Ayngelina Brogan is a globetrotting foodie and entrepreneur who runs Bacon is Magic, a food blog with many readers from around the world. We asked Ayngelina for some inspiring insight into professional blogging and social media, culinary adventuring, travel and beyond. Read on to hear her thoughts!
If you had to choose just one country to visit again—based on food and culture, where would you go and why?
Wow, starting off with the tough questions! How could I just pick one? If I were pressed, I would have to say Mexico. Mexican food is really under-appreciated and often relegated to tacos or quesadillas.
But Mexico is such a gigantic country and the food is very regional. So you’d never see the dry pozole soup from Colima, on the west coast, served in restaurants in Playa del Carmen. In fact, it’s possible they haven’t even seen that style before.
Food is so important to Mexican culture and it’s so complex. I would put it in the top 5 cuisines in the world.
Food blogging is one of the most coveted, dreamed-about jobs out there. What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your job?
Never having enough time. People have this misconception that you are working an hour or two a day and then on the beach or drinking Cuba Libres. I often work 60 hours a week. I get so excited about a destination that I want to share everything but there just isn’t enough time to do it all, even when I’m based there.
With so many bloggers and Instagrammers out there trying to make it as an influencer, what’s the best advice you can give them?
I personally hate the term “influencer” as it sounds like I aspire to be a Kardashian. But I do feel fortunate that I’ve been doing this for almost ten years. It gave me time to develop my voice and understand what I can provide over other people. It’s important to find your own voice and figure out how you‘re different. I’ll never be the girl in the bikini on the beach, or the fashionista or the adrenalin seeker.
But I really do know how to find the best places to eat. I don’t choose restaurants because they’re on TripAdvisor or some mainstream top 10 list. I don’t believe the best food has Michelin stars. I would rather eat where locals go. Food is culture, so I want to help people understand local food and customs so that eating in a local spot won’t be as intimidating.
The second best piece of advice I can give is not to do any sponsored work the first year. It seems like people are so intent on making money immediately that they start sponsored work before they have a good sense of who they are and what they offer. Usually the partnerships read like heavy advertising and there’s no value to their followers. In some cases, every other post appears to be an ad and that is a very short-sighted way to run a business.
I turn down 75% of sponsored work. If I don’t already use a product or am interested in it, I don’t partner with them because I know my readers will see through it. Sadly, it’s usually the highest-paying offers, but to do this long term you have to have integrity. You’ll never see me hawking Olive Garden or sharing a recipe that uses liquid egg—because cracking an egg is easy enough, you don’t need it in a box!
You have some great food photography on your blog and Instagram feed. What would you say are the keys to taking a great food photo?
I shoot almost all my photos and video with my Google Pixel, it has an amazing camera and I’m really happy with how it handles food.
Poor lighting is my nemesis. I rarely post evening photos as they just look horrible and I refuse to use a flash. If I’m working on a food guide to a city I often ask if I can eat dinner as early as possible, ideally an hour or two before sunset. I just upgraded my phone and it’s supposed to be even better in low light, so I’m excited to see if I can actually eat dinner a bit later!
I also really want to share more videos as I don’t feel like photos and words fully express just how amazing a place is. I want to show people. So I signed up for an online video course, which I’m trying to find time for. I’ve been putting off video for a while but it’s something I really want to make a priority.
What’s next on the menu for you in terms of foodie travel—where to? Any dishes there that you’re dying to try?
I’ve been based in Cuba the last 18 months because it’s a misunderstood country, especially as many people think Cuban food is bad. Believe me, it’s just the resort food and tourist restaurants. Cubans eat quite delicious food so hopefully I’ll have a Havana restaurant guide up before the end of the year and a bar and club guide in the new year.
But I would love to explore more of the Caribbean, and a bit further adrift I have a wish list of Turkey, Taiwan and Japan. I also have a few blogger friends who want to take group trips to Puerto Rico and the Philippines. So many places I’d love to visit, there aren’t enough days in the year!
Ayngelina doesn’t consider herself adventurous, but her life certainly has been! As she reveals on her website, “I left a boyfriend and a career in advertising and bought a one-way ticket to Mexico to travel on a career break. I didn’t speak Spanish and I had no idea where I was going.” Eventually, managing her website became her full time job.
Her goal is to inspire people to lead adventurous lives, the “kind of adventure [that] doesn’t mean hiking Everest. It’s getting out of your comfort zone, traveling to delicious destinations and cooking amazing food at home.”