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Food reviewer Julianna Shimabukuro creates culinary content, community

Julianna Shimabukuro poses in front of a restaurant, writing a review. She hopes her reviews help people decide on meal options. (Nina Schmidt/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Ana Camila Burquez

May 30, 2024 5:42 p.m.

Julianna Shimabukuro is giving people a taste of California.

The fourth-year psychobiology student said she has a strong passion for food that has accompanied her throughout her life. This love for food is now reflected on Shimabukuro’s Instagram account, @julianna.the.foodie, which she created in 2022. On the account, people can find reviews of many of Shimabukuro’s food experiences, creating a community with those who also enjoy food and getting to know places through their cuisine, she said.

“It’s (food is) like a bonding experience for all my friends,” Shimabukuro said. “Whenever we want to hang out, we’re like, ‘Oh we should try this new place,’ or, ‘We haven’t been here in a while, so let’s go here.’”

[Related: UCLA alumnus uses social media to bring multicultural food content to table]

Prior to starting her food account, Shimabukuro said she used to post similar content on her personal Instagram. For a while, many people would message her about this content, suggesting she should make an account dedicated to her food reviews, she added. Still, it wasn’t until after two years of writing reviews, in December 2022, that @julianna.the.foodie was born, Shimabukuro said. This happened after the realization that having a separate public account would make the reviews more convenient and accessible for others, she said.

Shimabukuro’s platform includes content from many food locations around Los Angeles and Southern California, said her roommate Lauren Imai, a fourth-year psychobiology student. The posts, Shimabukuro said, feature a broad variety of meals, but desserts and Asian cuisine are a major component as she normally gravitates toward them. Additionally, Imai said Shimabukuro’s account is a great place to find less popular restaurants and food recommendations.

“I think it’s very useful for people that might want to find more hidden spots or hole-in-the-wall spots, because I feel the spots she goes to aren’t the most well-known,” Imai said. “It’s more like cute coffee shops or cute mom-and-pop shops, which is really nice.”

Julianna Shimabukuro is pictured smiling in front of a food establishment. Shimabukuro said food can be a bonding experience. (Nina Schmidt/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Julianna Shimabukuro is pictured smiling in front of a food establishment. Shimabukuro said food can be a bonding experience. (Nina Schmidt/Daily Bruin senior staff)

When it comes to ordering, Shimabukuro said she typically asks the restaurant’s staff what the most popular dish is, but she still prefers ordering things she knows she will like, especially if eating alone. However, she said she normally goes out to eat with friends and orders “family style,” which allows her to showcase more dishes on her account. In addition, when writing reviews, Shimabukuro avoids rating on a scale given its subjectivity and the different taste preferences people have, she said. Instead, she prefers writing descriptive reviews in which she said she takes the taste, quality, aesthetics, wait time, price and portion size into consideration.

Shimabukuro’s housemate Kienna Chhoeu, a third-year Asian American studies student, said she has been an accompaniment to many of Shimabukuro’s food adventures. Having this experience, as well as seeing Shimabukuro’s account grow firsthand, has not only encouraged her to explore more establishments but also helped her gain a new level of respect for the culinary arts, Chhoeu said. Similarly, Imai said the account has enhanced her experience with food, encouraging her to explore new restaurants and try different types of cuisines that she normally doesn’t eat. She also said Shimabukuro’s platform has been a great tool when deciding which places are worth exploring.

“To be fair, I’ve never gotten a bad recommendation from her, ever,” said. “Every single one of her food recommendations has always been spot on and good, to the point where I’ve gotten other friends hooked on those restaurants, bringing their friends, which contributes to more exposure for the restaurant, which is awesome.”

As a pre-medicine student, Shimabukuro said her platform has helped her relax from her school work and other academic extracurriculars. Nevertheless, she said she does find a connection with the psychology aspect of her major, as it helps her understand what people might want to see in a food review. Other than that, she said she tries to keep the two separate, given this endeavor is how she unwinds.

Outside of balancing her account and school, Shimabukuro said she keeps herself involved in the community through the magazine Bruin Bites, which she is a part of. When asked whether she would want to take the work she does on her platform into the magazine, she said she is occasionally given the opportunity to produce writing projects for the magazine, such as her most recent piece, which highlighted different coffee shops she visited in San Diego.

With a passion as strong as hers, writing reviews can take as quickly as five minutes, Shimabukuro said. Yet, a challenge she has encountered is trying to stay atop her reviews, she added. There are times when she does small reviews in her stories rather than creating a complete post, Shimabukuro said, which then leads viewers to sometimes ask if she can do a full review of those locations. This way, she said she starts accumulating places to review, making the process of choosing what to post overwhelming. To overcome this, she opts to only post restaurants that have had a significant impact on her, but still keeps the small reviews available for those interested, Shimabukuro said.

[Related: Ingrid Teng finds community, makes memories by documenting culinary adventures]

Regarding future plans, Shimabukuro said she hasn’t really considered expanding her platform, besides perhaps joining food-centric platforms such as Yelp Elite Squad. She added that her intention with the account has never been to become famous, so her only goal at the moment is to be able to keep discovering new locations and showcasing them on her platform, hoping to keep building a connection with those who share her passion for food.

“I just hope that they (followers) think it’s helpful when they’re deciding their meals, and I hope that they can find someone else in the community and connect like I have,” Shimabukuro said.

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Ana Camila Burquez
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