This month, we’ve got a double serving of Featured Influencers: Catherine and Tammy Pappas! This mother and daughter duo are the creative powerhouse behind Living The Gourmet. If you believe that the secret to a meaningful gathering lies on the table – then this is the blog for you. Growing up in a traditional Italian home, food has always played a central role in Catherine’s life. She founded Living The Gourmet, with the support of her daughter, out of a passion to share her love for cooking, entertaining, and gathering around a table! We love working with Catherine and Tammy because they never fail to create a mouth-watering recipe, complete with a personal and unique twist. To learn more about them, keep reading!

 

How did you start blogging?

It was sometime in 2008 when my son suggested that I begin a blog as a means of preserving our family recipes.  By late 2008, Living the Gourmet had gone live, and the rest is history.

 

What are some of your favorite blogs to read?

There are so many that I frequent on a daily or almost daily basis that I couldn’t list all of them here, so I’ll name the ones that pop to mind off the top of my head, and in no particular order. Pinch of Yum at PinchofYum.com, which is a site I’ve been following for the longest time.  Love Taza at LoveTaza.com, and of course CupofJo.com.  Cookie and Kate at CookieandKate.com I consider to be one of my biggest inspirations as of late, and then of course there’s Half Baked Harvest over at HalfBakedHarvest.com, and Molly Yeh at her namesake site MyNameIsYeh.com, and then NewDarlings.com, and I could just keep going on with different sites that I visit for a variety of different reasons.

What social media outlet do you use most frequently and why?

I would say this is a question whose answer is constantly in a state of flux.  Right now, I’m focusing on Instagram, in part because I simply want and need my reach there to be bigger, and in part for personal reasons because I myself find that platform to be most engaging.  For example, there are Insta Stories that I sincerely adore, and the photo inspiration from food to fashion to household designs and décor really speaks to what I do on Living the Gourmet. In other words, it’s a platform that I myself am finding that I engage with the most as a user, rather than simply as a creator or businessperson, which is what I’m finding with a lot of platforms right now – that they just sort of become a ‘background noise’ that I probably wouldn’t use a whole lot if I wasn’t in the ‘business’ of social media.

How do you come up with ideas for such unique and delicious recipes?

Oh boy, that’s a dangerous question.  I’m reminded of the story of Ralph Guldahl, the great golfer who after writing a book about ‘how’ to golf suddenly lost his game via ‘paralysis by analysis,’ so for the sake of my own art you’ll pardon if I don’t put ‘too much’ thought into this answer.  Really, it just comes down to ‘who’ I am, and what I love. Much of the inspiration for my content comes from my upbringing, which was in a first-generation Italian home, where Sicilian ‘peasant’ food was mostly the order of the day. Most of my own kitchen “mechanics” come from my being ever present in the kitchen with my mother, where I learned all of the basics that translate over to what I do on Living the Gourmet, and reinforced the idea of experimenting and combining different flavors together and so forth.  Beyond that, this is my passion, it’s what I love, I’m constantly thinking and dreaming about food and what I can try to put together next in the kitchen.

How did you develop your own unique blogging style, and how do you maintain a consistent style across all of your posts?

I think your question cuts to the idea of ‘authenticity,’ which readers can spot from a mile away.  Authenticity is one of those things people just instinctively ‘know’ when they see it and hate when they don’t.  One of the rules I enforce on myself is that if I have to ‘try’ to make a post seem authentic, it probably isn’t, and likely simply never will be.  To that point, as long as everything is authentic and a reflection of ‘why’ I do what I do at Living the Gourmet, then everything simply falls into place.  In that way, authenticity really is sort of a by-product of a good work-process, something that isn’t thought out while it’s happening, but that really just sort of ‘comes into being’ as a result of an overall goal or focus.

What are some of your blog photography tips?

Not long ago I shared on Instagram an old image I took back a couple years ago on my already old iphone 4S.  It was a shot that garnered a lot of positive feedback. You can find the image here.

The first thing I tell people when they ask about my photography is this- you usually don’t need fancy new equipment to get a clear, stylized shot.  

What comes into play when photographing food or anything really is the lighting and setting which you’re working with.  I urge budding photographers to shoot under natural light whenever possible. It brings the colors of the dish to life.

Don’t be afraid to take a few hundred photos – yes, you read that right.  On average when I’m shooting for a post I take about 400 photos. Try different angles, play with the surroundings, camera settings, even switch windows if you need to get the clearest, most vibrant shot.

Aside from lighting, I also suggest stylizing. Remember the reader can’t smell or taste your recipe, so you need to entice them with your photos.  Set a tone or theme for your post…get the reader in the mood for what you have prepared for them. Get creative and play around with it. If the dish is an herb and lemon chicken, place some lemon wedges and bunched herbs around the final dish.  It highlights the ingredients.

My third and final tip is photo editing.  Don’t be afraid to use a filter. I know some people don’t approve or agree, but you need to find your own signature. Many times, when a reader sees an image on their Instagram or Pinterest feed, they are able to discern the site and blogger behind it before they even click on the image.  That’s what you want- your own unique identity. I like VSCO and Fotor for photo editing. I also like Adobe Photoshop and a few bloggers out their offer their own collection of filters that are compatible with these photo editing services. So, do your research and find what works best for you.

What are some Clever tips for planning out/organizing your posts every week?

I honestly don’t like overwhelming the audience with too much content.  I used to post content every day back in the early, early stages of Living the Gourmet, but I realized over time that the key is quality over quantity.  Take your time to plan out the post- from the recipe to the photos- and invest in writing a good story to go alongside it. Your audience is more inclined to respond positively to an engaging post than just a quick recipe and a picture or two.  That being said, I aim to put out about 3-4 recipes a week. From a bloggers standpoint, try to set aside a day or two for creating recipes for the week. That leaves you plenty of time to prep the posts and work on all the social media marketing aspects of it.

How do you put your own personal twist on sponsored posts?

In all honesty, I don’t really treat sponsored posts all that much differently from regular posts. In essence, I try to tell the same ‘kind’ of story I would be telling regardless of whether or not the post was sponsored, and to prepare the same type of recipe that I would be preparing for a standard post. For this reason, I don’t seek out or accept sponsored work that doesn’t ‘fit’ into what I do on Living the Gourmet, and this allows me to work my sponsored posts seamlessly into the site.  For a sponsored post, maybe there are some talking points that need to be touched on, some specific ‘types’ of photos that need to be included, but overall, I treat sponsored posts with the same care, approach, and philosophy that I treat my standard posts. The reason for this is, people don’t want to be advertised to, and yet that sponsored post is going to be taking up the same amount of space on my site that an ‘organic’ post would be – so my readers need to be able to enjoy the sponsored posts in the same way that they would enjoy the organic ones.