By: Lauren Hugh, contributor
March 16, 2020, a Monday, is a day I will never forget; it’s the day all my jobs essentially vanished. At the time, I was living in New York City, auditioning and performing, all to continue pursuing a career in acting. I also was working several “side-hustle” jobs, one being an assistant pastry chef at a social club in Tribeca, when the world shut down. Given the anticipated trajectory of the COVID-19 situation at the time, I decided to fly home to Minnesota March 18, 2020. I have been quarantining with my parents in Eden Prairie ever since. Also, Broadway doesn’t plan to open until at least the new year, which sets a precedent for the rest of my industry, so I don’t foresee going back to New York anytime soon.
I found myself in the biggest creative block of my life. I had every hour in the day to practice a song or write a play and I was completely at a loss for motivation or new ideas. I found myself cooking and baking a lot during this time. I know for many people, cooking can seem like a chore. However, for me, it’s weirdly therapeutic. Cutting vegetables and baking beautiful cakes revitalize me. Plus, I was staying with my family and we all needed to eat anyways.
At the peak of quarantine, cooking an extravagant meal helped me pass the time in the day. I’ve always had an interest in fermented foods, so like many, I taught myself how to bake sourdough and make kimchi. Per my dad’s request, I also started making him banana bread weekly.
Since I was baking and cooking all day anyways, and had a wide-open schedule, I eventually started making some food videos on the app TikTok. In my fifth video, I made a recipe for potstickers, which received over 62.2k views. I also posted the TikTok videos to my Instagram page, where my friends would direct message me to, “keep posting more!” I realized that I had an untapped audience, my own generation, and decided to go full throttle creating food content on a blog.
I had tried to start my blog back in college, but I only accomplished two posts because I was so busy with classes and rehearsals. I decided to revamp my food blog, renaming it “hugh eats with you!” a play on my last name. On my past blog (Food and Fork MN) I had mainly written about restaurants I enjoyed eating at. Since that obviously wasn’t much of a possibility during quarantine, I began developing new recipes for my favorite restaurant staples and filming video tutorials for my website, Instagram and YouTube channel. I figured there were tons of people at home, like me, who were probably finding themselves in need of great recipes and not knowing where to find them or how to make them.
The reason I opted into the YouTube platform was because whenever I found myself searching for a recipe, I would always gravitate towards the ones that had a video. Everyone learns differently, so I think it is paramount to have written directions and video content along with each recipe. I also thought that the skills I gained from acting training in school would transfer well to being a food channel personality.
I think what sets me apart from some of the other food blogs that have been around for years, is that I make a point to engage with pretty much every social media platform. You can find me at the ones listed above as well as on Facebook, Pinterest and Jumprope. Jumprope is a new app with an easy step-by-step tutorial format. I recently became a Featured Content Creator and Founding Community Member for them. Although the goal of my blog is to make millennials excited about cooking, I currently have a wide range of viewership across these platforms. Overall, I want my content to be accessible to anyone, no matter how they prefer to consume it.
I am half Chinese, so a lot of my cooking is rooted in that flavor profile. Since I’m mixed, my blog includes what is authentic to me and my experience growing up in a mixed household, along with other favorites. I include a lot of Chinese and American recipes, because one type of food is not necessarily better than the other. They both have great flavors to offer. If you put a slice of pumpkin pie and a Chinese egg tart in front of me, I would have a tough time picking only one.
Lauren, left, with older sister Megan
However, there is a lot more to my blog than just Chinese and American. I love trying all sorts of new foods and am influenced by so many different things/people in my life, and my blog reflects that. Eventually as my blog grows, I hope to have options for everyone, no matter their food preferences. I have a few friends that are vegan, so I like to recreate some of my favorite recipes so they can enjoy them too.
My blog however, isn’t just an electronic cookbook with fun and delicious video content. I genuinely want people to learn something when they visit my blog. I also quickly realized that a lot of random food facts and tidbits I had in my head were not widespread knowledge. Any chance I get, I try to include those in my posts, to make someone’s food experience just a little bit easier and hopefully more interesting.
After the riots in Minneapolis I created an extensive list of “Black Owned Food Establishments to Support in Minnesota.” I initially posted it to Instagram where it has received more than 7.5k views and numerous reshares on the platform. I created it as a way for those who might not be able to lend a hand to the Black Lives Matter movement in other capacities to contribute by simply eating/ordering takeout. It is a list of Black-owned food establishments across Minnesota so people can consciously support the Black community. I hope to be able to create more content like this on my site. Ultimately, I want my blog to be a resource and a fun way for people to not only cook, but truly learn about their food, where it came from and how that dish they’re eating came to be.
The circumstances that caused this blog to blossom were definitely not ideal, nor what I had planned. However, it gave me the time to explore something that I have always wanted to. Like me, I imagine many of you are finding new ways to reinvent yourselves, or put time and brain power towards an idea that has been festering for a while now. If anything, that is a silver lining of this crazy time. I don’t plan to stop acting. This silver lining simply gave me an opportunity to expand myself and showed me how my love of acting and my love of cooking can complement each other, and with that, the possibilities are endless.
Overall, I love food and I think it is a great way for people to come together, I mean – we all have to eat! I started this blog, because I love being able to share my food or a meal with other people, and I can’t currently hold an elaborate dinner party. We are so fortunate to be able to have all these virtual platforms to connect at a time like this. So, chatting with you all through online comments will have to do for now. I plan to continue growing my blog so that community and conversation through food can inspire us all, and be a positive light no matter where we are.
Lauren’s blog: https://www.hugheatswithyou.com