People Connected By Similar Obsessions

Nastassia Johnson

Meet the food truck owner turned Instagram star

Before there was Instagram, Nastassia Johnson—the blogger behind Let Me Eat Cake—was working in the food industry in Los Angeles and gravitating toward a much different (and a lot less visual) social platform: Twitter. As a manager for Joan’s on Third, she had to spread the word about products and specials in 140 characters but noticed that people she was interacting with on Twitter had food blogs, too. That’s when inspiration hit: She should launch her own site.

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“It was 2009 and still the beginning years of food blogs,” Nastassia remembers. “Starting a blog felt like such a fun way to share a passion, which in my case was a love of desserts.” That said, it took her approximately six blog posts to narrow down her sweets theme. “I started with recipes and restaurant reviews,” she says. “But then I had this dinner at a restaurant where my excitement for the meal was all about these famed doughnuts that everybody was talking about. My blog became dessert-focused from there.”

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As Nastassia’s following began to grow—and grow—she decided to take another food-related risk. “I was at an event and was chatting with another Filipino blogger about how L.A. didn’t really recognize Filipino food,” she says. “We decided to pool our resources and blog audiences and limited culinary knowledge to launch our own food truck.”

The experience taught me how to brand my business and how to sell my business using social media tools.
Nastassia Johnson

The adventure (which Nastassia describes as a mix of food shopping, prepping, cooking and Tweeting, not to mention 16-hour days) lasted a year but gave her a lifetime worth of knowledge about a skill she relies on heavily today for her personal brand: marketing. “The experience taught me how to brand my business and how to sell my business using social media tools,” she says.

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Now Nastassia divides her time between her blog and consulting for a range of high-profile food brands and events. "My Instagram account is one of the biggest draws for new business," she says. "It's the best."

On her favorite L.A. bakeries right now. République is definitely a go-to for me. The owner, Marge, does an incredible job with pastry. Sidecar Doughnuts is the best in the nation. I challenge the rest of the country to beat Sidecar. They’re that amazing. Last, Magpies Softserve. It’s a husband-and-wife team, and they’ve formulated a soft-serve recipe that’s so nostalgic and delicious. The birthday-cake flavor is my favorite.”

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On how she chooses the best sweets to sample. “I scour blogs and Instagram all the time to see what people are talking about in a given city. Also, to see what’s trending or to discover a secret spot that I didn’t know about that is in somebody else’s neighborhood that I should go explore. And if there is an image tied to the location, I screenshot it and put it in an Instagram editorial calendar so that I can start mapping out a time that I can get over there and check it out.”

On Instagram etiquette at the table. “I actually always order dessert first, which works out perfectly because, most of the time, you still have the natural light and everybody gets to try a sweet amuse-bouche. When you have a really good meal, you get so full and you hardly have room for dessert at the end. This is a great way to sneak it in. And there’s an etiquette benefit, too: There’s a speed and efficiency to it—my goal is always to grab the perfect photo fast, so that my work is done and everyone can enjoy the ice cream before it melts.”

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On a dessert trend she has her eye on. “Everybody is loving Filipino desserts. There is ube everywhere. It probably has a lot to do with the beautiful purple color. We have this shop in Silverlake called FrankieLucy Bakeshop and they have an off-the-menu item called ube pavlova. It’s this beautiful purple meringue filled with a custard and topped with graham crackers. Ube is definitely a trend that’s picking up steam.”

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On something no one knows about her. “I’m a huge Anglophile. I’m so addicted to the royal family; I love watching PBS Masterpiece Theater—especially that new show Victoria—and also everything Jane Austen-related. British culture is one of my favorite things.”