By Sam Karny | Photos courtesy of Hip Foodie Mom
She’s not a professionally trained chef or restaurateur, but thousands of followers from Madison and beyond replicate her recipes, listen to her tips and watch her Instagram stories. Alice Choi is a wife, mom, former advertising and marketing professional and author of the blog Hip Foodie Mom. Alice grew up around restaurants as the daughter of a restaurateur – her father owned four of his own in Dallas. However, she never planned to follow in her father’s footsteps. In fact, she rarely gave cooking much thought. Despite occasional entertaining with her husband, Alice did not foresee a career for herself in the kitchen. That all changed after becoming a mom. Hip Foodie Mom came to be when Alice developed a passion for the culinary arts following the birth of her daughter. Gone were the days of cooking for close friends and family. Alice hoped to share her knowledge, diverse repertoire with a special focus on Korean dishes and delicious healthful recipes with the rest of Madison, and eventually, the world.
Hip Foodie Mom creates posts with one priority in mind: seasonality. Though she ensures that her recipes are family friendly, health conscious and diverse, Alice asserts that most important quality she instills in her blog is the consistent use of fresh ingredients. This doesn’t mean that Alice is only cooking vegetables–you can find your fair share of sweet desserts and hearty entrees on her blog. It suggests that Alice champions the importance of buying the best possible ingredients, often those that are grown locally in the greater Madison community.
Alice said of Madison, “I couldn’t imagine myself being anywhere else.” Madison provided the framework for her to start a new chapter of her life: food blogging. She sourced fresh ingredients from local farmer’s markets for some of her most popular dishes like vegetarian lo mein, white bean chicken chili and an asparagus and gruyere tarte, which she prepared alongside anchors on The TODAY Show. Alice’s recipes are uniquely special to Madisonians, in line with seasonal offerings and consistently varied in flavor and heritage.
A self-described “wearer of many hats,” Alice acquired new skills and flexed existing ones as she established Hip Foodie Mom. Alice spent years working on her craft individually, and found answers in education. Though she is not a classically trained chef, Alice enrolled in a course in New York City’s Natural Gourmet Institute where she familiarized herself with healthful cooking practices and earned a certification in culinary nutrition.
A food blogger must develop talents that go beyond the kitchen. Alice explains that understanding how to properly photograph and style food is essential to a blog’s success. In fact, many food bloggers actually hire professionals to plate, stylize and photograph their dishes. However, Hip Foodie Mom wears every hat possible. Alice enrolled in classes in photography and food styling to ensure she could create the best possible blog independently. The quality of her shots surpasses that of many bloggers and Instagrammers, and has received the praise it deserves: Alice’s aesthetically pleasing, ever-popular posts have gained upwards of a million views on Instagram alone.
In order to become the Hip Foodie Mom she is today, Alice also sought an education outside of the classroom. She explains that she watches cooking shows religiously – a big fan and hopeful future talent of The Food Network. She has also been given the unique opportunity to learn from Madison’s finest chefs. She cites Tory Miller, Johnny Hunter and Dan Fox as some of her favorite local chefs while turning towards Korean-American innovators David Chang and Roy Choi as her inspirations on the national level. Alice also acknowledges her parents as influential teachers on her lifelong culinary journey, as they first introduced her to Korean eats and the professional food industry.
“If you want to stay relevant and keep growing, you have to stay on top of social media and current trends,” Alice advised. Alice’s achievements as Hip Foodie Mom can be attributed to not only to her cooking skills, creative recipes and thirst for learning, but also her professional past. Alice honed her social media and design skills in the workplace as a former advertising and marketing professional. She believes that her background tempered the steep learning curve that is associated with food blogging as she was already accustomed to producing creative media that effectively communicates with consumers.
Alice is one of Madison’s most well-known chefs, yet few have had the opportunity to taste her delicacies because her work is primarily limited to the digital sphere. Alice emphasizes that social media remains a driving force behind the recognition she receives.
Alice explains, “For chefs and restaurateurs and even food bloggers, you kind of have to put yourself out there and allow the good and the bad to come.” She highlights the trials, tribulations and triumphs that she experienced interacting with consumers on social media as a catalyst for her hard work, propelling Hip Foodie Mom’s “growth and reach.”
Becoming an esteemed food blogger not only allowed Alice to grow professionally, but also enriched her personal life. She has been awarded the opportunity to connect with people around the globe, citing the internet for giving her the pleasure of “interact[ing] with people who you otherwise would never meet.” Alice has also applied her passion and talent for cooking to aid the community. Recently, a joint cooking class between Alice and Forequarter’s Johnny Hunter sold for $3,000, all benefitting Madison’s children’s hospital.
Though Alice’s dishes are not served in a restaurant or sold in stores, Alice was thrilled to share that a select few have been given the opportunity to taste her treats. She explains with a laugh that at a recent cooking course she hosted at Sur La Table in Madison, a customer attempted to hire her as their personal chef. Her fame is not exclusive to Madison, as she recently traveled to Minneapolis to teach a kimchi making lesson to fans.
Looking forward, we can expect a lot more from Hip Foodie Mom. Though Alice does not see herself attending culinary school or opening a restaurant, she does forecast a bright future that goes well beyond her blogging endeavor. She has been in talks with The Food Network, partnered with some of Madison’s premiere chefs and restaurants and has been approached about writing a cookbook.
Alice’s focus on seasonality, and in turn locality, permeates through her recipes, photographs and social media platforms. The importance of Madison within Hip Foodie Mom’s digital presence is unmistakable, coloring the ingredients she purchases, recipes she writes and chefs she admires. In turn, Madison continues to benefit from the ever-talented and driven Alice Choi.