“Ask her how she gets those yolk shots!,” urged a friend upon learning that I would be writing on @thebreakfastchick.
We were scrolling through @thebreakfastchick, an Instagram account run by Bridget Bousa ’17 and her high school friend, Catherine Walker-Jacks, who is a senior at Brown. Packed with brunch pictures and homemade treats like Nutella Pop-Tarts, the account is a great find for foodies, would-be bakers and egg enthusiasts alike, and its more than 16,000 followers can attest to that.
“Brown has six weeks off [for winter break] so, last winter, Catherine decided to start a food Instagram,” Bousa explained. “I started helping her out when her schedule was busy and she eventually titled me an ‘intern.’” By the end of the next summer, they were partners.
As their followers grew, the friends upped their game. The first thing to change was the account name. “Originally it was ‘Cat Eats’ and then I convinced Catherine to change it. It sounded like a fancy cat food account,” Bousa joked. However, coming up with a new name was tough. “We threw around one million ideas,” Bousa recalls. When they landed on “thebreakfastchick,” they decided “it was the most fun.” It also appealed to their target demographic. “You understand it’s a girl, that she’s young,” Bousa said. “We wanted our audience to be of the Instagram generation and we felt like that name appealed.”
Crafting the right brand name is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the work behind the friends’ joint account. Coming up with recipes, in particular, has led to new, unlikely skills. “Catherine’s very good at making an avocado rose,” Bousa said. Bousa herself has worked out tiny tricks to perfect her own specialty: the over-easy eggs my friend had admired. “The mini egg pan is most important if you want good shaped eggs. I always use coconut oil,” she explained. “It doesn’t burn and it provides a great nonstick.”
Once the recipes are complete, decisions about photography come into play. “I photograph everything by my window to get the natural lighting, because that’s very important to make the food look appetizing,” Bousa says. This includes the #yolkporn pictures Bousa perfected, as well as her second favorite thing to capture: homemade pancakes with a maple syrup pour. Often, these take the form of strategically-angled photos, but previously, the friends posted more videos of their creations. “Those were very successful,” Bousa recalls of the videos. “We had sixty thousand views on some of those.”
That all changed when the social media platform adjusted the way it promotes accounts, however. “Instagram came out with a new algorithm in the summer which has significantly affected our growth,” Bousa explains. “Because we’re not a business paying to promote our feed, we’re less likely to show up on individuals’ ‘explore’ feeds.” In order to adjust, Bousa and Walter-Jacks took note of which of their posts got the most attention. Since well-shot stills got the most likes, the pair decided to cut down the number of videos — including those mouth-watering maple syrup pours and spilling egg yolks.
“We definitely try to adapt to what we’re seeing in the Instagram world,” Bousa says, but sudden changes to the online environment can be frustrating for part-time accounts. “I went to an ‘influencer event’ over the summer in New York City at [a restaurant called] Mother of Pearl,” Bousa says. “I took a friend and we met a bunch of influencers,” including Instagram heavyweights like “@onehungryjew” and “@foodmento”. “[For] a lot of them, it’s their full-time job,” she explains. With hundreds of thousands of followers to generate their income, such Instagrammers can expend more time to quickly adapt to rapidly changing trends and platform updates.
Unlike many of the influencers she has met, Bousa remarks, “I don’t think Catherine and I ever had the intention of this becoming our full-time job.” As she nears the end of her career at the College, she reflects, “We both enjoy the hobby, but once we’re working in the real world, it’ll be a lot harder to have the time to make the food, especially extravagant options.”
Even though the friends may have less time to cook at home, there’s a lot to look forward to. “In the summer, Catherine will be in Washington, D.C. again and I’m moving to Los Angeles, so we’ll have a bicoastal food market,” Bousa says. The pair hopes to continue working with brands and restaurants even after they relocate. Previously, they’ve been contacted by PR-savvy restaurants who’ll pay for the friends’ entrees if they post pictures. In addition, brands have sent them their product in the hopes that @thebreakfastchick will feature them. “When it was National Cereal Day, General Mills sent a massive package of six different cereals, a T-shirt, and a bowl that said ‘National Cereal Day’ on it,” Bousa said. @thebreakfastchick created Lucky Charms pancakes with the promotional product. “When we’re in more metropolitan areas, we’ll have more access to restaurants that want to host us,” she predicts.
On balance, the pair has made the most of their Instagram success. “Getting to eat for free is really awesome,” Bousa admitted with a laugh. But more than that, the Instagram account has helped the two friends keep in touch. “Every day we have a conversation about what we’re going to post,” she explains. “It’s kept our relationship very strong.” Even if they don’t plan on becoming full-time Instagrammers after graduation, the “Breakfast Chicks” have a surefire way to maintain their long-distance friendship — and their adventurous appetites.