We8That: The Food Blog That Draws Food
Some siblings go away on vacation when they realize they’re growing apart. Some schedule weekly phone calls or exchange email updates. For Naomi and Anna Otsu, they found another outlet to rekindle their relationship: food. Together, the New York City-based sisters created the food blog We8That to encourage them to schedule time for each other. Each post on the site contains a simple illustration, done by Naomi, of a meal at a particular restaurant, followed by a few paragraphs written by Anna about their experience at the location and the dishes they recommend.
We got a chance to speak to the sisters about how their appetizing new venture has brought them closer, how it’s opened up their world, and, being the twentysomething experts they now are, their recommended late-night eats. After all, their domain is the city that never sleeps.
How’d you come up with the idea?
Naomi: We both live in New York and we don’t really have time to hang out with each other, so we thought it’d be a cool idea to make time and work on something together. We were both busy with work and it’s easy to get caught up in New York.
Were you both born and raised in New York?
Naomi: Half in New York and half in Tokyo. I lived here until I was eight.
Anna: I lived here until I was four-and-a-half.
Naomi: And then we both moved to Tokyo for 10 years, before coming back.
So why food?
Naomi: We just love eating. [Laughs.]
Anna: And it came naturally, like I like to write about food and Naomi really likes to draw food. One day, Naomi suggested the idea and it came together.
Are you at that point where restaurants are recognizing your work and inviting you to cover them?
Naomi: We got an invite from Ippudo, which was really awesome. We haven’t gotten requests from anyone else, but hopefully in the future.
Do you guys have a certain process that you approach every restaurant with?
Naomi: We make sure we eat at every site together and talk about it. Anna will take notes, I’ll take pictures, and then we go home and within three or four days we try to pump something out. Then we’ll get back together and put up the post.
What was your relationship like before this and how has this brought you closer?
Anna: Before the blog, it was rare that we stayed in touch or hung out even though we live in the same city.
Naomi: I think it’s something we all experience in NY—we all get caught up with work and the millions of things that happen around us.
Do your parents read your blog, and are they excited about it?
Anna: Our parents are very supportive of our blog. They always want to know where we’re going next!
Naomi: Yes! I think it makes them happy that we’re communicating and keeping tabs on each other since we live so far away from them. They live in Japan.
What are you guys doing individually, outside of We8That?
Anna: I’m working at Opening Ceremony as an accountant.
Naomi: I’m a freelance graphic designer. I do artwork for Pintrill, which is really fun. I work for a small digital ad agency three days a week, and they do work for a bunch of different brands. Then I have a magazine I work on with my friends, called Top Rank, which is about women killing it in diverse industries, like fashion, technology, academia, and social justice, and our issue just launched a couple months ago. I’ve done freelance for Opening Ceremony here and there, too.
Do you guys have plans to expand your reach, like cover places outside of New York?
Naomi: Yeah, we’re taking it step by step. Our next step is to freshen up the blog interface because right now it’s super simple.
Do you guys have a favorite cuisine, one that you particularly like to write or draw about?
Anna: I like Japanese.
Naomi: Definitely Japanese food, but I love drawing sandwiches, too. Or Korean food.
Anna: Yes! Korean food for me, too.
Who are you guys’ biggest inspirations when it comes to your work?
Naomi: I really like the illustrations in Lucky Peach. Another big inspiration is Chef’s Table, on Netflix; it’s a beautiful documentary and I’m obsessed with it right now.
Anna: There’s this anthology of food writing by The New Yorker that I love to read, as well as Lucky Peach.
Do you guys have a bucket list of places you want to go to still?
Naomi: Yeah! The Polo Bar, BEC , J.G Melon, Hometown Barbeque, and Fu Run.
Are there any super exclusive places that you’re eyeing but might have trouble getting into?
Naomi: Yeah, I heard Ralph Lauren’s restaurant Polo Bar is awesome, but I think the wait is nuts and you have to book it months in advance.
Considering this is New York, the city that never sleeps, is there a favorite late-night spot you guys would recommend?
Naomi: We’d say definitely Santa Salsa, Prince Street Pizza, Woorijip, Grand Morelos, and Veselka. So much of New York food culture thrives late night.