Scrolling through your Instagram can give you a visual sugar rush. That’s because pastry chefs are using the photo-driven app to show off their most dazzling creations, give diners a peek into the baking process, and hint at what sweet treats might be coming to their menus next. Here are eight highly accomplished pastry chefs on Instagram you should follow if you’re trying to figure out what delicious dessert to dive into next.
Scott Green, aka @chef_scottgreen, of Pavilion, Chicago
Before he got into pastry, Green attended fine arts school to study oil painting and ultimately received a degree in graphic design. His dexterity with composition, color, shape, and form are showcased in the drool-inducing photos he posts. “Different medium, different tools, same principles,” he says.
He shoots on a Nikon D3200 using a strobe light and holds his photo sessions in a storage closet in the hotel where the restaurant is located. “When my colleagues see flashes going off under the door, they know I’m shooting and they shouldn’t come in,” he says.
Rather than follow fellow pastry chefs for ideas, his feed is full of architects, textile enthusiasts, tattoo artists, and illustrators. “I don’t want to repeat what I’ve seen,” he says. “There are a lot of people who will shoot specifically for Instagram, but I want to just shoot pictures that I like.”
Pro Tip: “Be in tune with what your audience likes and doesn’t like. I don’t put savory dishes up. I don’t put up personal shots very often. It makes me cringe when I post a photo that doesn’t fit with that I do.”
Chris Ford, aka @butterloveandhardwork, of THE Blvd, Los Angeles
“I want to kill it with every single post,” says Ford. “No filler. I’m not going to put a picture up if isn’t going to further me, my team, or the larger community of chefs. This attitude makes you push yourself further and harder.”
The self-taught shutterbug uses a Canon Rebel XSi to turn his pastries into Instagram stars. Occasionally, he snaps shots of his adorable French bulldog, Josephine. One of his most liked posts (nearly 6,000 hearts) features Kim Kardashian and Kris Jenner. Along with Khloe and a film crew, they stopped by the hotel to score some of Ford’s well-loved cream puffs, which he topped off with edible pictures of Kanye and North. “Kris took my number, but I’m still waiting for the call,” says Ford.
We’re not sure what she’s waiting for, but we can’t urge her strongly enough to pick up the phone and call.
Pro Tip: “I shoot plated desserts from above, so you see the flow and the story of the dish. I want the viewer to see what I see.”
Brian Mercury, aka @mercurybrian, of Oak + Rowan, Boston
You won’t see any selfies in Mercury’s feed. No rants and raves. No political posts. His pictures fall into two distinct categories: family and food. “I’ve got a 3-year-old and an 11-month-old,” says the chef. “If I’m not cooking, I’m home with them.”
He captures his baked goods and his little ones using his iPhone 6. His go-to method for scoring a sweet shot of his baked goods is to place it outside or near a bright window and shoot it over the top. Occasionally, he’ll place a plated dessert on dirt or in the grass to add a natural element with interesting textures. “Sometimes you have to add some whimsy or put something in the background,” he adds. “But sometimes getting a good shot is just dumb luck.”
Pro Tip: “I’m a huge fan of negative space, both on the plate and in the background. I like bright white plates that makes colors pop.”
Alex Levin, aka @alexnlevin, of Osteria Morini, Washington, D.C.
There’s a cult following for Levin’s best-selling warm dark chocolate cake. If he posts pictures of it too often, the restaurant gets swamped with orders and he runs the risk of running out. So, he keeps his feed lively with a mixture of his other desserts and a backstage look at the life of a pastry chef. “I enjoy inviting people to see what I do,” he says.
He wants to get his followers’ salivary glands working overtime, their hearts pumping, and have their eyes pop out of their head. “It’s about being a source of temptation,” he says. “It’s supposed to be food pornography.”
As well as enticing viewers, Instagram is a way for him to be a part of a larger community and to get a glimpse of what his peers are doing in kitchens around the world. “I get excited when I see what other chefs are doing,” he says. “It’s inspiring.”
Pro Tip: “You have to be smart about using hashtags, so you don’t annoy people.”
Kristin Eddy, aka @kristin1323, of Millwright’s, Simsbury, Connecticut
Three years ago, Eddy joined Instagram as a way of telling stories through pictures of her confections and pastries. “I like to stage meals,” she says. “I’ll put the plated dessert on a table with silverware and a wine glass, so it looks like someone is about to eat the dessert.”
The creative outlet wasn’t intended to be a promotional tool, but that’s what it has become for some followers. “People come into the restaurant only for dessert because they’ve seen something on Instagram,” she says. “They’ll use their phones to show the server what they want to eat.”
Her dessert pics are intertwined with shots of her foodie adventures outside the kitchen, though she has strict rules about what she’ll post. “Nothing that would gross anybody out,” she says. “I wouldn’t necessarily put up my pictures from a visit to a butchery.”
Pro Tip: “To add a sense of movement, I’ll take a shot of me dropping a quenelle of ice cream onto a plate.”
Aggie Chin, aka @aggiechin, of The Grill Room, Washington, D.C.
The princess of pastry joined Instagram five years ago as a way of staying in touch with her friends and family. At first, she posted mostly personal pictures, but over time she began incorporating more dessert shots as a way of connecting with her peers. “It’s a great way to meet people virtually,” says Chin, who has received requests to stage with her at the restaurant through the app.
Using nothing more than her iPhone 6, she composes bewitching photos that play up her desserts’ colors and textures. “It’s hard with chocolate desserts, though, because they’re all brown or not as structured,” she says.
No matter what kind of dessert she’s posting, she is looking for one reaction. “I want people to think, ‘Oh, man, I want to eat that,’” she says.
Pro Tip: “Shoot from from an interesting angle to show off a dessert’s unique elements.”
Caitlin Dysart, aka @caitlindysart, of 2941, Falls Church, Virginia
Dysart was inspired to post her edible artworks after following other pastry chefs and being impressed by the positive reactions they received. She transformed the platform into a virtual portfolio of her work and professional life. “There’s nothing too personal,” she says. “There are no party pics. I’m never drunk in an Uber.”
Ultimately, her feed is divided between finished desserts, her mise en place, and life behind the scenes. “I want my shots to tell the story of being a pastry chef,” she says.
She is continually working to improve her plating and hone her presentations. “Because if you’re satisfied with the way a dish looks, it’s going to make for a good photograph.”
Pro Tip: “Don’t shoot with flash; only natural light. Keep your shots clear with no clutter in the background.”
Jenna Katsaros-Strickland, aka @jenkatstrick573, of Nick’s Cove, Marshall, California
Likes don’t necessarily equal sales. A beautifully plotted summertime strawberry shortcake semifreddo earned a strong reaction from Katsaros-Strickland’s Instagram followers, but not many diners ordered it. “It turns out people didn’t want to step outside the box,” she says, noting that her traditional chocolate sundae continues to be a super strong seller.
That hasn’t stopped her from approaching her desserts creatively or putting them online, because she knows her virtual outreach is working. “Guests write on our comment cards all the time that they’ve seen my desserts on Instagram,” she says. “That pleases me to no end and encourages me to post more often.”
In order to ensure guests continue to be drawn in by her work, she’s strict about which shots make it into her feed. “If it’s monochromatic or it doesn’t pop, that’s a deal breaker for me,” she says. “It has to stand out.”
Pro Tip: “I’m blessed the restaurant is on the water in a beautiful natural setting, so you’ll often see the Tomales Bay, the dock, or the boat shack in the background. Take advantage of where you are.”
Who are your favorite pastry chefs on Instagram? Let us know over on Instagram!
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.
Header images by Nevin Martell.