I’ve been following the subject of our June interview on Twitter for quite a long while, and the only reason I haven’t interviewed him until right now is that his love of food and new dining experiences finds him traveling frequently. This month, however, I finally caught up with Sasha, creator of the Twitter account @SashaEats as well as the Instagram account SashaEatsATL, and it was my pleasure to talk with the man responsible for some of the most intriguing and visually-appealing food posts and restaurant reviews I’ve read in recent memory.
Flavorful World: When you’re writing a review, after the food, what aspect(s) of a restaurant dining experience carries the most weight with you in terms of forming a positive or negative opinion of the place? Why is this aspect so important to you?
S: I’m not your typical food blogger. I am a social foodie. Actually, I don’t even have a blog. There are so many food bloggers out there. I prefer to share my culinary experiences on Twitter and Instagram. Nowadays, people want to get information instantly. When I tell my followers about my dining experiences, I tell them as it is and in real time. If they want to know more, they ask questions. It is all about engagement.
It’s tough to tell the story in 140 characters. I use a lot of visuals (photos and videos), so people can see what I see and experience what I experience. As for forming my opinion of the place, it depends on numerous things – service, food, décor, cleanliness of the place, wait time, and even restrooms. If service is not good, I’ll be sure to mention it. And if it gets better while I’m there, I will definitely share it with my followers. There are more and more restaurants that are doing a real-time social listening and getting better at it. They engage with customers on a social network and in person. I see this becoming a trend.
FW: What are your top three favorite styles of cuisine, and why? What are you three least favorite styles of cuisine and why?
S: I’m originally from Russia, so my first favorite cuisine is Russian. I love borsch. I also like Japanese cuisine (sushi) and southern food (shrimp and grits and chicken and waffles).
My least favorite cuisine is Mexican. I think it has to do something with their spices. And by the way, I hate peanut butter. I can’t even stand the smell of it.
FW: Tell us about a dining experience you’ve enjoyed with four or more other people, that found your group sharply divided over impressions of a particular dish’s merits. Where did you dine, what was the dish? What side of the argument did you come down on, and what did you stake your opinion upon?
S: I cannot think of any.
FW: Earlier this year, London, England and Melbourne, Australia opened restaurants where people can dine in the nude, with another scheduled to open in Tokyo, Japan next month. The Japanese restaurant has received much scorn for imposing weight limitations on its guests, effectively banning overweight diners from patronizing the establishment. Tell us your thoughts on to what degree restaurants have (or do not have) a responsibility to be inclusive toward their guests, and what in your opinion, might be the appeal of dining publicly in the nude, that is driving a growing number of establishments to present it as an option.
S: What’s the reason for banning overweight diners? Is it because they are not attractive in nude? I think it should be up to the establishment to set up rules. It’s their business and they can run it as they wish as long as it is in compliance with laws and regulations.
As for dining in nude, if there is demand for this type of restaurants then there should be supply.
FW: Do you evaluate restaurants differently when eating simply for pleasure or convenience versus when you’re eating as a reviewer who intends to share your impressions? If so, how do your criteria differ between the two?
S: All my reviews are based on my personal experiences. When I go to a restaurant, I usually wait until I am seated and my order is taken before I start any conversations and share my impressions about the place on social media. This way I can get the same experience as a regular customer.
I don’t evaluate restaurants differently. Every restaurant that I go to gets a review even if I have been there numerous times. I am a social foodie and I believe in the power of real-time social conversations. These conversations will be about my dining experience and overall impressions. Every experience is different. Sometimes it is positive, sometimes it is negative.
FW: Rank from highest to lowest the following amenities in terms of importance to you when evaluating a restaurant for the first time: a good wine list with lots of imported selections, availability of small plate menu options, a craft beer menu, locally-sourced ingredients, a menu that accompanies each menu selection with nutritional value/calorie info. Tell us why you ranked the highest and lowest items as you did.
S: None of the above. I look for authentic experiences whether it is in an upscale restaurant or in a hole in the wall. Every restaurant has its own story and character. But if I’m paying for a five-course dinner at an upscale restaurant and their restroom is dirty, I won’t be going back. Can you imagine what their kitchen looks like if they cannot keep up with the restrooms?
FW: To what do you attribute your love of sampling diverse cuisine and dining out?
S: Life is like a menu and we should sample many options. Every meal provides a new adventure, and I am always waiting to explore the world one plate at a time. I attribute it to my passion for travel because it unlocks the world of flavor.
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits?
S: Sasha. Yalishanda. Alexander.
My story started in Vladivostok, Russia. I’ve had three chapters so far – my life in Russia, China, and my current life in the United States of America. I’d like to share my life experiences in these countries and beyond. Sasha, a short form of Alexander, is my Russian name. Yalishanda is Alexander in Chinese. And Alexander is my full name that I go by. That’s why I came up with this name for my memoir.
FW: When you aren’t eating/writing about delicious things, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
S: I’m a social foodie and culinary globetrotter. My husband David and I are always on the move, and we travel as often as we can. We love eating our way across the world and making others hungry to explore. You can follow my foodie adventures on Twitter (@SashaEats) and on Instagram (SashaEatsATL).
*Note to readers: You heard the man (well, technically, you read his transcribed words and now you’re reading mine, but quit nitpicking, will ya?)…you never know where his food love will take him next, however following him on Twitter and Instagram is a very good way to be there when he arrives.