Photograph by Michelle and Chris Gerard
Seoung Lee, the Birmingham-based food aficionado and blogger behind Chow Down Detroit, says the key to his successful brand is his passion for food, vibrant photos, a supportive foodie community, and discovering hidden gems in metro Detroit.
Chow Down Detroit, founded in 2013 as one of metro Detroit’s first food accounts on Instagram, is bound to make your mouth water. From unique, over-the-top indulgences like Street Sweets’ Fruity Pebbles Dessert Pizza to Peepo’s Subs & Shawarma’s Africano Chicken Fries, Lee promotes Detroit’s diverse and decadent food culture to his 110,000 followers on Instagram, his website, and YouTube. From Middle Eastern to Polish to Vietnamese cuisine, Chow Down features it all.
Combining two of his favorite things – photography and food – the entrepreneur describes Chow Down as a “dream job,” giving him freedom from his former “nine-to-five” lifestyle and the ability to travel the world eating street food along the way.
Seoung Lee // Photograph by Catherine Sareini
Taking on his food adventures full-time in 2015, Lee says he now eats out once or twice a day, almost every day. He also doesn’t cook. In fact, Lee is tickled by the time he almost burned his apartment down in the process of trying. He credits his strikingly in-depth food knowledge to thousands of restaurant experiences — and he’s amassed photographic evidence of nearly every forkful. Lee has been taking pictures of everything he eats for almost 10 years, describing Chow Down as starting off as an idea for a “food diary.”
Today, the social media-savvy foodie says five to 10 restaurants reach out to him each day to feature their menu items. “What I do now is I help a lot of mom-and-pop restaurants get their name out by visiting their restaurant, promoting them, and helping with their marketing and content creation,” says Lee, who describes his work as “modern-day advertising.”
“When I post about their new menu items, they see people are ordering the exact same thing I ordered, and they’ll sell out of that item that week. It’s a great way to get their name out there and show my followers what they have to offer,” he explains. “Some places, you’ve never heard about them, and [others] have a unique food item that you never thought of trying.”
Unlike many other food bloggers, Lee does not describe himself as a food critic. Rather, he believes his page stands out because of his active engagement with followers and enthusiastic personality on Snapchat and Instagram. “People like the fact that I’m positive and happy about [my food experiences].”
Lee describes Instagram’s food community as passionate and supportive. “I feel like I’m helping other people — and they’re helping me, too,” he says. “It’s not competitive. We’re a community of food lovers who want to talk about food.”
Following in the footsteps of Chow Down Detroit are many other food enthusiasts who highlight a range of cuisines in metro Detroit, from halal spots to gourmet shops and fine dining restaurants. Lee gave Hour Detroit a look into six of his favorite metro Detroit-based Instagram food bloggers.
Fred Sareini, a Dearborn-based guide to halal eating and homemade recipes, is commended by Chow Down for his skill at finding hidden restaurant gems and taking quality photos.
Eating their way through metro Detroit, Motor City Munchers, a group of three foodies, feature their favorite American dishes, food travel, and frequent giveaways, accumulating nearly 30,000 followers.
MyThy’s (pronounced “My-Tee”) self-inspired username, Mighty in the Mitten, is a home chef based in the city who features Detroit’s popular food spots and some of her favorite personal recipes. Lee points out her quality, brightly colored photography and Instagram stories.
For diverse cuisine options in the city of Detroit, Lee recommends the founder of Metro Detroit Foodie, Jessica, who joined the Instagram food community not long after him.
These two sisters, one vegetarian and the other non-vegetarian, share their food adventures around Detroit, highlighting sweet treats and savory eats.
For vegan and vegetarian recommendations in metro Detroit, Lee points his followers to the pro, Sonali Monika, who has featured Bobcat Bonnie’s Vegan Chorizo Taco, Chive Kitchen’s Jalapeño Burger, and beyond.