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The Social Chef is more than just a hashtag, it’s a way of business

5 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Between the biggest social platforms — Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube – chefs now have the ability to reach thousands of consumers at one time, in one place. Some chefs share relevant food articles, some Instagram their succulent dishes (#foodporn), and others use their social platforms to unveil daily specials. The best social chefs do all of the above and more. They seek innovation to promote their work, and by doing so, create a brand for themselves. Needless to say, the Social Chef is a huge part of the foodservice industry for the New Age consumer.

To emphasize its importance, DigitalCoCo’s RIZMY Awards, which applauds the best brands rocking it on social and digital media, includes a Social Chef of the Year award in its eight award lineup. Winners, narrowed down from our original Top 20 nominees, were recently announced at the First Annual Foodservice Digital Marketing Summit. The three Social Chef of the Year finalists were each within less than a point of each other.

How It’s Measured

The Social Chef of the Year award is measured through DigitalCoCo’s proprietary Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI), which, so far, includes 6,000 indexed chefs throughout 20 of the nation’s most booming food cities. These chefs include more than the Top Chef and Chopped stars of the world; the emerging chefs are just as important.

“We think the Social Chef is so important that we’ve committed massive social analytics and technology to track them. In addition, we launch our new show “The Social Chef” in early 2014 to focus on this evolution. This marks an era of how social media is playing a role in the creation of the next rockstar chefs. In the future, we see these chefs making a bigger splash with their own brands through social and digital versus the route of the broadcast cheflebrity. The game is changing,” said Paul Barron, Foodable CEO.

The three elements we measure for this award are Klout score, our proprietary system’s Social Insights (SI) influence score and SI consumer sentiment score. (You can read more about the RSMI and how it works here.) And now, for a social breakdown…

Top 3 Finalists

1. Todd Erickson (@iamcheftodd) Miami, Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverage at Haven Hospitality Concepts

An emerging chef on the Miami dining scene, Erickson is a social rockstar with a 67 Klout score, a 72.33 sentiment score and a 72.39 influence score, averaging a total RIZMY score of 70.57.

Whether he’s attending food events, promoting a cause, trying out a new restaurant, or making an appearance (you can check out his The Social Chef episode on Turn & Burn TV here), Erickson really involves himself in the Miami food scene and brings it to light through Instagram and Twitter, giving outside viewers an insider look. He also frequently documents his own work, especially on Instagram, where he feeds us mouth-watering photos on a regular basis, like this Duck Duck Quail slider. Erickson frequently interacts with guests on Twitter to make sure they had a good experience at one of his establishments (Haven Gastro Lounge and Huahua’s Taqueria, both of which landed a spot on Miami’s August Foodable Top 25 list). With genuine appreciation and passion for his customers and craft, it’s no surprise that Chef Todd ranks No. 1.

2. Marcus Samuelsson (@MarcusCooks) New York City, Chef and Owner of Red Rooster Harlem, which just made our New York City September Foodable Top 25 ranking list

Samuelsson has an impressive Klout score of 83. His sentiment score is a 59.82 and his influence score is a 68.33, making the chef’s total RIZMY score a 70.38.

Samuelsson truly encompasses the luxe lifestyle of a well-known chef, and it shows on his Instagram with photos of friends like Lenny Kravitz and Venus Williams. But regardless of the who’s who, Samuelsson’s social platforms stay true to his craft. He takes his Instagram up a notch by utilizing the platform’s video feature, highlighting things like Thai salad prep at LA’s Grand Central Market. He also snaps food photos of RRH’s specials and future dishes to look out for on the menu. His photos generally receive hundreds, if not thousands, of “likes.” On Twitter, Samuelsson shares food articles, tons of pictures and promo events for RRH.

3. Michael Voltaggio (@MVoltaggio) Los Angeles, Chef and Owner of ink. and ink.sack

You may know him as Bravo’s tattooed Top Chef (he won the title on Season 6), but Michael Voltaggio does not let his cheflebrity status disconnect him from being accessible. His Klout score soars at 80, he has a sentiment score of 55.67 and an influence score of 73.44, bringing his RIZMY score to a 69.70.

Voltaggio stays on top of his Twitter game, RTing ink. press, tweets from guests, and interacting with a lot of other chefs. He Instagrams food photos from his travels, as well as behind-the-scenes shots of food prep, like this foraging photo.

By bringing experiences to social for the public, the social chef makes people feel connected. And while traditional celebs may have seemed untouchable, modern-day social chefs bring it all together full-circle – not just the relationships, but the full dining experience, as well. At the end of the day, those connected dining experiences branch outside the restaurant, and that’s a pretty cool thing.

Jessica Bryant is the editor of and digital brand analyst for DigitalCoCo.