Welcome to another edition of “People Pulse.” Always hoping to bring you interesting folks doing even more interesting things in the Orlando and Central Florida area, we introduce Cristina Rodriguez of @SimpleTasteBuds. Cristina’s Instagram is a delicious treat highlighting some of the most delicious eats and treats in an around the Central Florida area; we’ve been watching it for awhile now. She’s also a self-proclaimed donut connoisseur! If you love looking at incredible food and drink or simply want to find some new places to try out, be sure to follow her. And now let’s get to know the lady behind the lens….
Q. What brought you to Orlando, and how long have you lived here?
A. Never in a million years did I think I would end up here! I was born in New York but moved to the Sunshine State when I was about 10 years old. In the beginning I never really loved Orlando because I didn’t venture out to new places. It wasn’t until I graduated from the University of Central Florida and realized that I’ve been living my life in the same area for more than 10 years!!! After graduating, I made a decision and decided that if I don’t change my scenery then I would be stuck in the same place. So I finally left my bubble and ventured out to more places. Fast forward to now, I am loving everything about Orlando and what this beautiful city has to offer.
Q.What’s one of your favorite things about living in Central Florida?
A. Easy question, the food of course! Let’s be clear, Orlando is such a BIG place full of a wide variety of different cultures and exotic cuisines. Plus, a lot of the local businesses provide great outlets for foodies to meet and hang out with which makes it easier to connect with one another.
Q. We’ve been following (and drooling over) your IG @SimpleTasteBuds for some time now. How did you get it started, and why food?
A. Hahaha! Glad I am not the only one drooling but it all began with my obsession for food! I really started becoming infatuated with the idea of how food was presented whenever I dined out. Chef’s put a lot of work into crafting meals and that is something I truly admire and want to highlight in my work. Most people would just dig in but not me. I take my time to observe the beauty of a dish since food is a work of art.
Q.How do you select the places you cover and highlight on your IG?
A. LOTS AND LOTS OF RESEARCH! Funny enough, I keep a notebook on hand with a list of future places that I want to try. I also really try to stick with supporting my local community, especially during these tough COVID times.
Q.We’ve noticed you’re a Yelp Elite. Food plays a big, big part of this group. How did you get into it, and how does it play into your IG?
A. It all started in 2018, when I attended my very 1st annual Yelp bash. I was not a Yelp elite at the time, but a friend of mine mentioned that there would be free food and it was normally hosted at the Orlando Science Center. I was instantly intrigued by the idea of free food, so I RSVP’d for a chance to get in. (I promise you, I’ve never signed up for anything so fast in my entire life.) Keep in mind, I did not have a guarantee spot since Elites were first to reserve, followed by regular Yelpers. I truly thought I was not going to get in because I was brand new to the Yelp game and I just created an account. It wasn’t until a day or two before the event where I received an email about my official party pass. I was beyond excited and a little nervous since this was going to be my first time meeting other Yelpers. Still to this day, it was the best experience I’ve ever had in Orlando. Not only was there tons of AWESOME FOOD but the atmosphere was electric! I mean there was sushi, ice cream, cocktails, BBQ, you name it…it was there. There was also live entertainment and local businesses chatting with Elite and non Elite members of the Yelp community. It was so wonderful to see how all of these Orlando peeps came together to share one thing in common, SUPPORT for local businesses! After seeing how much of an impact this had, I knew I had to continue to support in my own little way. So I started writing more reviews and focused on taking better quality photos of my food and BOOM! I was invited to become a Yelp Elite. Apparently someone from the Elite team had nominated me to join. Still till this day I have no idea who nominated me but whoever it was just know you’re the REAL MVP!
Q. What’s your favorite thing about “Yelpers”?
A. The honesty. Especially from the Yelp Elites! They really know their stuff about visiting places in Orlando and are not afraid to share what they think. Plus, Yelp Elites know more about Central Florida and its growth over the past decade, which makes it even more impressive to hear what they think about the businesses in Orlando.
Q. What’s your most favorite thing about the food scene in Orlando/Central Florida?
A. There is so much diversity and community involvement! I love how Orlando has a little bit of everything. Whether I am craving ramen, Italian subs, or fried chicken, Orlando has it. And since Orlando offers so much, I am always ready to go on any food adventure that is presented to me. So if anyone is interested in meeting up for a foodie trip, let me know! I also love how the community involvement with other foodies is so strong. No one is shy about supporting one another and eventually you end up running into another foodie at some of Orlando’s local collabs.
Q. Orlando has “grown up” so much in just a short time. What has been something you’re most surprised about?
A. The fact that it’s grown so fast is so hard to even believe! Right now, Central Florida and the Orlando area is in the middle of this amazing boom of development that as a local foodie,excites me to see our community grow and flourish.
Q. What’s one thing you’re always sure to do or share with someone’s visiting from out of town?
A. Anytime a friend or family is visiting I really try to show them the best of what Orlando has to offer, meaning we will go everywhere! I love going to Disney and Universal since I have annual passes (#passholderlife) but I also try to break the typical stereotype of Orlando being portrayed as just theme parks. There is definitely so much more to Orlando that most people don’t really get to see and I love having the opportunity to share some of our shops, beaches and unique restaurants throughout this beautiful city.
Q. OK – one of our favorite questions: What are your go-to and just-can’t-live-without food places in town? And, also – how has the current pandemic affected how you’re experiencing or enjoying new food?
A. Oh boy! This is super hard. I have so many places in mind but just to name some that pop up in my head would be DOMU (ramen is phenomenal), Prato in Winter Park (their pizza is life), Wave Asian Bistro & Sushi (look no further for insane sushi concoctions), DG Doughnuts (huge donut fan and worth the drive), Gideon’s Bakehouse (sucker for their cookies, especially the cookies & cream cookie. Now I’m drooling.) and Kelly’s Ice Cream (that Cookie Monster is the best kind of danger you can enjoy). Even though the pandemic has limited my dining in experiences, I still try to support local businesses whenever I can. I love food and food loves me, so I will find a way to eat whatever I am craving! Although, I’ve definitely seen a shift in how restaurants have been catering towards their take-out & curbside options. COVID has caused our entire dining demands to pivot, so seeing first hand how our local restaurants are adjusting to such a dramatic change shows they are willing to provide great service during fluid times.
Q.What are some of your favorite places in Orlando to be inspired, or just to be motivated?
A. I don’t have a specific place that inspires me but I would say my friends and family are the ones who motivate and support me the most. They all have been extremely supportive about my passions and without them I don’t think none of this would even happen. I also want to shout out the foodie community and my followers for being extremely accepting of what I share and post on my social platforms. They are my biggest critics and lucky for me I’ve met some pretty amazing people!
Q. What is one thing you personally hope to achieve during the remainder of 2020?
A. More community relationships! I really want to continue making connections with local businesses and others so I can share my brand and voice with anyone who is new to the food scene or just new to Orlando in general. Currently, I am also working on creating anew concept that focuses more on enhancing my food photography skills so I can partner with restaurants to help support their media needs during these ever changing times.
What did you think? Enjoy getting to know Cristina? If you know someone who is “doing their thing” in the Central Florida area and might be a great consideration for an upcoming feature, drop a note telling us who and why using the following form: