I met Alex when he was my intern. Even as a neophyte, it was obvious he had a conviction for personal brand (read: self-made “swag” stickers from the office xyron machine we could not get off the filing cabinets and likely went down with the 4TS Condé Nast ship)...
Now he’s all grown up, writing/editing for Bon App, and has one of the only Instagram stories worth watching. That’s why we tapped him for our inaugural issue of FOB. Here we talk to Delany about what it’s like to drink all those beers, eat all that cheese (the summer body!), why he has so many followers (22.2k), what gets him “stoked” (besides sandos), and finally figure out what the algorithm is. Plus, there’s a musical treat waiting for you at the end. Happy trails, Alison.
If you could choose between shooting hoops and drinking beers which would you pick?
Right now, shooting hoops. But based on my extensive scientific studies, beers taste pretty amazing after shooting hoops, so one would probably just turn into the other. Beer gets the lifetime vote though.
How many pounds do you estimate you have gained since working at Bon App?
Shit. I’ve been trying to avoid asking myself this question for a while. Maybe 20 over the past three-and-a-half years? I go through phases where I’m like, “Dude, you need to get it together. Go eat strictly vegetables for two weeks.” And then I walk into the Test Kitchen three days later, and there’s a giant braised pork shoulder staring me down like, “Hey, bud. How ya doin’?” So, yeah. It’s a battle.
What is the cheapest Rent Week meal* you’ve made?
There’s this japanese dish called tamago kake gohan that’s just rice with soy sauce and a raw egg cracked on top. You stir the raw egg into the hot rice, and it gets all gooey and delicious. I hit that with a little chopped scallion, chile paste, and sesame seeds, and I’m good to go. It’s essentially a free dinner. All stuff I already have in the fridge and pantry.
If you had to pick only one coffee beverage, what would it be?
Cortado. I would marry a cortado if that was a thing that could happen in the real world. I’m pretty vocal about my love for the cortado on Instagram and have no plans on stopping.
Does all the caffeine affect your sleep? Does the hangover?
During the week, I actually only drink two coffees a day. I pull an espresso around 9:00 (when I get to work), and I brew a pour over around 2:00. I don’t think the caffeine takes a toll on my sleep. Drinks at work that turn into drinks at dinner that turn into drinks at the bar that turn into shutting down a noodle shop in Chinatown at 4:00 a.m.? No comment.
How do you keep from being that lil bitch when you photograph your food?
Absolutely no flash. Absolutely no light diffusers. Absolutely no asking people to stand up. Absolutely no asking a waiter to do anything to improve a photo. If you’re seriously interrupting anyone’s eating experience, whether that person is at your table or another, you’re being a dick. Don’t be a dick. I kind of feel like a dick for even talking about this.
What’s up with the Murray’s Cheese Class, son? Is that an “influencer” job?
Haha my friend Christine who works at Murray’s thought it would be cool to teach a class together. The first one went well, and now we have a few more coming up. It was honestly just lucky. She talks about cheese, and I talk about beer, which I have absolutely zero qualification to do (besides the fact that I drink a lot of it).
Why do you have so many Instagram followers (22.2K)?
The main reason is because I work for a major publication. I’m not going to pretend that I’d have this following if I didn’t.
But I think it’s because I’m young. I drink. I listen to music. I care about clothing. I eat out too much. I love hand-painted type. I quote stupid movies. I play sports and like to skateboard. It’s not just one thing; it’s all of that. I’d much rather have one person say, “He’s the dude who drinks crazy beers,” and another say, “He’s the guy who showed me this band,” and another say, “He’s that bro who gets strangely hyped up on neon signs.” I don’t want everyone to say, “He’s the food guy,” even if I am. People and companies focus too much on creating a brand that revolves around a single interest, instead of embracing the entirety of what makes them who they are. An interesting life experience isn’t homogeneous. Same goes for social.
For the grandmas in the audience, can you explain the Instagram “Algorithm?”
The algorithm is the organizational code that Instagram uses to determine the order that posts show up in your feed. It makes quite literally zero sense, and there’s a ton of people asking Instagram to move back to a sane, chronological order of posts on the timeline. I am one of those people.
Do you think in Instagram Stories Content?
As much as I want to say no, I kind of do. I’m a little romantic in the way I look at things. I like putting everyday things in a frame. There’s something I enjoy about saying, “Hey, look how special the facade of this shitty deli is. Look at this incredible sandwich. Look at this beat-to-hell Fiat parked outside. Look at all this beautiful, amazing shit that’s sitting right here in front of you, you fool.” It just ends up being a way to actualize my internal commentary, even if I have to stand in the middle of the street to do it.
What works? Who cares?
Honesty. Good work, whether it’s design, writing, painting, photography, cooking, or posting trivial things on Instagram, comes from honesty. The posts that my followers interact with the most are the things that I’m truly interested in. The things I think are funny. The things that really taste good. The things that make me happy. That’s not me trying to build myself up; I’m just saying that it’s easy to tell when someone is being dishonest or calculated or following a trend.
People, whether they’re into what you’re posting or not, will always respond more positively if they can tell that you’re honestly stoked. You can get anyone to care about anything, if you convey true enthusiasm.
Give me an example of your favorite Instagram account, and what you would do to make it better.
You know what...I think @bonappetitmag is the best brand account on IG. And it’s not even close. Is that biased? Maybe. I don’t care. Our team kills it on Instagram, pulling content from a staff who is (Ding! Ding! Ding!) honestly passionate about food and the lifestyle that accompanies it. If you want an example of a voicy, creative, original, intelligent social strategy, that’s it. This was not a very humble answer.
But I love @fruit_stickers for food and design inspiration. The woman Kelly Angood who runs it has awesome taste and turned the fruit sticker, a seemingly pointless everyday object, into something I get excited to see on IG. That’s actually a one-dimensional account that benefits from being one-dimensional, but I’d love to see Kelly start doing collabs with fruit brands, or bringing her collections to galleries. I also love @shittynewyorkercartooncaptions, because it’s absolutely hilarious and takes down the subtle intelligence of a New Yorker cartoon. I just want more stupid, lo-brow, hilarity from that account. I love accounts that embrace the stupidity as much as the brilliance.
Briefly describe who you are and what you do and why you like BEST:
I’m an editor and writer at BonAppétit.com and Basically. I have a BFA in graphic design and use it by writing about home cooking, beer, restaurants, and travel. I’m just as into psychedelic garage rock as I am soul, and I like long wool coats, skate t-shirts, and corduroy pants. I live in Manhattan, and I’m still pretty stoked about that.
I like BEST, because I can relate to it. It’s a human agency, and it embraces the emotions, big or small, that create shared human connections. BEST would lend me its bike. BEST would buy me a slice. It’s an agency I’d want to drink beers with. Also, Alison was my first boss in NYC, so I kind of have to.