceted world of food media. In recent years, and in line with her aspiration to work in the food industry, she's crafted a brand for herself—expanding Crumbs & Nibbles to Instagram where she hosts bake–alongs with her growing community of fans and food–lovers. This past spring, Street highlighted how Alaina was able to inspire and mobilize inexperienced yet aspiring bakers in quarantine to attempt their own banana bread or sourdough.
Maggie Tang (W '22) also has a home in Alaina's world of food, but her focus is different. Swapping the artistic flair Alaina exudes with business savvy, Maggie is obsessed with the food institutions themselves. Writing her high school thesis on restaurants and working at the high–end, two Michelin star restaurant Atelier Crenn in San Francisco by the time that she had started her freshman year of college, Maggie has studied and continues to study America's greatest chefs. In fact, Maggie refers to interning at restaurants as a hobby of hers.
"I go and do these short–term internships during fall or winter breaks...I’ve probably worked at six or seven restaurants by now," she says.
Bonded by their love of food and coming from opposite sides of the industry, the food media expert and aspiring restaurateur are now joining forces. Set to release on Spotify on September 25th and later on Apple Podcasts, their podcast Gourmand will share the personal narratives of leaders in the food industry, with the first season, titled "Sweet Treats," tracing the circuitous and rich careers of America’s elite bakers.
"We’ve been interviewing people who work in the world of sweets, ranging from Michelin star restaurants to big corporations," Maggie explains. With a focus on learning lessons from the success and failures of their guests' unconventional career paths, the duo has hosted Bobbie Lloyd, the Chief Baking Officer of Magnolia Bakery in New York City, and Anna McGorman, the Culinary Director of Milk Bar on their show, to name a few.
Alaina and Maggie hope that these stories serve as a source of education and inspiration to all students—from aspiring chefs and entrepreneurs to casual foodies.
“Even if you’re not looking to get involved in food...it’s really important to learn about the people behind the Instagram-famous cookies or the people behind funfetti cake at Milk Bar.” Alaina explains, “It can be easy to scroll through instagram and like a funfetti cake, but we’re uncovering who the people are.”
Echoing this, Maggie emphasizes that the lessons learned are universal. "These people are working 100 hours a week or 17 hours a day, and they just do what they love. It’s really inspired me to do what I love and what I’m passionate about rather than what the norm is or the culture is somewhere.”
Unsurprisingly, the two foodies already encapsulate this kind of determination. “When we started it really was just us two and we’ve had to figure out what roles we might need to fill and what’s plausible for us to do. We are the hosts, we run Instagram, do all the marketing, and do sponsorships."
However chaotic, it seems the ability to talk to the movers and shakers of the food industry has outweighed any semblance of a struggle and has only reaffirmed their career paths.
"When I first sent out the emails I was so excited. I was like, 'oh my god, oh my god, this person just responded! I don’t know what to say to them.'" Maggie enthuses, "They're my idols."
With a strong and growing following on their Instagram page, a newsletter, and several emerging sponsorships, Alaina and Maggie are embarking on a new adventure in their budding food careers and bringing us along for the ride.