Feature: The Foodie

Lynette Chen is a rising senior at WashU. She’s originally from San Jose, California, and she just turned 21. Lynette is majoring in East Asian Studies at WashU, with a minor in Asian American Studies. She served on the Dining Services Advisory Committee last year – a group of students who meet regularly with Dining Services chefs and representatives to  discuss the dining program. Her Instagram account has grown to 11,100 followers, and through her 1,200+ posts, she has become an influential voice among food bloggers here and across the nation. Follow her on Instagram at @lynniethefoodie.

Let’s meet Lynette Chen …

FOOD BLOGGER

I’ve been food blogging/Instagramming for about 5 or 6 years now. It originally started out as a quick snap here and there of what I ate, but it soon became a hobby and eventually a side job that I found myself devoting a few hours of each month to doing.

It all started in my junior year of high school when I realized that most of the pictures I had been posting on my Instagram were of food. I’m not the best photographer by any means, but because I enjoy taking pictures of food and making the things I eat look appetizing, I decided to clean up my account and pursue my interest by developing a food theme for it. I soon discovered that my food photography was actually gaining popularity on Instagram. Other users started following me for my content, and even well-known Instagram “foodies” in the Bay Area began asking to work with me. Pretty soon, various restaurants also started reaching out to me about media tastings and advertisement opportunities on social media.

Since then, I’ve collaborated with several local restaurants in the Bay Area as well as in St. Louis, such as Corner 17, Houlihan’s, The Preston, Nixta, and Drunken Fish. In addition, I curate the @bestfoodstlouis Instagram account, a go-to guide for local eats in St. Louis, and I’ve worked with food delivery services in St. Louis such as Groupon To Go and UberEats in the past. Food photography and Instagramming is still just a hobby for me, but it’s also a great way to earn some spending money and score some free food every so often.

I really enjoy working in the food styling/photography industry and restaurant marketing field because they allow me to connect with consumers of all different backgrounds. I also get to try lots of good food in the process. I think that food is one of the most overlooked but important fundamentals of society, and a class I took this semester called Special Topics in Journalism: Writing about the World of Food really helped me to understand the significance of food in culture, as well as to hone my skills in writing about food in a way that makes it impactful to society.

FAVORITE FOODS

So what exactly is my favorite food? Good question. This always stumps me because lots of foods come to mind. As a foodie, I’m always being asked for restaurant recommendations, so what I usually reply with is the type of food I enjoy, and not necessarily a specific dish. For example, my favorite types of cuisines are Italian, Japanese, and Taiwanese. In my opinion, the flavors of what I’m eating and the memories I associate certain flavors with are the most important elements of any dining experience, and they are the reasons why certain dishes have earned special places in my heart and stomach.

I enjoy Italian because I love the sourness that comes from marinara sauce and ketchup. I like Japanese because I think the freshness of sashimi pairs really well with the kick that comes from wasabi. And I love Taiwanese food because it is what I grew up with. The taste of nostalgia from traditional dishes such as fried rice, stinky tofu, popcorn chicken, and beef noodle soup is what I savor every time I dine Taiwanese.

ABOUT WUSTL DINING

WUSTL Dining does a really good job with rotating global cuisines around campus for us students to enjoy every day, and I can always find my favorite entrees at the comfort food stations in the DUC, Cherry Tree, and the Village. My favorite dining hall, however, is probably Grounds For Change. I love the manicotti with marinara sauce on Green Monday and the Irish beef stew served in a bread bowl on Fridays! I also really enjoy the Filipino roasted chicken quarter and pesto gnocchi in the DUC, as well as the baked mac & cheese whenever it’s available on campus.

Another one of my favorites used to be the turkey and Brie panini in Cherry Tree, since removed from the menu. (I’m still hoping it’ll be brought back.) Now my favorite sandwich is probably the avocado toast from the Village grill. For less than $5, it comes with a fried egg, fresh fruit, and yogurt, and it makes a super healthy breakfast or mid-day snack. Speaking of breakfast, the first thing I do every morning when I wake up is to look at the dining options of the day on menus.wustl.edu. It’s a great resource for finding delicious and nutritious meals throughout the day, and it’s always something to look forward to between classes!

IBBY’S

Of course, I can’t forget to talk about Ibby’s. Ibby’s is my go-to whenever I have extra meal points. My favorite dish on the Spring 2018 menu is probably the braised beef flatbread. It’s so crispy and flavorful and is perfect for sharing with friends. The filet mignon is also a solid choice. I personally like to replace the asparagus with roasted Brussels sprouts, but really both are great. And I always follow my meal with the classic Ibby’s dessert: bananas foster. I mean, did you really go to Ibby’s if you didn’t order a bananas foster?

DEEP FRIED SCORPIONS, YAK MEAT, AND MORE

I’ve never really been bitten by the travel bug before until last semester, when I was lucky enough to have been able to study abroad in China with the WU in Shanghai program. During my four months in China, I got to try lots of local dishes every day that expanded my palate and made my stomach ten times stronger. I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty adventurous eater, and China proved that to be true when I found myself trying deep-fried scorpions in Beijing, durian pizza in Shanghai, and yak meat in Yunnan. My life motto as a foodie is this: anything is edible as long as it’s not poisonous. Even scorpions can be consumed when they’re properly handled and the poison is removed. Being abroad has helped me develop my passion for food, and I’m hoping I’ll have the opportunity to travel more in the future.

POST-GRADUATION PLANS

My post-graduation plans involve taking a gap year, (during which I will hopefully be able to travel and cure my wanderlust!) followed by law school. My dream school is WashU Law, simply because I love the WashU learning environment and because I’m not ready to part from WUSTL Dining just yet. I need a few more years of WashU food, and if I get to study at WashU Law, I’ll be able to enjoy three more years of comfort food and Ibby’s. But no matter where I go, I know I will always appreciate my undergrad education at WashU and the TLC I was given here by the faculty, my peers, and the Dining Services staff.