Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in the May 2015 ORANGE Issue III.
Instagram feeds are quickly transitioning from pictures of people to crisp, mouthwatering snapshots of food. Instead of looking restaurants up online, chances are you refer to your favorite foodie’s Insta as a guide to your city’s best eateries. In a food-driven city like Austin, posting a foodstagram is almost inevitable. But before this social media food craze was even a thing, 25-year-old Jane Ko was already on the scene.
Interview by Ashley Lopez
Photos by Kristen Hubby
The foodie behind the “A Taste of Koko” food blog/Instagram began documenting her Austin eats as a University of Texas student back in 2012, and her presence has only grown since then. Some of the most popular posts on her blog include “100 Things You Need to Eat this Summer in Austin” and the “Ultimate Guide to Best Brunches in Austin.” ORANGE met with Ko over some boba tea at Tea Haus, a new spot on Anderson Lane, per her recommendation. She shared some of her weirdest food experiences and her future endeavors.
How did you get into the Austin food scene?
I didn’t like my nutrition degree, and I didn’t want to be a dietician. I never really connected with the concept of eating healthy. So I was like, “You know what? I’m gonna start a food blog.” It was originally simple stuff in my kitchen that a college student would make, and from there, it transitioned into restaurant coverage and finding hidden gems in Austin.
What is your day job?
Professionally, I’ve done social media and marketing full-time for over five years now. I actually quit my job two months ago so I have just been doing my blog.
Austin drink of choice?
I’m a girly-girl, I like my bubbles. Anything mixed with champagne or moscato.
What would your last meal in Austin be?
If this were the case, it would make me very sad. I would have to say barbecue. I know you can’t get good ol’ Texas BBQ anywhere else. To narrow it down, I would have to say the brisket and beef ribs at La Barbecue.
What’s it like when you and some friends go out to eat?
I think I’m really OCD when I go out to eat with friends. I usually like to encourage everybody to get something different and kind of nudge them towards getting something that I want to try, like, “Hey, hey, get this! And then we can share right? You’ll let me have a bite?” My friends and boyfriend will tell you that they usually don’t eat food when it comes right out because I spend 10 to 15 minutes trying to take pictures of it.
What are some foods that you don’t like?
I don’t think there’s anything I don’t like. The quality of certain things is what bothers me, but I typically eat everything. Chicken feet and frog legs kind of gross me out.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
I went to Taiwan and Hong Kong for my 21st birthday, and I went to this shady night market in Taipei. It’s one of those places your parents tell you not to go to because it’s not safe and people do sketchy things. There are restaurants there that serve exotic animals, and one of them is a freshly butchered snake. I thought I was going to die that day, to be honest. We had six shots from different parts of the snake, including its blood, bile and venom –– and I took all of them. My parents still don’t know to this day.
What do you think the Austin food scene is lacking?
Austin is definitely lacking Asian cuisine. I don’t cook it at home, and I don’t go out to get it in Austin because it’s just not good. Either it’s Americanized and then you’ve got the fancy places that are overcharging for it — there’s not really anything authentic. And we really need a dim sum place here as well.
Who are some food bloggers that inspire you?
I actually don’t read that many food blogs. I read a lot of fashion and style blogs and get most of my inspiration from there. It’s odd because I write a food blog, but a lot of my design and the way I take my photos come from style blogs. Some websites I look at are Refinery29, Brit + Co., Apartment 34 and Camille Styles.
What’s the one thing you cook best?
My boyfriend calls it the “chicken from the kitchen”. It’s chicken breast, and I marinate it in buttermilk so it tenderizes, then I just bread it in Cornflakes crumbs and bake it. It’s kind of like a healthier fried chicken. But we pretty much eat out every meal.
Do you ever crave fast food, like Chipotle or Chick-fil-A?
I don’t personally. But if I’m not cooking, and we are not going somewhere, then that’s what my boyfriend picks up.
What’s the last new place that really left an impression on you?
Italic. I’m such a big fan of the Elm group. They own 24 Diner, Arro, Easy Tiger, and prior to them opening Italic, I was obsessed with Arro. Anytime someone would ask me what my favorite restaurant was, I would say I don’t have a favorite, but my current obsession is Arro. Italic is the newest restaurant opened by the Elm group and it’s rustic italian cuisine. The space is beautiful; it’s on 6th and Colorado Street. They have a floating wine cellar that holds 100 bottles of wine and one of the best steaks I’ve had.
If you could reincarnate into an Austin dessert, what would it be?
Arro’s chocolate pot de creme.
If you could have dinner with any three people who would they be?
I got to meet the cast of Spy during SXSW, except Jason Statham because his body guard pulled him away from me. So I would like to have him at dinner, you know, with his British accent. The Rock, he seems kind of interesting, and Julia Child. If she wants to cook the meal, I’m okay with that. It’s an odd crowd, but it’ll be an interesting dinner.
Favorite food Instagrams?
I love looking at accounts from other cities because I want to know where to go when I travel. I usually stalk people of that nature. There’s this girl from Dallas who has a beautiful page— her name is Karen Lau. I actually follow a lot of photographers because they give me ideas on how I need to take my pictures.
Words of advice?
Be focused on what you want to achieve and don’t pay attention to distractions. Have a goal in mind.
Any upcoming adventures?
I’m going on a cruise in early May. Along with food I also do some travel, so occasionally I will get approached by a company, and they’ll say, “Hey, we want you to create some content and we will send you off, just have fun and do a couple of posts about it.” It’s gonna be in the Mexico area so I’m really excited.
Where do you see “A Taste of Koko” in five years?
I hope that I will still be doing my blog. Right now I have been doing city guide of Austin, but I have been entertaining the thought of adding on other contributors from different cities like Los Angeles and New York or even Asia. I wouldn’t mind having published a book or something of that nature. I have also had companies approach me about doing a cookery line, so I imagine that could be a future possibility as well.