The Backyard Bite: How A Culinary Passion Became a Fulltime Career

Amy Shuster has always been an artist. While acting served as the initial outlet for her creative sensibilities, she found that being in the kitchen often brought her as much satisfaction as performing on stage.

Though she already had a public blog chronicling her acting life, Amy also kept a private online account of her cooking and dining experiences. Those records were the genesis of BackyardBite.com, Amy’s hugely successful blog that she started in spring 2011. Oübly.com talked to Amy about how her career path turned to blogging and where her interest in food has taken her.

How did your obsession for food develop?

I’ve always loved food. Most people do, of course, and many cite an influence in their early lives that nurtured that love.

For me, it was my grandma. She was always making something new in the kitchen, and I only recently learned that my own cooking style very much mimics her own.

I don’t write down recipes. Neither did she. If something doesn’t taste right, I just tweak it until it does. As I got older, I kept cooking. Even in college, I would take home something awful from the cafeteria, go to my dorm’s kitchen, and whip up a meal that tasted better.

Why the decision to go to school for film instead of food?

Storytelling is another passion of mine, which is why I wanted to act. Being on stage is a great way to tell stories, but I started my acting blog because I had stories to tell offstage as well. I wanted to share my experiences about what it was like to be a working actor in Los Angeles.

As I did, though, food kept creeping into my blog posts. I even starting making friends with local chefs and chronicling their stories. My mind starting turning to the possibility of going back to school for the culinary arts, but those already in the industry actually deterred me from it.

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It’s a exhausting business to be in, and they encouraged me to find a way to blend my love of food with my interest in stories.

So that’s when BackyardBite.com was born?

Yes. I started it a little over two years ago, and it truly was about the places in my own neighborhood. Since then, I’ve branched out to cover other restaurants and events in the greater Los Angeles area, and now I’m getting invites from other states and countries. My next trip is to cover the 2013 Hawaii Food and Wine Festival.

What were your original intentions for your blog?

Honestly, I was open to anything. It was an incubator for ideas. I didn’t know what the possibilities of it could be until I tried them out. I also didn’t know how people would respond to my blog, but so far it has received widely positive feedback.

I’m a pretty positive person, and I think my readers appreciate the lack of snark in my posts. Even if I eat somewhere that doesn’t suit my palate, I know other people might love it. I try to keep in mind readers who like dishes outside of my own tastes.

What about the logistics of starting a blog? How difficult has it been to maintain it?

I’m very fortunate because my fiancé is well versed in the backend expertise needed to keep a blog going. He has a background in design as well, so he’s been hugely instrumental in helping me create an easily identifiable brand. In many ways, he’s been my silent partner, and as a partner, has been incredibly supportive of my goals. He was actually the one to convince me to do it as a fulltime job.

Whether it’s a boyfriend, fiancé, or friend, it’s important to have someone in your corner.

Is the blog now your career?

Very much so. I once thought that it could perhaps be the stepping-stone to fulltime employment in social media or a job of that nature, but I’ve become so enamored of the process that I can’t imagine doing anything else right now.

I also love that I’m helping people with a similar passion for food and bringing them exposure they might not otherwise receive. I’ve made some wonderful friendships over the last few years and can finally see the fruits of my labor. It’s exciting to see it grow!

What are your future goals for the blog?

I’m always trying out different ideas. I’m doing a web series to incorporate a more visual style into the blog. I’m also developing an accessory line with earrings and bags. I’m not sure where it will end up, but I want to keep testing the boundaries of what it could be by using all the resources available to me.

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With so many food blogs out there, why do you think readers have responded so well to yours?

On an aesthetic level, my blog is easy to navigate and understand. I made a very deliberate choice to make it as clean and clear as possible. On a deeper level, I think people appreciate my quirkiness. Like I said, I like to be positive and just have fun. Plus, my audience might discover a new restaurant or dish that they’ve never tried before.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring bloggers who want to make their online interests a fulltime career?

Don’t wait and don’t be afraid. It’s okay to experiment and find out that something isn’t working because you’ll also find out what does work. Don’t compare yourself to other blogs, but use them as an inspiration for your own. Remember that you’re in control. You can make your blog whatever you want it to be.

You can check out Amy’s work at BackyardBite.com.

Photos courtesy of Octoplace

Anna Keizer

Anna Keizer

writes for Oubly.com, an online platform specializing in stationery cards. When she is not writing for Oubly, Anna enjoys writing screenplays and creative non-fiction. You can also read up on her daily adventures through her blog The Chicago DispLAcement

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