Sam Stern has always considered herself a foodie, even before the phrase was commonly used. Growing up in Pikesville, she often spent her weekends dining downtown at restaurants like Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Tio Pepe’s.
In the days before smartphones, social media and selfies, Stern, with digital camera in tow, would snap pictures of anything and everything. So when she moved to Baltimore City post-college and decided to take on a hobby, blogging on Instagram seemed like a no-brainer.
“I have my entire college experience documented, even though we didn’t have iPhones then,” says Stern, 34, a University of Maryland graduate. “Taking pictures was always a natural thing for me, and people would ask why I didn’t do Instagram? One day, I looked through all my pictures and realized I had a million photos, mostly of food, so I thought, ‘Why not start a food blog?’”
What started as a small hobby 18 months ago has since catapulted Stern, a Harbor East resident, to influencer status in the Baltimore metropolitan area. Her Instagram page, called Baltimore Food Scene, has more than 16,000 followers and over 500 beautiful pictures of mouthwatering dishes.
“I share exactly what it is I am doing,” says Stern. “I am really going to all these restaurants and eating everything I post. I have tried it all.”
Blogging isn’t Stern’s full-time job. By day, she’s a high-powered executive at T. Rowe Price, a regional relationship manager for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast areas, responsible for managing a team of 20.
But by night, she’s a highly influential food blogger, eating her way through Charm City, one restaurant at a time.
“I work in a male-dominated environment where I have had to learn to find my voice,” says Stern, who has held various positions at T. Rowe Price over the past 13 years. “Putting myself out there with this food blog has helped build my confidence and is fun for me. I love the time I put into it. It’s calming and makes me happy.”
Through food blogging, Stern has connected herself to a variety of chefs, restaurants and fellow foodies in Maryland and other states, expanding her network and increasing her reach.
I am really going to all these restaurants and eating everything I post. I have tried it all.Sam Stern
“I have made some really close friends out of this community,” she says. “Many of the people I’ve met have grown up in the area and want to showcase the city. We like to go to big-named restaurants, pop-ups and neighborhood spots. We really just want to try everywhere.”
Stern says going to a restaurant with her can be a “weird and different” experience because she usually whips out a big light she carries with her to enhance her photographs.
“My camera eats first,” says Stern, who has studied photography and takes all of her pictures with her iPhone. “I won’t let you eat until I take pictures of everyone’s food. A lot of times, I get stares from other restaurant patrons, and I will walk over and explain to them why I am taking pictures.”
With an increasingly vibrant food scene popping up in Baltimore, it’s hard for Stern to pick just one favorite restaurant. But some of the places she loves to frequent include Ekiben, R. House, Mount Vernon Marketplace, Gypsy Queen Cafe, Clavel and La Scala Ristorante Italiano, to name a few.
“I didn’t get the impact I was having on others until people would start going to La Scala and showing their waiters my pictures because that’s what they wanted to order,” says Stern. “And that didn’t just happen at La Scala. The owner of Samos [Greek restaurant] would make my dad chicken cheesesteaks that weren’t on the menu, and I would post pictures of those. I realized I was really influencing people when they would show up to Samos and order something that wasn’t actually on the menu.”
Stern believes it’s her funny captions and constant engagement that have helped her blog grow.
“My account showcases my silly, fun, outgoing personality,” she says. “My posts are genuine and authentic. I find the restaurants I go to through research, word-of-mouth and connecting with others via social media. I want to know about these places so I can share them with my followers and get more people into the city.”
As she continues dining around town, Stern hopes her blogs can help improve the city’s image.
“A lot of the chefs in Baltimore City are opening multiple restaurants, are engrained in the community, want to give back and highlight what the city has to offer,” Stern says. “Posting about the awesome restaurants in Baltimore gives the city I love a positive vibe.”