Friday Food-Interview with dB of Foodcandy.com
Posted by jhochstat on May 30, 2008
For this week’s Friday Food we got together with dB, the man behind the foodie social networking website FoodCandy. If you consider yourself a foodie and have yet to visit FoodCandy or become a member, I highly suggest you make your way over to the site. FoodCandy has something for everyone; the social networking aspect (being able to connect with other foodies), insightful articles & interviews, feeds from some of the best food blogs out there and more.
RD: Why did you decide to build a social networking site for foodies?
dB: I was walking through Chelsea Market whistling a Vladimir Vysotski (a Russian music legend) song about drinking. The girl and I were chatting about how an article in Daily Candy made one of those little market stores an instant success, assaulted by thousands of New Yorkers after a tiny write-up. We brainstormed website names that sounded alike and she told me how I never materialized any of the grand ideas and that, by the way, I knew nothing about food. I was working for a business social networking company back then though, so I was no newbie in the internet social space. The next day, and to my greatest surprise, I found out that FoodCandy.com was available, registered it and set firmly on developing a new concept of a social network for foodies.
RD: How long did it take you to get the site up and running and when was FoodCandy launched live online?
dB: Eventually, as many startups, the company I worked for went out of business. I decided not to look for work and spent about a month using Lotus on the Lower East-Side as my daily office destination, eating sandwiches (the place is now, sadly, a bar), drinking lots of coffee and coding for FoodCandy. I had something up by March 2006 where people could register and invited a dozen close friends to help me work the bugs out. In May I opened the site to the public with a beta password and printed invitation cards. I only allowed hardcore foodies and pretty people, which immediately got noticed in NY Mag Grub Street. Yes Jon, you were amongst those first members 🙂 By end of 2006 FoodCandy was open to everyone.
RD: Being a longtime FoodCandy member myself (and a lifelong foodie) I am impressed with the amount of food industry professionals that are members, were you surprised that so many food bloggers, food writers, chefs, top chef “cheftestants”, wine professionals etc… bought into your concept?
dB: My original concept was to develop MySpace for Foodies. Since MySpace has every music band out there, it’s not surprising that foodie celebrities and professionals create a profile on FoodCandy. The site gives them the closest online social identity to what they are in real life and lets them network within the exclusive realm of the food business. Several famous chefs and TV personalities have also told me that they find themselves on a little vacation from media overrun when corresponding with fans through the website. The vast majority of the known food names on FoodCandy are what they claim to be and not their publicist or agent.
RD: You have a feature on your site that is very unique, there is a food porn link that shows images from a long list of food blogs. What made you decide to add this feature which you definitely don’t see on a lot of other sites?
dB: I can’t claim the term “food porn”. FoodPornWatch has been out there for years.
I am one of those people who can browse through food magazines and blogs for hours, salivating over good-looking dishes that I can’t touch or smell. There’re many food blog directories on the Internet, but my attention span for blog posts about the next new restaurant, its chef and menu evaporates within the first half hour. I just had to do something better. I wanted visual stimulation with no distractions. With FoodCandy’s food porn I am looking at two dozen photos at a time and I am a click away from the whole story and a subway ride from the actual dish.
RD: How many cities & countries are represented on the site?
dB: FoodCandy has over two thousand members in 32 countries and 346 cities.
A quarter of the members are from New York. The amount of good food in the city is overwhelming, so you need a lot of people to eat it. You must also divide the eating forces to make sure not to miss the little hole-in-the-wall Vasconcellos on 37th street. Even if you did eat out three times a day, restaurants close and open faster than you can eat. I wonder whether there’re more cooks than music bands?
RD: What is the interview or feature that you personally have posted that you are the most proud of?
dB: I try to do as many interviews as possible. I find talking to people fascinating. The process gives me the opportunity to know the face behind the label, the dish or the restaurant. My favorite interviews are with those who don’t take themselves too seriously, including the Interview with Lead Burrito Analyst Jonah Field, The Famous Fat Dave Freedenberg: the Hungry Cabbie or Interview the Gals, Top Chef: They Cook. We Dish. I try to alternate with more serious conversations with cook book authors or chefs such as Myra Kornfeld or Daisy Martinez.
RD: On the flipside of the previous question, what is your wish list of interviews or features that you have not yet done or seen on FoodCandy that you would like to have happen?
dB: We’ve heard enough banalities about food and sex – just recently I attended a talk on this subject with David Bouley, Dr. Ruth and Cai Guo-Quiang at the Guggenheim – so that’s out. My friend Darek Mazzone, host of Planet Beat on KEXP always tells me how music and food are intimately tied together. This is a chapter that I have not opened on FoodCandy at all and that, in my opinion, deserves a whole set of interviews with the music makers. Wouldn’t you want to know what Madonna cooks for her kids?
RD: What are some of your suggestions for “Under the Radar” places here in New York City that you have been to that our readers should check out?
dB: I find the fascination for the “underground” restaurants almost overwhelming. You have to have an “under the radar” edge in order to be really exciting for the real hardcore foodie that seeks adventure in eating. It has to either be in an elevator shaft (El Sabroso) or “the best kept secret (that everybody knows about) of the Garment District” (Nick’s Place). It’s only a matter of time till Macaron becomes a fixture in Manhattan, so hurry up. I really enjoyed a quick lunch at Mazi’s too and regularly go back to Zucco’s Le French Diner, especially on the nights when the owner is there to complain about the world going all wrong – the standard French fare.
Don’t forget about the many fancier New York restaurants that are known for their food and not for their marketing. My favorites include Five on Ninth and Town and last week I went to Park Avenue Spring and left very impressed (and I don’t get easily impressed by food).
RD: What are some of your favorite places to go “foodie” shopping in New York City?
dB: Essex Market will be your most surprising discovery on L.E.S. It has fresh fish, meat, groceries and two cheese shops. Basically, if you shop at Whole Foods, then you’re just missing it all.
I have been living in Brooklyn for the past six months, so let me recommend that you explore a bit, put on your beach clothes and head out of Manhattan to Brighton Beach. The long strip under the subway has over a dozen groceries and specialized Russian food shops – you are guaranteed to come back with bags of cured meats and caviar. The produce is at least a third cheaper than in Manhattan here and a lot of it comes from New York state. With the money you save you can buy a frozen cold bottle of Vodka in any liquor store and bring it to the BYOB Glechik for the “real thing”. Don’t forget your towel.
RD: What your 5 favorite food blogs are at the moment?
dB: This is going to be easy 🙂
RD: What is in the future for FoodCandy (that you can tell us without having to kill us that is)?
dB: First and foremost, there’s a new member, you. If you’re a foodie and don’t have an identity on FoodCandy, you’re missing out. Plus picture how cool it would have been to tell your friends that you were amongst the first five thousand users on MySpace or Facebook. The time is now, click here to join.
There’re some very fun interviews coming up, including one with a rather odd character playing with all kinds of meats and another making fun of several notorious food TV personalities. FoodCandy is also going to give more exposure to the interesting foodies and their blogs via front-page features and become more local. As a New Yorker you’re already reading New York food blogs by default and seeing other New Yorkers. There’re more similar features in the pipeline.
RD: What music have you been listening to lately?
dB: As everyone else, I went through many music phases. I knew all Beatles songs by heart when I was ten and living in Moscow. I moved onto Scorpions before “The Wind of Change”. I still have every single one of Iron Maiden albums and occasionally play Pink Floyd’s “The More”, very loudly. That’s all old stuff. More recently I got hung up on Nightwish and I’ll remain a fan of Brooklyn Bounce.
As any Russian I hear way too much “popsa” around me. Think “Tatu” – two underage girls making out on national television. If you explore this genre, you’ll notice an unhealthy pattern combining Britney Spears, Madonna and DJ Energy that blasts subliminal voices repeating: “you cannot get this tune out of your head, ever”.
RD: Seen any good live shows that our readers should know about? (we are music blog…)
dB: I just went to see “Hercules and Love Affair” at Studio B in Greenpoint and discovered Antony and the Johnsons, which has been playing in a loop now on my MP3 player. I often go to Rockwood Music Hall, a tiny venue on L.E.S. with tremendous acoustics, where in the past year I saw Madison, Edison Woods and even Bobby Steele (Misfits). I actually document all shows I see on my blog. And I have tickets to “The Faint” under a magnet on my fridge!
Thanks for taking the time to meet with us dB,
we hope to see you at some live shows in the near future….