How Longhorn Jane Ko Became Austin’s Most Influential Foodie

Jane Ko, BS ’13, is a food blogger who produced a splash in Austin’s cafe scene with the launch of her site, A Flavor of Koko, in 2010. Underneath the moniker “Koko,” the Taiwanese-born and South Texas-lifted author shares trending new eating places, weekend getaway ideas, and private guides to the top rated dishes in Austin with her hundreds of followers. As just one of the to start with community influencers in the early days of social media, Ko pioneered an unconventional occupation route with her nutrition degree. What commenced as a entertaining undergraduate project—posting recipes among a few element-time jobs—soon grew to become a go-to reference for all items food and travel in Central Texas. 

Ko grew up in Port Lavaca, exactly where she claims dining possibilities had been limited to push-via chains. Though she wasn’t elevated having out—her “frugal” mother and father most well-liked to prepare dinner at home—her enthusiasm for food pictures shortly propelled her into the high-quality dining entire world of metropolitan Austin. Considering that her increase to attractiveness on-line, Ko has curated an expertise on regional dining places, which she now shares as a result of print vacation guides: Koko’s Manual to Austin and Koko’s Information to Fredericksburg. Ko has also been a speaker at South by Southwest, exactly where she structured a foodstuff crawl with in excess of 20,000 individuals. Ko, who has amassed more than 150,000 followers on Instagram, was voted “best regional blogger in Austin” by the Austin Chronicle and “Disruptor of 2020” by Austin Girl magazine. 

She spoke with the Alcalde about making her model and her all-time preferred places to eat. 

What 1st sparked your enthusiasm for foodstuff? 

I was not raised having out and likely to good places to eat. I did not have an curiosity in food stuff right up until I obtained to Austin in 2007 to go to UT. Coming from a actually compact town, heading to UT was tricky … As I was operating on my degree in diet, I was studying a pair of nationwide blogs predominantly created by gals on the internet about food stuff, vogue, house, way of living. That influenced me to establish a internet site. In 2010, I purchased [the domain name] and started out my site. I did recipes for the first pair of a long time for the reason that I didn’t know how to do cafe protection. 

Ko at Goldie’s Bar.

What was it like carving out a room for yourself as an influencer through the expansion of social media? 

I begun with the internet site very first. Instagram also released in 2010, but no 1 was genuinely intrigued in it. I had a personal account applying the lo-fi filter, which was genuinely stylish back again then, and did not start off working with it professionally until possibly 2013. That’s when I started off submitting some of my foodstuff pictures. I was just one of the initially cafe bloggers in Austin, and what sparked it was one cafe invited me out to shoot photographs and try to eat for no cost. And that was a massive offer for an individual in their early 20s who never ever ate out. When I did 1, I commenced receiving additional invitations. Then there were a few publicists in town who begun inviting me to their clients’ restaurants. I think the change amongst then and now is that there was no 1 else to examine myself to because I was the only individual in city performing it. 

How would you say that Austin’s food stuff scene has improved considering the fact that you started out A Flavor of Koko?  

Oh, it is modified dramatically. Austin was usually the live tunes capital, but now we’re regarded for [our restaurants]. I imagine this all occurred since of particular men and women in the town. You have Aaron Franklin who produced barbecue amazing, and you have Tyson Cole who paved the area for [high-end] sushi. Then you have the fellas from Ramen Tatsu-ya. When they initially opened, people have been not truly receptive to it due to the fact we all grew up taking in 19-cent packages of noodles, so why shell out [more] for a bowl of ramen? There was a great deal of education that was spearheaded by the dining establishments. 

How have you retained up with the transforming community food scene and social media evolution about the decades? 

When I initially started, I was covering each and every solitary matter I could get entry to within my budget—or every little thing I was obtaining invited to. I had much more personalized interactions with the restaurant proprietors and chefs. I would sit in the kitchen and they would permit me try to eat out of the pan, or they would let me see what was taking place in the course of action. I just can’t do that now. I do not have a good deal of individual connections to the industry for the reason that there are just so numerous new dining places.  

And originally, I begun with photographs. I was obsessed with how magazines like Bon Appétit would shoot recipes, and I preferred to recreate that with cafe meals. Then, I commenced performing movies for the reason that I often seemed for the upcoming detail that might be stylish that hasn’t been done now. And then the future detail that I recall as a milestone for me was possibly 2015 when I posted my first photograph of me taking in the foodstuff compared to just the food items on the table. That was a massive improve for the reason that people today right away felt like they realized who was powering the lens they understood who was driving the website.  

Ko at Qi Austin.

Just after a decade of becoming online, what was it like publishing your guide, Koko’s Information to Austin, final year? 

I grew up as a bookworm I beloved reading through as a little one. I had publishers arrive to me more than the several years saying that they wanted me to do a cookbook because I was a food items blogger and I had to describe to them like, oh no, I never cook dinner at dwelling, but I would love to do a ebook on Austin. And each and every single publisher told me that no person needed a journey book on Austin. But I constantly preferred to do a single and I was about to switch 30 and thought, why really do not I just self-publish? I imagined I might promote 1 duplicate, but I revealed the reserve and it is sold tens of thousands of copies since.  

What is it like remaining a obvious agent of Austin’s foods society? 

It’s pretty gratifying. Now, coming up into my 13th year, I’ve been seeking to get greater about having a stage again and remembering where by I arrived from. I just revealed my second book on Fredericksburg, and that challenge genuinely reminded me how I grew up in a modest town, moved to Austin, went to UT. I’m quite shy in person—it feels weird that individuals concept me all the time now. I are living in a electronic earth and most situations [it feels like] I’m just speaking to myself on Instagram—but then hundreds of men and women observe my material and they really feel like they know me. 

What do you like to do outside of do the job? Who is Jane, aside from getting Koko? 

I would say my function is my daily life. It’s been like that for a lengthy time, but it’s kind of tough when your existence is staying posted on the web. So, it’s difficult for me to determine what I really like undertaking in my free time since what I do for do the job is vacation, I go to hotels, I go eat at awesome eating places, inform stories—like those people are all fun things that anyone else receives to do based on my recommendations. So, things for me that are exciting are simple, like going to the park. I enjoy sitting down on a blanket at Auditorium Shores. I don’t get to do that quite frequently. 

When you get the prospect to try to eat for fun, exactly where are you a typical? 

I really like the puffy tacos at El Chilito, all those are variety of a weekday go-to for me. I adore ATX Cocina. I also really like their new restaurant referred to as Bulevar. Komé is my go-to for sushi that doesn’t crack the financial institution simply because you know, I would enjoy to be in a position to go to Uchi just about every 7 days, but I can not.  

As Austin has grown and changed, are there any places to eat in town that you overlook? 

La Mexicana—I employed to go there all the time when I was at UT because these $2 tacos ended up the only factor I could find the money for and they ended up also open 24 hours, so I keep in mind I’d go there at 2 or 3 a.m. I was quite sad about them closing. 

When you visit new dining establishments in town, what are you wanting for? 

Anything at all that is new constantly does effectively on social. So, I often glimpse at 1) Is it regional? 2) What form of delicacies and what is the story right here? and 3), What does the cafe appear like? Fortunately most restaurants that opened in the previous pair of a long time all seem beautiful in Austin. A further goal of mine lately is to hold that includes our more mature restaurants for the reason that they don’t get the exact same recognition. I like Tamale Household, I adore the Peached Tortilla—they’ve been around for 10 years—and Magnolia Café.   

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

CREDITS: Courtesy Jane Ko