Food apps and sites have proved very useful and I was lucky enough to meet Alexandra Kalinowski last year. Alexandra is the Community Engagement Lead for Zomato in the UK and after we met I have been able to meet and learn from many other bloggers.
As a community lead Alexandra has organised many, many #ZomatoMeetUps, where bloggers come together to try new food. After a recent meet up at Pizza Pilgrims, where we chose the guest Pizza for October, I thought Alexandra would be the best person to interview as she is the food pulse of London at the moment.
So please read below, a few words about Alexandra, from Alexandra and answers to some questions.
Alexandra is your ultimate American stereotype as her favourite meal would be a burger and fries followed by NY-style cheesecake. This is post her nutritious consumption of peanut butter and Nutella on a spoon. To add to her bundle-of-nerves personality, her accent now has British notes that make her sound so pretentious she's contemplating voice coaching lessons. When she's not in the Zomato office, she's having a love affair with Suits (ATM), dying at 1Rebel, hiding, or moodily skyping her parents at 10pm on a Friday.
My Oma. My German grandma would cook up an impeccable storm and unlike my Mom, she would always serve family style. This may or may not have led to my chubby years. I was such a picky eater that Mom would typically have to cook a separate meal for me. But, when I would visit other peoples' homes, I'd have to shove the food down my throat just to be polite. As I grew older, so did my Oma. Her pain through ageing took a toll on our family, one I held against her for a long time. But when I moved to NYC and began trying cuisines from all over the world, finding a love for the hunt reminded me of all of the good years with Oma, whom I later realised instilled this love in me.
What is the first thing you look for at a restaurant?
If I can eat there alone. I'm surrounded by people all the time which is great, but also incredibly exhausting for an introvert like me. Being able to enjoy a meal, really taste the food and textures without any distractions is relaxing. I also hit up loads of places to blog so good food and reliable wi-fi are musts.
When did you decide to come to the UK?
It all happened right before the Olympics took place when my best friend and I visited for 2 days in 40 degree sunny weather. I dragged her everywhere and with that good sore foot feeling, I ditched the NYC plan and decided because London had that little extra energy, when graduation day came, I'd pack my bags and jump ship. I say energy, but in hindsight the serene canals and never-ending market stalls were what fascinated me. The idea that you can build up and take down a business daily (and successfully), is something we've lost in America, albeit a large majority of immigrants in the past establishing themselves with push-carts.
Where is your favourite place to go for dinner in London?
Right now it's The Black Cat in Clapton. A vegan cafe which serves up the best cheesecake. Ironic. I know.
What got me here: Let's just say a Brazilian guy, a love for food, German citizenship and someone taking a chance on me.
Why I'm still here: I adore our product. When I first arrived last year May the app was, in British terms, "rubbish." Imagine being 22 and within three months of starting seeing two product changes that were your idea in a company of 800 people. It's incredible that Zomato is so global, yet so personal, something I've been a key driver in achieving. I've met 250+ Zomato users and bloggers who champion what we are trying to achieve: a platform where a community of food lovers can come together to share their stories in writing and in person, but also a 1-stop shop for discovering hidden gems, booking a table, and accessing transportation to and fro. Also, I've got a mouth and they put up with it.
Which #ZomatoMeetUp has been your most favourite and which the most memorable?
Favourite and most memorable come as a package I'm afraid. Pulia. It's this beautiful Italian delicatessen in London Bridge that serves simple but flavoursome Puglian imported cuisine. The owners, Georges and Sarah have carefully handpicked everything, from the decor to food to plating and their hospitality is like none-other. I had to open the back of my dress just to let my stomach expand, which simultaneously brought back memories of Oma's stellar hosting abilities, and that at-home feeling restaurants so rarely achieve.