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NO MORE SPAM: Local epicures find cooking inspiration in Facebook group

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New York strip steak with zucchini and spinach salad that Aimee Elfers cooked in her pajamas and posted to the Epicures: Food for Thot Facebook group in May. Screenshot courtesy of Joan C.W. Hoffmann

 

I am a social media person. It’s a personality trait. I have Facebook and Instagram on my phone, and I love scrolling. I’m still learning how to be good at Twitter, but I like that, too. My favorite corners of the internet are filled with pictures of food, dogs and people talking about their accomplishments. So imagine my surprise and delight when I got an invitation for the Facebook group Epicures: Food for Thot.

“Don’t worry guys, we know how to spell ‘thought,’” says Katie Leath, one of the group moderators. “Urban Dictionary will enlighten you if you would like to join us on the dark side. My friend Andrew Bopes thought of the latter half of the name.”

Leath is joined by Rebeca Alvarado Paredes, pastry chef at manna. The pair founded the group out of a mutual love for all things food and cooking. They also wanted to create a judgement-free platform where people could feel connected while they weren’t going out to restaurants amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Initially, it was to share recipes and food pics. I think it developed into a place where like-minded individuals could gather around food,” Paredes says. “I’ve always been surrounded by people who share a love for food at work, so this group really helped fill in that void [since I’ve been out of work].”

The group has gained popularity throughout the safer-at-home orders. Its more than 700 members are encouraged to share photos of their meals, pick other members’ brains about recipes and techniques, and share food-related memes.

Group member and Wilmington local Aimee Elfers was added to Epicures the way many were, by the moderators who were hoping to gain some traction. Elfers feels like it’s reignited her passion for making her own food.

“Cooking has always been a source of therapy for me, and while the pandemic has sparked highs and lows in every way, it’s caused me to just not feel like cooking some days,” Elfers explains. “The group has often resparked the joy I feel when I cook—seeing other people get excited about and proud of their creations has been a great source of inspiration.”

Members range from novice at-home cooks to professionals. No matter the skill level, folks are welcome to post and share their creations.

Greensboro resident and former Wilmingtonian Katie Koile says Epicures is her favorite group on Facebook. “It has really motivated me to experiment more in the kitchen,” she explains. “I cooked more in quarantine than I probably ever have in my life. I love looking at people’s posts and then putting my own spin on those recipes. I’ve made slow-cooker Thai green curry, skillet pesto lasagna, vegan queso, chicken and dumplings, air fryer chicken and bacon, and even a couple simple desserts.”

Koile says her new hobby has encouraged her to shop locally as well and find ingredients from farmers markets.

The difference between Epicures and other food-focused Facebook groups is it lauds the home cook and doesn’t encourage reviews or criticism. It is truly a positive place for people to congregate, which is more necessary than ever nowadays.

“I’ve been hard-pressed to find negative comments or snarky remarks,” Paredes reflects. “I love that this group can be a positive place for beginners and advanced cooks alike.”

Though Ryan O’Janpa, executive chef at The Second Glass, cooks for a living, he also finds respite at Epicures. “While I’d love if everybody always came to the restaurant and threw money at us, I love watching people discover a joy that I’ve had for years,” he says. “It’s like playing a favorite album for someone for the first time.”

Meghan Daniele of Albany, NY is one of many members who has found new confidence trying different dishes at home. “I made my own tikka masala because I saw someone else did!” she tells. “Considering my addiction to Indian food, knowing I can now make it myself feels pretty liberating.”

While Leath and Paredes don’t have plans to expand the group beyond Facebook, they are considering creating an Instagram account. Both women are just thrilled so many people share their love of food and cooking.

“[It’s] showing how different everyone’s household is, showing how similar everyone’s household is,” Leath says. “The stress of feeding kids. The stress of being alone. The stress of thinking of a meal on the spot. The luxury of having the whole night to prepare a meal. [It’s] a way to relate to each other through food.”

 

 

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