Pro tip: the best way to gain popularity on Instagram food pictures is to add an egg. Nicole Pavlovsky, who graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in winter 2015 with a degree in Economics and Accounting, said, “There are some photos that I posted that were super good, but they weren’t that popular. Then I’d post a really plain photo of just an egg and people would be like, ‘Yes, this is amazing’.”
Pavlovsky, an Isla Vista local, is behind the Instagram account FreshChefNikki. She posts pictures of delectable homemade food and the accompanying recipes. She also focuses on her relationship with food as well as making it wholesome. “I really focus on ingredients and keeping it as fresh as possible,” she stated, “I don’t diet or anything. It’s really personal so I do this for myself.”
This passion came to light as a result of a form of peer pressure. “I’ve always liked cooking, and on my personal Instagram I would always post food pictures every now and then,” she said. “I would always get overwhelming feedback. People would always tell me I should open something.”
The true inception of “this whole thing” was a recipe of seared ahi tuna with garlic butter-fried rice. Pavlovsky remembers this dish from Benihana as the best thing she’s ever eaten at a restaurant. She was inspired to recreate it at home. “I made that dish for me [sic] and two other friends. It was perfect timing, too, because it was like sunset over the ocean. And that’s when I really thought I could go somewhere with this. This is what started it.” According to Pavlovsky, the magic of the moment fueled by the sunset, the company of her friends, and the success of the dish helped her realize her passion.
Her Instagram has taken off quickly since it first started 3 months ago. Pavlovsky has already reached over a respectable 700 followers. She uses the account for her personal use, to channel a different, more creative side of herself, and to share her cooking creations.
Pavlovsky was heavily influenced by her mother, who brought out her love of cooking and cuisine in the hours spent together in the kitchen. Though her parents are from the Soviet Union, she was born in Israel and moved to New Jersey before settling in California. These different cultures also served as inspiration for her cooking. She noted that “all these different places have different food cultures, and even within those there’s a lot of diversity.”
Pavlovsky focuses on being healthy, fit, and feeling good. “It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers,” she said. “I think you should do things that make you feel good as an overall feeling and not based on a number. I don’t pay attention to caloric content. You could be super happy and fit if you listen to your body…. It’s more about your relationship with food. You shouldn’t see food as an enemy. It’s there to nourish you.”
She acknowledges that wholesome food isn’t always cheap, but it can be affordable with budgeting. The amount of money that goes into eating out can be redirected towards buying healthy groceries. For example, this comes into play when weighing the value of a $13 Freebirds burrito versus organic ingredients. According to Pavlovsky, indulgence is easy but the gratification of respecting your body is even better. One can save their indulgences for what cannot be made at home. It comes down to priorities, she remarked.
Her favorite, go-to healthy dish to eat is toast with egg and avocado—”You can never go wrong with that,” she said. On a toasted slice of Ezekiel bread from Trader Joe’s, Pavlovsky adds half a mashed up avocado and a fried egg. It’s filling due to its nutritious components: fiber from the bread, protein from the egg, and fats from the avocado.
“I don’t really feel guilty about eating things,” Pavlovsky said. “I want people to embody that. There’s so many other things to worry about.”