The new dream job — post­ing food pics on In­sta­gram

Brad Wishen on com­bin­ing his love of food, tech­nol­ogy and Toronto’s restau­rant scene

Richmond Hill Post - - Currents - By Ju­lia Mastroianni

Brad Wishen, founder of TasteToronto and Crav­ings Food Co., has made a dream ca­reer out of In­sta­gram and food.

“I had al­ways been re­ally tapped into so­cial me­dia as well as the Toronto food scene, so ba­si­cally, with those two pas­sions in mind, I thought it would be re­ally cool to put to­gether an In­sta­gram page de­voted to restau­rants in Toronto,” Wishen says.

The idea started way back in high school at West­mount Col­le­giate In­sti­tute in 2006.

“That’s when Face­book got re­ally pop­u­lar, and restau­rants started adopt­ing Face­book as a means for them to ad­ver­tise. That re­ally helped me en­vi­sion a world where there could be one ac­count that would be fea­tur­ing all these restau­rants from sort of an un­bi­ased per­spec­tive,” re­calls Wishen.

Wishen’s pas­sion for food started right at home, with a fam­ily that was al­ways into food.

“My mom is a great chef, and as a kid grow­ing up, I would al­ways be in­ter­ested in how she made some of her dishes.”

This led Wishen to his in­ter­est in Toronto restau­rants, fuelling his TasteToronto In­sta­gram ac­count.

“At the begin­ning, it started off as me and a few of my part­ners go­ing around the city and tak­ing pho­tos from restau­rants that we liked,” Wishen says. “Over time, we built up a plat­form that was re­ally com­mu­nity cen­tric.”

Fol­low­ers of the ac­count be­gan go­ing to restau­rants and hash­tag­ging #tastetoronto or email­ing pho­tos hop­ing to be fea­tured on the ac­count.

The ac­count has grown to a stag­ger­ing 322,000 fol­low­ers, mean­ing Wishen and his team have their hands full sort­ing through all the food sub­mis­sions they re­ceive in a day.

“When we do re­post some­one’s photo, there’s a re­ally good re­ac­tion and some great feed­back. Peo­ple love see­ing their con­tent up on our chan­nels,” Wishen says.

The qual­ity and di­ver­sity of the Toronto food scene is what then in­spired Wishen to start up Crav­ings Food Co., the busi­ness be­hind a col­lec­tion of food­spe­cific fes­ti­vals like Brunch Fest and Taco Fest.

“Over the years, we’ve ob­vi­ously built up strong re­la­tion­ships with all these restau­rants, and as great as it is to get them fea­tured on our ac­count, we had al­ways wanted to do a lit­tle bit more and pro­vide more value for both our fol­low­ers and the restau­rants.”

For Wishen, that meant be­ing able to col­lab­o­rate with restau­rants to find a menu that fits one of the fes­ti­val themes and pro­vid­ing a plat­form for these restau­rants to get their food out there to all the peo­ple fol­low­ing TasteToronto.

Wishen still vividly re­mem­bers open­ing the first food fes­ti­val un­der Crav­ings Food Co., Taco Fest, two years ago.

“We had been work­ing on the fes­ti­val for over a year, so the first day of the fes­ti­val, when 3,000 peo­ple showed up and waited in line to come to the fes­ti­val, and you see all that hard work pay off…that was what got us to where we are to­day,” Wishen says.

Wishen will be busy with food fes­ti­vals all sum­mer: Brunch Fest is from June 1 to June 3, Taco Fest is June 15 to 17, Pizza Fest is July 20 to 22, and Beer Bour­bon & BBQ Fest is later this sum­mer.

But Wishen isn’t done just yet. “Our plate is full, but there’s def­i­nitely some more room on that plate to add some more.”

So fans of the food fests and In­sta­gram ac­count should keep their eyes peeled to see what’s next.

Wishen and the TasteToronto team now have more than 322,000 fol­low­ers

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