Illustrated Food Blog Goes Viral, Makes Us All Hungry

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Paolo Sta. Barbara

Paolo Sta. Barbara loves food so much (particularly fried chicken) that he built Compliments to the Chef, an online tribute to his favorite dishes. The Visual Designer graduated from our Front-End Web Development course in Sydney. Since learning how to code, he’s giving back as a teaching assistant, helping others build their dream websites.

1. What brought you to General Assembly?

I was a Digital Designer for Drifter with a background in digital advertising and animation. I was seeking out web development courses, and after looking at General Assembly’s offerings, it was the most relevant and up-to-date.

2. Tell me about your blog Compliments to the Chef.

Compliments to the Chef is an illustrated food blog. It is an attempt to illustrate and record dishes that I’ve eaten and enjoyed, and to pay homage to all the chefs that create them.

3. From where do you draw your inspiration?

My love for design and food brought Compliments to the Chef to life. I wanted a way to celebrate that, as well as have an avenue to experiment with digital projects that I would not have previously had the chance to work on.

Compliments to the Chef | Burgers

Caution: Paolo’s newest feature, Burgers (pictured above), may cause sudden food cravings.

4. How do you increase exposure for you blog?

Since Compliments to the Chef started, it has opened up opportunities for food and travel projects for publications and restaurants. That has given me a lot of exposure as a designer and illustrator. I’ve been mentioned on a few CSS blogs and some travel magazines. I also post regularly and promote my site on social media, primarily with Instagram and Twitter.

5. Any challenges you didn’t expect as you grow your content and audience?

Consistency and reiteration were the biggest challenges for me. New content is what drives people to subscribe and check your site frequently. To keep a constant flow of content and illustrations is difficult outside of work. Luckily though, I manage to find the time (barely).

I also found that upon launch, a project is never really finished. You constantly need to update and reiterate to make things better. What I set out to do when I started is so much different than what it is now. After continuing coding, there are so many things I want to add as well!

6. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself recently?

I learned more about personal quality control. After working in agencies for so long, you don’t get an opportunity to oversee all the moving parts to a project. The project revealed my personal quality control as I looked at all the parts involved to my project outside the design. It resulted in a lot of late nights and constant reiteration (all for the better, of course). I can now work closely with the people around me. As a designer, so many things can get lost in communication when working with developers, but now I can work on all sides of a website.

7. Any advice for someone who’d like to follow in your footsteps?

From a project and design point of view, you always have time to reiterate and change. The lessons you learn from launching something that people interact with will always have its problems. Launch something knowing that it could change over and over again. You learn so much more from putting your ideas out there than having them sit in concept stage for ages.

8. What’s your guilty pleasure?

Frequent fried chicken is a guilty pleasure I’m slowly coming to terms with it, albeit a little defensively and aggressively.

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Brianna Plaza is a Digital Marketing graduate. She now works on General Assembly’s content marketing team.