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We ‘Trinify’ food

Interview with the man in front of @hungrybelly868, Brent Branker

Q: Can you give us a little background on yourself?

I went to school in Holy Name Preparatory…all Catholic schools, of course. After that I went to St Mary’s College. I always used to go to Mass in St Theresa’s, Woodbrook.

When I was dating Lauren [his wife] I actually took her to Mass there. Our first outing was really food…Well, Mass and then food; she was kind of like, okay, well this is different.

We knew each other from since school days; she was in St Joseph’s Convent in Port of Spain, I was in CIC… We met back up later and took it from there.

She was working for the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC), and from there we just continued on in our relationship until we were married. So we were in tune with the church and through her work, and then still going to Mass, and then doing different projects.

For her work, I would always accompany her for the AFLC projects that they were doing. I myself, I’m actually a marine technician. So very far away from the food industry.

Q: How did you get started as a foodie content creator?

I was always taking pictures of food, taking a little clip. But back then it was all pictures, you know, video didn’t really take off as much, or at least locally. I just always had a passion for the photography and for food itself.

I always loved trying different foods, and obviously, just eating food. That was just like my thing. And, you know, in doing that, and through my relationship with Lauren and her friends, they said you have this portfolio you’ve built up, many photos of food, travel, you take pictures of food and coffee and places that you go, why don’t you start a social media page? And I was like, well, okay, why not? So that was in 2019. That was before the pandemic. I started posting my pictures. I had a goal, because I said to myself, if I’m doing this, I’m going to do it for real, proper!

I wanted it to be consistent. So, every single day I would post a picture of food, whether it was what we ate outside or we cooked food at home or anything along these lines, once it had something to do related to food….

Q: …But Brent, what is it about food that you felt the need to record?

I just wanted to be able to show that I tried it, or I really like this. This is what it looked like. Look how colourful this salad is, how big this burger is, how well plated a dish was presented. Sometimes you’ll have a cake, the layers and intricate work went into it, and this is something that you want to capture before you devour it! (laughs)

My main thing back then too was something called ‘macros’. Basically, I used to take very close-up shots of the food to show texture and detail. I always wanted to take a photo that fills the screen with the food. So, I’m taking very detailed, close-up shots to show textures, and the sauce, and the oils dripping, and details of something like bread or pancakes etc, the colours, you know, all these different things.

I showed a lot of detail and the more the page grew, the more I wanted to kind of focus on that. Like that was my thing.

Q: What platform did you start on?

I started off on Instagram and then I slowly started to share things on Facebook. In my third year, which is during the pandemic, I started the TikToks.

The second year of the pandemic is when I joined TikTok. When I started trying to make videos, I quickly learned. And this is just through watching videos. No one taught me any of the photography or the videography. I looked at videos online and taught myself how to do the videos. I jumped on that train early.

The more I did it, the more I fell in love with doing the editing and the production of the videos. Back then, I liked my pictures with lighting and angles. I never used to capture things straight on. I always wanted to put a tilt on it, or you know, something different. I didn’t want it to just be like anything that you see. I always wanted it to be something that will jump out at you.

I like to taste food. I’ll just tell you about it. I’m in no means saying that I’m an expert in tasting food, but you know, this is my wife and I, or whoever else is in the video, this is where we went, we tried it. This is what we think. We liked it and so on.

Q: I know that popular content creators are sometimes paid to review, does that compromise your reviews?

You would realise my platform does not have very many negative reviews. Because in my case, if I tried and I didn’t like it, I’m not here to bash businesses. But I just won’t put it out there for anybody to know about it either. I have to review it before I just say, hey, followers, come here, go there.

Q: You have a full-time job, which is you’re a marine technician. How do you manage your full-time as well as doing this?

It has been quite a juggle. There was a transition where I had to realise that I needed to divide my time because it would start to hurt, you know, family time, and even work sometimes. So, there was a lot of time management that I had to sit down and think, let’s devote an hour or two here, let’s devote an hour or two there, and I basically spread it out during the day.

So, if I have to go visit a spot on a lunch hour or I’m waiting for a client or something and I have time to go do something simple, if it’s just like a coffee or a treat, et cetera, that’s content. If Lauren and I are going out to dinner and I don’t really have anything coming up, that’s content.

During the day, I just split it up where I put my clips together, put the phone down. Lunchtime comes, I start stitching together, editing, and then, let’s say in the evening, before I go home or as I get home, I do my voiceover, and then before bed, I start putting in text. I don’t sit down for two, three hours one time, unless I’ve devoted that day or that time period for something specific.

Q: You have been up the Caribbean islands in your blogging, what do you think is distinct about food in T&T?

There is a definite difference but maybe it’s because I am a Trini…but then again, people come from around the world and say we have really good food. Up the islands, certain dishes more often than not, there is something a little bit more by the hands in the food, as they say. I have been to almost every island but in terms of blogging I have been to Barbados, Jamaica, Antigua, (this would have been video content related). With regard to Trinbagonian food, what I find that is so interesting is even though we are so multicultural—Trinidad is a melting pot, we have everything here dish wise— somehow, because of the Trinidad taste, the palate of the Trini, more often than not you find that we are always converting and modifying dishes to meet our requirements.

So, an Italian pizza, or a seafood paella, or even down to gyros, we always find a way to ‘Trinify’ the food. We could argue that we improved it, and it tastes much better, where people may say, “that’s not original, that’s not authentic!”. Sometimes, the authentic thing just does not please the Trini palate…That’s the standout thing about Trinidad, we could have every single dish in the world, but don’t think of it as authentic, think that we put a Trinidadian spin on everything.

Q: You are a new daddy, how has it been?

It’s been a trip! It’s been everything people say it is and more. It’s a very happy time, very joyous, lots of love between me, my wife, and our son but at the same time, there are struggles where

@hungrybelly868 has taken a hit in terms of time. I can’t devote time in terms of going to places as much or sitting down doing editing. I have had to readjust.

The usual sleep habit changing, eating habits, so we are going through our own changes as well. It’s not to say that we don’t find happiness in where we are at and what we look forward to.

As a basis, I want to ensure that our son puts God first, that he is generally a good person, sticking with his prayers, is kind, and for him to be generous. Amongst all of that, I want him to enjoy life, not just sit down and think he has to be 100 per cent behind any direction. Be all those things I mentioned before, but also, just enjoy life.