Maura Wall Hernandez a Chicago-based journalist and award-winning blogger. On her blog she documents her journey to recreate her husband’s family recipes while sharing cooking tips, her travels and Mexican culture. Maura has collaborated with brands including Kenmore, Maseca, Mizkan and Mexico Today.
She’s contributed to major media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune and NBC Latino with her expertise on Mexico, and has been featured by the New York Times Diner’s Journal, NBC Latino, Serious Eats, Better Homes & Gardens, Fox News Latino, Voxxi Culinary, Babble, PR Newswire and many more.
“The name of the blog is based on the idea that you may have eaten something a thousand times, but if you just look at it in a different way, you’ll notice something new about it that you didn’t see before,” Maura Wall Hernandez
When did you start blogging?
I’ve been blogging since 2009—but I began researching my niche and planning, writing and photographing recipes about six months before I began actually posting.
Why did you start blogging?
I felt it was extremely important to document family recipes and traditions. Because I grew up in the U.S. and the majority of my husband’s family is in Mexico, I worried that one day I wouldn’t be able to pass everything on to our children because nothing was written down and I realized there will come a day when I won’t be able to just call my suegra or tías to ask how to do things. It began as a personal passion project and grew into something bigger than I ever imagined it could be. It’s taken me in so many directions both personally and professionally—I’ve made so many new friends, I’ve had many opportunities to speak at conferences, I’ve learned to dabble in so many things in a quest for my knowledge (one of my favorites: genealogy research), and I never could have guessed all of it would happen just because I started a blog.
Do you any have advice for beginner bloggers?
When you’re passionate about what you’re doing, people notice. Focus on what you know, do it well and do it consistently. Authenticity is key if you want to connect with others through your writing. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or get caught up in the quest to work with brands right away. If you focus on what you’re doing and do it well, those things will happen naturally. Do everything on your own timetable—you don’t have to keep up with the Joneses, if you know what I mean. Do what you can, when you can, and don’t worry that you’re not doing enough or as much as somebody else. It’s your blog, your passion; nobody else should enter into your equation. Remember that while it’s exciting and new, it’s not the only thing in your life. Don’t forget about the other things that fulfill you, or you’ll burn out fast.
What tips can you share on attracting new readers to your blog?
Put yourself out there. And be sure to connect with a community! Reach out to that community, help others, leave comments on their blogs, interact with them on social media and in real life. Before you know it, you’ll become a part of a tribe. Your tribe will support you and lift you up.
What is you photography style process?
I only shoot in natural light. I never use food styling tricks that would make the food inedible; every single photo of food or beverages on my site is what it actually looks like right before I take a bite or a sip. I almost always plate on white dishes, so as not to distract attention away from the food. If you’re shooting photos of dishes that aren’t photogenic, you can always style a scene for yourself to give it a story—with white dishes, I’ll pair colored or textured place mats or napkins, silverware or other decorative items to set a scene or ambiance of the feeling I’m trying to display. It makes even the least attractive foods look a little more inviting.
Whether you shoot with an iPhone or a DSLR (I use both on my site), the key is to maintain authenticity of your subject. When it comes to post-processing, I try to do as little as possible to images to alter them so they look real, just as you would expect to see them if you were in my kitchen or wherever I am. I rarely do more than brighten or sharpen an image to maintain its authenticity. I do love Instagram though, and have been using it a lot more on my blog this past year to share photos of things when I’m out and about—but I think it’s pretty clear how those photos are altered and people know there’s a filter on them, as opposed to when people Photoshop an image and you can’t really tell it’s been altered and they don’t necessarily tell you it’s been altered.
What inspires your posts, what flavors do you love?
Whenever I need inspiration, I consistently do a few things: I’ll ask my Facebook fans for suggestions of things they want to see recipes for, I look at restaurant menus, I revisit photos and written journals of my trips to Mexico to look for things I haven’t covered yet or angles I missed, and often, I just head to the Mexican grocery stores in my area to see what kind of ingredients I have available to spark some ideas. I talk about food and culture a lot with my family and friends in my everyday life, so those conversations also inspire me with topics to write about.
What have you learned from blogging?
I’d say one of the most beneficial lessons I’ve learned is how to be a business person and how to market the brand I’ve created, although I didn’t think of my blog as a brand when I began. Those are not things that I learned in school while studying journalism, and in fact, back then those things were far from my mind, but learning those things along the way have been essential to my success. Finding a good mentor or a group of core people to keep you in check with reality and your goals is very helpful, just as you would with any career. They don’t have to be bloggers or do the same thing you do, but you should never stop learning from others to improve your work and skills, and you should have a trusted circle of people to bounce ideas of off. Attending conferences and making personal connections has been a very helpful part of forming my core group of people I can rely on for good advice and feedback about my work and ideas.
What are your goals for the future?
I’d like to publish a cookbook. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and with my background in journalism and publishing, I’m prepared to make this dream a reality. And I love doing cooking videos and demos, so I’d like to carve out more time for those in the coming year.
Be sure to follow The Other Side of the Tortilla on her Culinary Journey:
Image Credit: The Other Side of the Tortilla