How Instagram has shaken up the food industry – Interview with Chef Ryan Lording, Left Field
Ryan Lording – or better known on Instagram as ‘ChefRyan85’ – has undoubtedly placed his stake in the Melbourne food industry, with his colourfully adorned dishes repping not only edible flowers, but the highly coveted #FoodPorn hashtag. His celebrated dishes have brought him from strength to strength, leaving the kitchen pass of South Yarra’s Tall Timber to co-founding Carnegie’s suburban favourite, Left Field. His Oreo Sliders’ dish has recently won ‘Melbourne’s Most Instagrammable Dish’ Award, and his passion in teaching his followers through Q&A’s, Snapchat tutorials and Instagram posts, is clear in the popularity his work has deservedly accrued.
Chef Ryan Lording of Carnegie’s ‘Left Field’
Firstly, congratulations on hitting 10K followers on Instagram (*now 12.3K). Can you give us a little background on who you are and how you got into becoming a chef?
Thanks Val! My name is Ryan and I’m a Melbourne-based chef. I have been learning my craft for the past 10 years across cafes, fine dining events and functions. It all began back in 2005 after cooking my family dinner every night for a few years. Seeing their reactions developed my passion, so I decided to jump in and give it a crack!
Your use of Social Media (namely Instagram) has gained you a large following. What inspired you to start posting on Instagram, and did you anticipate it would become as popular as it has?
When I started at Tall Timber (TT), my Instagram following was about a hundred people (laughs). After we had been open for a few weeks, my sister asked me if anyone had posted any photos on Insta.. It had never crossed my mind to check! Turns out there were already hundreds of photos posted so I decided to use it as a tool to interact with customers to see what they like, and to draw inspiration on what to create next!
From there I haven’t looked back, now I’m seen as an inspiration and I love being able to help people with their own cooking at home!
You’ve been quoted saying your mantra with food presentation has always been ‘people eat with their eyes first’. Do you think the coverage Tall Timber’s food has had over social media is attributed to this?
I definitely believe that it all starts with presentation, but in saying that, you still need to follow through with big flavours. I developed the TT menu to create ‘sexy food’ – food that catches your eye, as well as tasting deliciously good! By presenting your food with a bit of love, you have already given the customer positive vibes, they are loving the experience without even tasting it yet!
Top: Melbourne’s Most Instagrammable Dish – the Oreo Sliders (Source: @isinner), Bottom: Left Field’s Eggs Benedict (Source: @left__field)
The digital age has become increasingly used as a marketing tool and blogging/personal brands becoming an occupation in itself. In your experience, do you think the way in which companies pay for features on Instagram is effective? Or do you think it has become obsolete in such a saturated market where it’s become ‘white noise’ to customers?
I have worried that having such amazing access to other cafe’s menus through social media has, and will continue to, resulting a lot of meal and presentation copying etc. A lot of the food is already looking the same everywhere, which sucks for us chefs who created some of those ‘trends’! I do think it is becoming saturated but there is just no better way of marketing to your target audience.
Within 12 months, I’m predicting business/personal profiles will be sorted and and those under business will have to pay to boost, following Facebook’s footsteps. That is until a new marketing platform comes along, and the saturation will continue.
Note: Following this interview’s conductance, Instagram introduced it’s new ‘Business Profiles’ and it’s ability to boost posts. Chef Ryan – you were definitely on the money!
Your Instagram seems to feature many positive messages in helping others learn to cook. What is your favourite thing about using Social Media Sites? Instagram and Snapchat inclusive (is it the customer interaction, able to learn, etc.)
I absolutely just want to inspire! Inspire people to: a). Eat healthier, cleaner foods without losing flavour! b). Start enjoying their cooking at home, by showing how simple it is. I do this by showing finished products on Insta, as well as simple cooking demos on Snapchat. I love seeing people get inspired, the results have been overwhelming!
Now for some funner questions. We’ve seen food trends like food hybrids (eg. cronuts, freakshakes, smoothie bowls) popping up over Instagram feeds. Are there any food trends you think we’ll see coming up on our feeds soon?
(laughs) I actually think there will be some crazy coffee creations hitting the market within 12 months.. Everyone is always striving to have that point of difference and it won’t be long till someone starts a crazy coffee drink trend e.g. pink coffees, colourful coffees etc.
I’m also expecting a massive Hot Dog craze to hit Melbourne again soon, it’s been a while! Food trucks will no doubt continue to grow in Melbourne too.
Note: Again, after this interview was conducted we saw the ‘colourful coffee’ and viral deconstructed trend emerge from Brighton. So two out of three predictions have come true – watch out for this Hot Dog trend Melbourne!
Lastly, Melbourne brunch culture has developed a sort of symbiotic relationship with Instagram. People draw inspiration from these platforms to choose where to go, use it as reviews etc. Where do you draw your inspiration from? In terms of meal presentation and cooking in general?
Couldn’t agree more! Hence why I have such a strong focus on presentation and food that catches your eye! You are more than likely to go to a place that has sexy looking food that not. As for inspiration for cooking, it comes from the people (that is, the customers). They inspire me to continue experimenting with new superfoods, as well as turning regular boring vegetables into something mindblowing!
For presentation, I think it’s a combination of coming from an Arty-design background pre-cheffing! As well as being a Sous chef for five years in a Chef-hatted restaurant, where presentation was also as important as the meal itself.
Valerie Duong is the social media coordinator at Milkbar Digital. With a particular interest in standing-up-for-food-flatlays, obscure coffee orders and Instagram captioning pop-culture references nobody gets.