Mark Twain once wrote, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” With the internet changing the way people make a living, finding that dream job is becoming more of a reality for people with a little creativity and some talent with a camera.
Foodies, in particular, seem to have carved out a niche for themselves as influencers on social networks, and the key to success seems to be narrowing their focus to one type of culinary delight. A prime example as we head into 2020: A handful of cheese board influencers are at the forefront of an Instagram food trend that starts in the kitchen but doesn’t even involve cooking.
The biggest influencers in the cheese-board game are earning dough by creating yummy-looking cheese platters and charcuterie boards.
By day, Laura Nelling is a certified public accountant in Los Angeles. However, after posting a few photos of the beautiful cheese boards she created for get-togethers on her personal Instagram page, friends soon convinced her to create her own blog and influencer page. Nelling created @cheeseboardandchill on Instagram and now has thousands of followers.
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How adorable are these charCUTErie PINWHEELS?! 🧀🍖🌀☺️ rolled up little bites of mozzarella cheese and salami or pepperoni, what’s not to love? . . 💡And how good would they be stuffed inside some dough and baked in the oven? With a side of marinara sauce 😋 Might need to try that one soon! . . #cheeseboardandchill #cheese #charcuterie #cheeseboard #charcuteriepinwheels
The most popular accounts in the cheese-board social media world belong to Melissa Mullen. She created two channels: That Cheese Plate and Cheese By Numbers, which shows step-by-step pictures to swipe through to learn how to create one of her gorgeous plates yourself. Each Instagram page has more than 160,000 fans.
Mullen has watched the cheese-plate trend emerge as she contributed to it. “Back in 2013, I would go through the hashtags — #cheese, #cheeseplate — and like all the photos with the hashtags to grow my following,” she told Refinery29. “In the beginning, there weren’t that many. #cheeseplate, back in 2013 only had about 40,000 posts or less and now I think it’s over 200,000.”
Her creations are impressive. One of her signature design moves, a “river” of salami, is easy to see in this post, which shows how she built the elaborate appetizer spread:
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SWIPE TO BUILD ➡️ That “Autumnal Graze” Plate (more like table) as seen on @ThatCheesePlate today. I don’t typically cater events. When my mom asked me to make a 6-foot grazing table for her work event I hesitated, but took on the challenge! I have SO much respect for the grazing table wizards out there who cater as a full time job. It requires so much time, prep and manual labor. The end result is pretty impressive though! Thanks mom for making me push myself to the next level with this Salami Nile River. With a grazing table, I like to set my foundation first. Here I used three large boards and a variety of bowls and ramekins. I also set down my decoration for the table. I used eucalyptus and mini gourds. KEY 1 – CHEESE: Comeback Cow from @dorothycreamery, Pleasant Ridge Reserve from @uplandscheese, French Brie, Unexpected Cheddar from @TraderJoes + Mini Mozzarella Balls 2 – MEAT: Calabrese + Prosciutto 3 – PRODUCE: Dried Figs, Dried Cranberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Dried Apricots 4 – CRUNCH: Pecans, Almonds, @firehook Crackers, @marysgonecrackers 5 – DIP: @beesesasonal Honey 6 – GARNISH: Candied Oranges, Fresh Rosemary, Sage, Fresh Flowers and Tealight Candles And yes, that is a treadmill in the last frame. My mom owns a fitness studio. It’s all about balance right?! #ThatCheesePlate #CheeseByNumbers #SwipeToBuild
When Mullen first started creating her Instagram pages in 2014, she caught the attention of Whole Foods, who offered her a $100 gift card to sponsor her work. She has grown her business significantly since then. In an interview with Vox in early 2019, she said her influencer income was only about 10% of her yearly earnings. Since then, her business has taken off and she recently left her day job to work on her influencer network full time, partnering with Trader Joe’s and other food retailers to help create her edible works of art.