Taking A Bite Out Of The Food Blogging World
It’s a dream job, but someone has to do it.
Matt Armendariz is the creator of MattBites.com, a food blog started in 2005. Since then, Matt has been named as one of the top ten food blogs by The Times Online, and has been featured in Bon Appetit, appeared on Martha Stewart, and the accolades keep coming.
All images by Matt Armendariz
Reading Matt’s blog is like reading emails from a really good friend, albeit a friend you are highly envious of. Matt has dined at hawker stands in Singapore and clipped grapes at Veuve Cliquot’s vineyards. But he doesn’t seem to let it go to his head. For him, it’s about experiencing all that food has to offer, from the immediate satisfaction that comes from cooking and eating, to the friendships forged by the breaking of bread.
But what makes Matt’s blog stand out is his photography. These beautiful images, styled by his partner (and former Passable cover boy), Adam Pearson, are fantastical food porn. We here at Passable have even once featured one of Matt’s images on our website, envious as we were of the subject matter. Matt has done photography for such clients as Pom Wonderful, Whole Foods, and Fiji Water.
Matt was kind enough to answer some questions for us for one of our Passable Interviews, as well as show us some of his amazing photography.
Tell me one of you first food memories.
I was raised in a very typical Mexican American household. My grandparents lived with us and my grandmother was constantly cooking. My earliest food memories always involved her and tasting things as she cooked. Everything was excellent; it was all made with insane amounts of love and taking a bite of food at that age was always met with a nurturing smile. If you’re looking for specific food memories it’d definitely have to be eating rice and beans!
When did you really start to get passionate about food?
It has been a very gradual process, starting with my childhood. Everyone would sit around and talk about food, I come from a very food-centric family. It was normal for me to begin cooking at an early age, I suspect that’s when it all developed. Plus being from Texas there’s a certain pride about everyone in that state, food included.
Was that pride about food instilled in you? How does it manifest itself?
It was. And I think it manifested itself by being interested in food, who is cooking it, where it comes from, all those things one does when being proud of a particular dish or region. And when people begin to pay attention to something it gets better by default; I use Texas barbecue as an example. People know their stuff. When people know their stuff it elevates the entire concept.
How did you get started working in food?
I was going to community college when I decided to start travelling. I took time off, went to Europe, and came back to a situation where I needed to get back to work as soon as possible. In Austin in the late 1980s, early 90s, you couldn’t meet a person who wasn’t working at Whole Foods, it was our small local natural foods company. This was before it expanded into the empire it is today. Encouraged by friends to apply at Whole Foods, I did and began bagging groceries and cashiering. I did a bunch of things for Whole Foods at the time but it immediately opened my eyes to real food — things without excessive processing, to people who were passionate about food and also to those who grew it and farmed it. It was life changing.
What is it like to make a living writing about and photographing food?
It’s interesting. Food is something that is a part of most people’s lives each and every day, so I immediately feel a commonality with most everyone which I enjoy. At the same time it’s also an area that I can’t really get away from…. we all eat everyday. But I don’t mind, I’m blessed to have the opportunity to write about it, photograph it, travel for it, etc. But it’s like most other jobs sometimes as well. It has its glamorous moments though.
What are some of those glamorous moments? Or some of the less glamorous?
Glamorous moments would definitely include dining in some very fancy restaurants all over the world, and that’s fine and I appreciate the experiences but that’s better left for others to experience. Glamorous to me would also mean touring farms and dairies, I love that stuff. As far as less glamorous? The endless hours spent editing, stuck in an airport travelling for 24 hours, the money spent on camera equipment and insurance so that I can keep my tools working for me to do my thing.
You have to admit going to Reims to collect champagne grapes or hang out in Singapore is somewhat glamorous, if not wonderful. How big of an influence has your blog had in helping you gain access to the places and people you’ve been? How many of those experiences are available to the regular person? (On a side note- I’m incredibly envious you got to eat with Ken Seetoh in Singapore. I admire him greatly).
Ok, I’ll give you that. Those were amazing experiences that not everyone has the chance to do, I’ll never take those things for granted. I think my blog has indeed given me access to locations, celebrities, opportunities, chefs, etc. and for that I’m grateful. But then again I consider myself a regular person too who just happened to start a blog so I think anyone can do it. And KF Seetoh as a guide in Singapore? Like a dream come true.
What made you want to start blogging?
I was an art director / creative director for a specialty supermarket when I began blogging. I remember travelling across town to meet a cheese maker from Italy who set up shop in Los Angeles. He was making exceptional cheeses and I spent the afternoon watching him, learning, taking photos, etc. When I got back to my office and began working, I realized I had such a small space in this ad I was working on to share his story. It was much richer and bigger than the 6 lines of copy space I had and that annoyed me to no end. I remember thinking “Hey, I can start one of those food blogging things and when I do, I’ll put all the stuff in there that doesn’t fit into my day job.” I started doing that and it took off rather quickly. Blogging filled a void that I couldn’t find anywhere else.
So how did you go from there to writing and photographing food?
I moved up and throughout the company rather quickly. It was a growing business and there was a need for people to step up to the plate and take new positions. My design experience began by making in-store signage back on a very old Mac computer using Pagemaker. I loved putting type and images together, even if they were only black and white. I look back and marvel at how much technology has changed. Anyway, I eventually became employed as an in-store artist and signmaker before moving to regional graphic designer, overseeing the look and feel of 10-15 stores. Then there was art director which took me out of the production and moved me into advertising, eventually having to fill in many blanks myself with copywriting. I laugh when I think about how much advertising copy I’ve written over the past 20 years – I am not a copywriter! Nor did I ever want to be. But I’m thankful for the experience as it helped me learn to communicate points to an audience and also helped me navigate away from pitfalls when writing. I take that all very seriously. The photography came out of necessity, too, but also a desire to find a way to communicate via photos. To me, design, writing and photography are all the same, they’re just methods of communicating. I just wanted another way to tell stories, hence my learning photography.
What have been some of your favorite food trips, and why?
Italy was a favorite and for all the reasons the entire world loves visiting Italy. I think some of the world’s best food is had in Italy and in retrospect it has everything to make it a favorite destination. I love South America too although for such different culinary reasons. Here in the US I must say that Portland is also a favorite destination, I think they have a very exciting food scene if not the most exciting right now.
Where would you like to go that you haven’t been to yet?
Australia and New Zealand are on the top of my list. I’ve wanted to visit that part of the world my entire life, I’ll get there soon enough but probably won’t want to leave!
Check out the rest of our interview with Matt, here, where he talks about cooking with Martha Stewart, working with his partner Adam, his upcoming cookbook, and more!