Food blogging is one thing, Mommy blogging another.  Selena Kohng and her website, How About Cookie, now that’s a vision unto itself.  Once you get a glance at Selena’s brilliant creations, your heart will melt, your soul will dance, and you will want to be a little more playful in life and with food.  The moment I set eyes on her website and Instagram page, I was dying to chat with Selena to learn the inspiration behind these amazing food creations.  Selena was kind enough to take time out from her busy life as mom, food blogger and social media influencer, and food art creator, to enlighten us.  You may be surprised at what she has to say – I sure was!

ZJ: Selena, what inspired you to start How About Cookie?

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 11.52.21 AMSK: Desperation. My middle child was starting kindergarten at the time, and he can be a picky eater. I started making bento-style lunches for him to take to school to entice him to eat, and most of my early photos are of his lunchbox contents. After browsing bento inspiration on Instagram, I stumbled upon some examples of food art and thought, “Who has time for that?” But I loved the idea of being creative with food, and I started putting my own spin on food art.

ZJ: Ok, let’s talk about the adorable animal-shaped (and nature-inspired) food.  What can you tell us about your unique approach to food presentation and decoration?

SK: I try to use fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy food as much as possible, and I like to keep the subjects simple. One of the main reasons I do this in the first place is because I want my kids to learn to see mundane, everyday things (e.g. food) in new ways, to think twice about something they thought they already formed an opinion about. But it’s gotta be doable–I mean, my kitchen is always a mess as it is, and oddly enough as the kids get older I feel like I have less time instead of more. So I focus mainly on easy breakfasts or snacks.

Selena Favorite Food

ZJ: How long ago did you begin your journey with food in the social media scene?  Have you always been working with food?  

SK: It’s been a little over two years now since I first started posting on Instagram. I had blogged before then, but just about general mom life stuff. The irony in all of this is that I don’t really like cooking. I love everything about food and social media and styling… just not the actual, you know, cooking. It’s stressful! So in some ways I think the food art is my way of counteracting that stress and making my kitchen an enjoyable place to be.driscolls_dragonflies_final-e1436451860944-680x350

ZJ: Is the main source of your income from social media?  If not, what is your main job?

SK: I’m actually a copywriter and editor by trade, so I’ve been freelance writing for some time now. My social media income is starting to become much more of a substantial contribution, though, so I need to sit back and figure out how much I want to invest in it.

ZJ: Whom do you most admire – in the world of food art, or in general?

SK: In the food art world, there’s of course Samantha Lee (@leesamantha) and @redhongyi who are super creative and talented. And I love following various artists and makers on Instagram because the amount of creativity on there is mind-blowing.

ZJ: Do you see yourself as a marketer?

SK: I don’t naturally think of myself as one. I’m a horrible salesperson. I sold kitchen knives one summer in high school and got like, two customers: my mom and my mom’s coworker. And even though I’m doing this interview and have been featured on a lot of great media outlets, I tend to have a pretty bad case of imposter’s syndrome. But, I do feel I have a good sense of what works on social media, what brands are doing right and what they’re doing wrong, and how to engage a owl-mommy-and-me-oatmealcommunity.

ZJ: Do you work for brands?  Can you give us an example of sponsored posts you have done as an influencer (that we can share in the interview)?

SK: I do work for brands on a pretty regular basis; I’ve done work for Cascadian Farm, Driscoll’s, Munchkin, and several others.

ZJ: At what point did you start gaining massive amounts of followers, and what did you think?

SK: Several months after I started on Instagram, I noticed that other users with big followings started regramming my pictures, and I’m really thankful for that organic growth and try to pay it forward when I can. After some time I started getting featured on sites like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post, and I was a featured user on Instagram several times which all definitely boosted my numbers.

ZJ: If you were to give someone advice who is thinking about getting into food and parent blog influencing, what would it be?

SK: Figure out what your message is, find a way to stand out in your niche, study the trends, and figure out how to personalize all of that to who you are and the story you’re trying to tell. Also, it’s great to work hard, but be intentional about balancing your life, too. There was a period when my little girl would start telling me something and would have to say, “Mommy, look at me, don’t look at your phone”, and that was when I knew I had to take a break for a while.ghost-quesadilla

ZJ: What would you advise against, or caution people before getting into this industry?

SK: Food art is getting increasingly competitive, so I would say make sure it’s something you would do for fun even if you didn’t post photos of them. As for the influencer industry in general, I would definitely advise against romanticizing what you see. It’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work, often for very little in return, especially in the beginning.

ZJ: Anything that you discovered about working as a blogger and influencer that has come as a surprise?  Please share…..

SK: Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I wasn’t prepared for how often people steal your work and pass it off as their own! On the positive side, it’s been a pleasant surprise to see brands and agencies value influencers. We’ve come a long way from mere “mommy bloggers”.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

ZJ: General words of wisdom you live by?

SK: Keep things simple.

ZJ: Why do you think people find you or follow you?

SK: I think that trying to feed your kids is a great equalizer. It’s every parent’s struggle. I’m lucky to have started when food art just started trending, but I think people are drawn to the fact that I make simple things that are still creative. I also stay away from markety-speak as much as possible. I want my followers to know I’m a real mom with a messy house and kids who still might not eat what I make no matter how cute it is. Because that’s life.

ZJ: What is your favorite thing to do outside of your life in social media?  

SK: I like old things, so going to flea markets or estate sales, or going on historical tours.we-are-fresh-kids-food-art-680x350

ZJ: What is your biggest dream in life?

SK: My interests and passions are pretty scattered, so professionally that changes a lot. Personally, though, if my kids grow to become secure, self-aware, caring human beings who contribute meaningfully to others, I feel like I’ll have done this life thing right.

ZJ: Your all-time favorite food creation?

SK: Either my bread cloud or mango hedgehog, because they were both spur-of-the-moment and unplanned.

ZJ: Do you have any upcoming events or announcements you wish to share?

SK: I’ll have a few features in print coming soon!


ecolunchbox-splash-containers-e1440186896332Check out Selena’s How About Cookie work:

How about them cookies!?