It seems that in Portland — and across the country — Instagram has become the dominant way for restaurant owners and chefs to communicate with the public, and for people interested in food to find new restaurants and food carts. Beyond following restaurant accounts and influencers, however, Portlanders love to go straight to the source and get recommendations from the insiders: other chefs and cooks. But also, chefs are more than the food they make; following the Instagram accounts of certain Portland big-names also involves seeing other interesting sides of who they are, whether it’s their dance skill or their sense of humor. Here, a handful of fun accounts to follow in the new year, to mix up the feed:
Instagram accounts: @sam_burglar, @slamb_eating, @burger_transformer
Known for: Sweedeedee (past), Wild Thing (past), Tusk (past), plus pop-ups
Why you should follow: As we discussed in a past Dining Confidential, chef Sam Smith is probably Portland’s premiere restaurant recommender, tracking down under-the-radar gems on the @slamb_eating account. For fast food hacks, @burger_transformer is a better fit.
Instagram account: @2_trangz
Known for: Friendship Kitchen
Why you should follow: Nguyen’s Instagram is a personal, earnest, and relentlessly optimistic bit of light in that digital hellscape, even when the chef is talking about the more painful parts of her history. She celebrates her wins, acknowledges what she went through to get where she is, and shares her hopes for the future openly. It’s hard to not feel charmed — or even inspired — by her magnetism and perseverance.
Known for: Soul food cart Kee’s Loaded Kitchen
Instagram account: @keesloadedkitchen_
Why you should follow: Although this is technically the Instagram for the cart, Nelson absolutely uses it like a personal account, posting rants about her day, musings about her hair, and records of her dreams. As Kandy Muse once said, “If you don’t have star quality, get the fuck out of here.” And Kiauna Nelson has star quality.
Known for: Vietnamese American food cart Matta
Instagram account: @scaryboy
Why you should follow: Le isn’t just a super talented chef; he’s a really incredible b-boy, as well. A follow will get you plenty of shots of the Matta owners, as well as jaw-dropping videos of Le dancing.
Known for: Pop-up and hot sauce brand Chelo
Instagram account: @eerieluna
Why you should follow: Contreras is up to some cool stuff in 2023, and while the pop-up’s Instagram is the best place to keep track of that info, her personal Instagram focuses more heavily on her identity and activism as a trans chef, advocating for trans youth and fighting legislation that harms trans lives. It’s a more intimate look at the chef, what matters to her, and how she uses her voice.
Instagram account: @rickybellspdx
Known for: Cuban cocktail bar Palomar
Why you should follow: While his Twitter is the real draw, chef Bella’s personal Instagram is the best place to keep track of the random specials and pop-ups he hosts at the bar. Those specials are wild and worth catching, whether it’s a Cubano crunchwrap or crab and bacon bocaditos. Plus, the memes in his stories are usually pretty strong.