Justin Schuble, who previously went by DCFoodPorn, now focuses on healthy, easy cooking videos. Photograph by D.Horvath Photography.
In 2017, Justin Schuble was running one of DC’s biggest and most influential foodie Instagram accounts, @DCFoodPorn, while preparing to graduate from Georgetown University. The then-22-year-old planned to make a full-time job of his social media following (he was already making nearly $50K on Insta), which was a novelty at the time and led me to write a longform profile about him.
In a lot of ways, that story is the prequel to the feature in Washingtonian‘s March issue about DC’s booming food influencer scene and the messy ways it intersects with a restaurant industry in pandemic recovery. The story highlights several social media creators who have more recently started making a living (and in one case, a six-figure salary) off of showing people where to eat and drink.
But what happened to Schuble? Well, for starters, he’s mostly abandoned the name DCFoodPorn. He lives in Boca Raton now, posts healthy, easy cooking videos rather than over-the-top restaurant dishes, and has surpassed more than 1 million followers on TikTok. He’s just @JustinMSchuble now.
I caught up with him about his twisty online career and his thoughts on the changing food influencer landscape.
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First and foremost, I see you no longer actually go by DCFoodPorn?
Yes, DCFoodPorn is no longer. I mean, I still have the handle on a smaller account, but yes, I am @JustinMSchuble, which I’m still getting used to. It’s only been like two months or so [since changing the Instagram handle].
Tell me about why you made that change.
During Covid, I got stuck in Florida. I was here on spring break, and then ended up here for six months. And in that time, it was obviously very difficult to not only just post restaurants because of Covid restrictions, but to post DC restaurants because I was not even there.
At the time, I got more involved in cooking and recipes. I started posting a lot more on TikTok. I never went by DCFoodPorn on there. I just sort of kept posting easy, simple recipes—the types of things that I was eating and making—and it ended up doing very well. And at one point, I ended up passing my Instagram in followers.
My content has kind of shifted a lot from what it was on DCFoodPorn. I got to a point where I felt like it wasn’t really resonating with my content and my life anymore.
I think a lot of people didn’t know that you didn’t eat gluten or dairy, but you featured these gratuitous restaurant dishes with those ingredients. How much of that was a factor in changing your account?
I mean, when I started the account, I ate gluten and dairy. And then throughout the process of the account growing and blowing up, I realized that I had all these dietary restrictions. It definitely became very difficult to find that balance between what was best for my account and what was best for my health.
During the pandemic, when I got into cooking, I was like, let me cook the things that I love to eat and I can eat. Not all of my recipes are 100-percent gluten free, dairy free, but it’s definitely a shift in the mindset and focusing on good ingredients, nutrition, protein-packed recipes. I work out a lot more than I used to back in the day.
Do you think that there is less of an appetite for that super over-the-top style that was really a signature of early food Instagram?
I think back in the day, it felt like if you weren’t posting over-the-top food porn, nobody cared. And normal food was not exciting. And maybe that was just something that I thought was the case, and maybe it wasn’t. But I think today people are actually loving real food, real ingredients.
I remember you to be a bit of a perfectionist, which was very well-suited for that picture-perfect style of early Instagram. Now I’ve noticed on TikTok, you’ll mess up your recipe, but then just like make that part of the video.
Creating that perfect photo was something I loved to do. Like you said, I was and still am a perfectionist. But I’m learning to not let that bleed into my content too much. I think people enjoy the storytelling, they enjoy the imperfection. And if anything, it’s more relatable just to be yourself. I mean, I cut my finger in like almost every video. I spill something. I’m just a mess, and I’m like, let me not try to pretend like that’s not the case, because it’s probably the case for a lot of people.
Big picture, how do you think that the pandemic changed the food influencer scene?
As much as the pandemic was obviously an awful thing aside from all of this, I think it’s been really good for the growth of content and social media. There’s just so much more creativity and authenticity on social media than there was back when I was originally doing this.
Do you think it’s easier to turn food social media content into a career now than it was when you were starting out?
Oh, 100 million-percent. Obviously, my account’s grown a lot since then, so that helps with monetizing, but [there’s also been an increase in] marketing budgets and just the openness to realizing that social media can make a huge impact on business. Brands are realizing that they kind of have to be in that space to be successful at this point.
In 2017, you were making $40K to $50K from Instagram as a college student. Would you be willing to share roughly how many how much you make now?
I’m not going to give specific numbers, but it’s a lot more than that. I’m definitely making six figures. It’s not necessarily one post, but I work with brands on long-term projects, and I’ve had ones that are bigger than $40K.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m always kind of just, like, going with the flow, and things that I would never imagine can come up really quickly. And now that I’ve seen how much things have changed, I truly believe that you can’t always plan for the next step. Maybe eventually I would work on a cookbook or things like that, but for now, I’m just focusing on content, partnerships, connecting with my audience as much as I can.
I saw a video about how Lady Gaga has gone through all these transformations in her career and her music and her style, and I feel like I can relate to this constant evolution and change. When you’re a creative and the world around you is changing so much, you have to figure out how you fit into this new world. And with the social media, it’s constantly changing and adapting.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.