I'm excited to share today's Women in Food interview with you because THIS GIRL is the one that started my addiction to Cava (a Mediterranean restaurant here in DC and soon many more locations!). If I need something healthy and filling and flavorful, I know I can go to Cava and get my falafel over greens with spicy feta cheese fast. I first met Liz in her pre-Cava years at a DC blogging event (oddly I think at a Russian restaurant) and we immediately clicked over food. If you want to work in the food PR world, you'll love this interview!
Liz McAvoy | What Dress Code? | @lizgraymcavoy | @lizmcavoy
1. Tell us about yourself and your business.
I’ve been a food lover for as long as I can remember, but as far as my professional relationship with food, it has kind of been a lucky accident. I have a journalism degree and a background in writing, photography, story-telling, marketing, etc. I started a personal lifestyle blog a few years ago and even though my original focus was on fashion, I just couldn’t shake the interest in incorporating food and recipes into my space on the Internet — so I didn’t. I pushed my culinary skills and created a whole arsenal of blog recipes (mostly good with some fails mixed in, of course).
And then about a year and a half ago, I followed up on a tweet from an acquaintance about a community manager job for a growing DC food brand. Fast-forward to this summer, and I'm the content & engagement strategist for Cava Grill, the Mediterranean-inspired fast-casual restaurant group here in DC. I spend my days working so, so hard to build our brand through social media, content creation, brand partnerships, and good old-fashioned on-the-ground networking (let's get lunch, ok?).
On any given workday, I might be found visiting one of our sourcing partners at their farm and learning about their growing philosophies; or orchestrating and styling a themed recipe photoshoot with our marketing team; or getting lunch with our non-profit partner to discuss how we can continue helping them grow and impact the DC community. Oh, and we're debuting in LA soon, so if you’re friends with anyone I should chat with in LA, let me know!
In the waking hours when I'm not engulfed in growing a passionate food brand with a great team, I'm probably either eating, making a new recipe for my own blog, trying a new restaurant near my apartment in Baltimore, or thinking about what I’m going to eat next. It really is an all-consuming lifestyle, people.
2. If you could define your food philosophy in one sentence it would be….
Everything in moderation. Well, I’m a life-long pescetarian, so I guess not quite everything…
3. What are your 3 must have foods in your kitchen?
Fresh fruit. Brie. Olive oil.
4.It’s your birthday. What are you eating?
I can go one of two ways. I’ll either use my birthday as an excuse to try out the best new restaurant that I haven't had the chance to visit yet. Or, if I'm eating in, it’s back to childhood classics: spaghetti with really amazing marinara and grated Parmesan, plus extra-buttery garlic bread on the side -- and red wine. Oh, and there must always be vanilla cake with chocolate icing. Always.
5. Signature cocktail?
An old fashioned in the cold weather. And a really crisp margarita on the rocks in the warmer months.
6. Food you can’t like no matter how hard you try?
If you had asked me this question two years ago, I would have a few easy picks. But over the past few years, the things that used to be absolute no’s for me — raw oysters, olives, anchovies, beets — are all serious yes’s now. The only things I’m still not on board with these days: store-bought mayo (though I do love a good homemade aioli) and really funky blue cheese.
7. What are your go-to resources for all things food (websites/magazines/groceries etc)?
Bon Appétit and Food & Wine subscriptions all the way. I also have a few go-to food blogs (I’m a also big fan of Pinterest but I find blind searching on Pinterest to be pretty useless — there’s a lot of bad food on there if you don't know what you're looking for). I’m really into the Steller app (for story-telling of all kinds) right now. I’m also a big podcast enthusiast these days — I like Radio Cherry Bombe, Bon Appétit’s podcast, and Gravy.
And as for where my food’s coming from: Trader Joe’s. The farmer’s market. The wine shop that’s directly below my apartment.
8. Food fad you wish would die a horrible death?
Putting sneaky ingredients in desserts. If I’m going to eat a brownie, I want to just go ahead and indulge — I don't want to find out later that there was avocado or zucchini in that brownie.
9. Must have kitchen tool:
My chef’s knife. Whereas my classmates got jewelry or money for their college graduations, I got a set of Wusthof knives. Best gift I’ve ever gotten (thanks, Dad).
10. What’s the one thing you learned this year that changed the way you think about food?
To say the past year has been a crash course in the restaurant industry would be an understatement. I’ve never actually worked in a restaurant before, so learning about the hospitality industry in general has been a huge eye-opener in thinking about how people approach eating out. I feel like people are dining out more than ever, and the tiny little tweaks we think about making to the Cava restaurant experience that might make a person’s day just a little bit better — they’re the sort of tweaks you might never notice unless you were looking for them. But they’re the sort of tweaks that can get you hooked on a restaurant. I love thinking about what those hooks will be now.
Oh, and I’ve also learned that food styling can be so. freaking. hard. But also incredibly rewarding.
Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.