THE INFATUATION: AN EMPIRE OF FOOD ENTHUSIASTS

It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of local indie bands, old-school punk rock, electronic music, or One Direction. We all have one thing in common: We love food. If you don’t, you’re probably in denial and you should keep on reading this article because you’ll be craving a cheesy New York style slice of pizza in no time.

With the rise of social media people have been obsessing over writing yelp reviews, checking in at their favorite restaurant on foursquare, and capturing the perfect photo of their poached egg so they can upload it on Instagram and hashtag #yolkporn. With a crazy food fanatic world out there, The Infatuation has made its way to the top in the food blogging industry. Chris Stang and Andrew Steinthal, just two guys who built an empire of food lovers out there. They now conquer 5 cities so far (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver) and have their own hashtag #EEEEEATS trending nationwide. It’s clear that these former music industry working people take food very seriously. I had a chance to chat with Andrew about The Infatuation, music, and pizza.

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First of all, what do you guys call yourselves- Food critics, food bloggers, food enthusiast?

Mmm I would say that we’re just people who like food. Then again, everybody likes food. So I don’t know, I guess we are….Well, that’s a hard question. I’d say we like food like everybody else and just decided to write about it.

So you guys were in the music industry before The Infatuation.

For both of us music was our past. Since we were in high school even, that was the route we were headed down but by nature of the job. I was the VP of PR at Warner Bro’s Records and Chris was the VP of Marketing at Atlantic Records. By the fall when you’re in the music business for 13 years I would say the big part of it is that you’re out at shows all the time, consistently running around town going to see bands, entertaining bands, entertaining managers, and a big part of the job is out of the office. And obviously when you’re out to see a show at night, food plays a big role. Are we going to food before, are we going to food after…

Do you guys still keep up with the music scene?

For so long we went to so many shows and that was our entire life. We know what’s going on.

PizzalovesEmilyWere you into food as you were with music?

Would I say we liked it as much as music at the time? No. We started fielding calls from our friends who were finance guys, doctors, bankers, who weren’t out as much, and were looking for information because their parents are in town or want to take a girl out to impress them or whatever the situation was, we would get phone calls. Also at work they’d be like “K-Rock’s in town. He likes Mexican food, plan the night.” We were those planners and looked at each other and were like- people are coming to us for this information. Clearly, they’re not getting it elsewhere. There’s a need for a voice that speaks to people and real talk about restaurants.

Was YELP not a ‘thing’ yet?

We started in 2009 and Yelp was definitely a thing. I think we were kind of the anticipates of Yelp in a sense that you don’t know what opinion to trust on there. It’s a lot of white noise on that platform and it’s really hard to decipher what information to trust. It’s really useful for some things, but restaurants need some nuance that you really need a person you trust to guide you. The voice of a million people doesn’t really help a lot of times so we thought that there was a big opportunity to really try and make the expense of going to restaurants sort-able and divide it by category. Make it very real, honest and not pretentious. A lot of food media out there is very serious and very much representing of the chefs and the industry..We were just obviously not that and thought that there could be a real opportunity to become the voice of the people and make something super useful and help find restaurants. That was always kind of the goal. How can we help enrich people improve their lives by just having a good resource.

Who are some artists you dig currently?

Let me pull up our Spotify. We do a monthly Spotify Playlist! (Below). Hmm- I like Leon Else, The Japanese House, obviously the new Disclosure record. I’m all over the place. I just like good music. I’m a songs person so whether it’s dance, electronic, hiphop, alternative or indie- I’m all across the board. I’ve worked with artists in every range over my career, mainly because I was interested in everything and familiar with every kind of scene.

What’s your favorite post-concert food?

I’ve always been a post-show slice kinda guy. Especially if its a late one I’m like “alright I just need something before bed and I’m going to get a slice of pizza, so thats usually mine.

Since NYC is famous for their pizza- What are some underrated pizza restaurants here?

I mean it might not be underrated anymore but they’ve been getting a lot of attention in the past year. Pizza Loves Emily in Clinton Hill is fantastic! That’s my new favorite Brooklyn pizza by far. That place is absolutely worth the trip. I think Brooklyn Pizza is kind of underrated. I just like a classic slice pie and they have some of there other good stuff as well.

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Are any pizza places worth lining up for anyway?

Yeah. I mean, pizza’s one of the very few things I would line up for. I mean not too long. If the line is 40 minutes long at Grimaldi’s they’ve got problems because that is not worth waiting for. If you go make a trip to Di Fara deep into Brooklyn, THAT is absolutely worth any amount of minutes you have to wait and all $5 for the slice. That’s just your quintessential New York pizzeria.

You guys were part of the food curration for GovBall this year! How cool was that?

We’ve been friends with those guys over the years. Our backgrounds with music and we have a lot of relationships and we know that world really well and we worked together a couple of years ago on the media front and we helped simply blow up the food a little extra via social networks. Last year we’ve been in discussion and were like look, I think we could really help improve the food lineup and represent New York better. Last year was our first year that we curated the food lineup and we’ll do it again next year and we’re really excited because we brought in stuff that they didn’t have previously like the Ramen Burger or Tacombi Tacos

Do you think Instagram has been a big game-changer for food bloggers/enthusaists?

I think every social media platform has made it easy for everyone, whether you’re in food or writing about music or trying to write about cars…Whatever it is, internet’s given you the opportunity to say whatever you want. And it’s kind of up to you to see if you can come up with something different, unique and compelling enough to make people give a fuck. Instagram for sure has enabled especially in food. Most of these kids on Instagram don’t have actual websites or blogs. They’re just Instagram photographers going out there taking pictures to get likes- which is fine. But it’s made this whole thing pretty crazy.

What’s this new app you guys made where I can text a dinosaur?

We have a text message recommendation service called Text Rex where you can text us directly for restaurant recommendations. We have a whole system set up, but it’s always a human. You’re always talking to somebody and it’s always open 8:30am to 11pm everyday so you’ll always get a response within 5 minutes. And if you text at 3am you’ll probably get a message saying ‘hey you’re probably hammered and  probably want pizza so here are your options.’ People want what they want now. We hear from people all the time- they don’t want to sit there and go through the website. Its also good for us. It’s like having an amazing focus group of thousands and thousands of people everyday telling you what they want, so we made a lot of content decisions based on hearing what people say through Text Rex.

I think what we can get out from this is that you can do whatever you want. Don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not capable of doing it. And follow your dreams, even if it’s something as simple as taking artistic photos of your food.