We had the good fortune of connecting with Nina Cereno and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nina, what’s the end goal, career-wise?
As a foodie right now, I focus on releasing content on a variety of platforms whether it be TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, etc part time. At the moment I’m setting up my own marketing agency where I specifically work with restaurants and I’m hoping to build up my clientele. I feel that I have an edge because I know what it is like to be a foodie, how to engage effectively, how to obtain quality content, and how to share the food/story of a restaurant. There is a whole business side and even etiquette in the foodie community that most people won’t know, so I want to assist restaurants’ brand management in this area.

On the flip side as a content creator, I also work hard on my long form content including: my interview series, Neighborhood Nams, with restaurant owners; and my game show, Battle of the Foodies, to which I am the host and editor. Hopefully in the future I can pursue content creation full-time like having my own official show where I host on a streaming service platform such as Hulu or Netflix, plan large events/food festivals, and other creative outlets.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Well in high school I used to go to an arts school where I studied acting. In my senior year I wanted to find another creative outlet and hence my interest in food and digital marketing grew. My parents bought me my first DSLR camera and I started investing in food photography. I worked with other companies in college in their marketing department where I started using photoshop, video editing, and other creative skills that I was using to expand my knowledge and use for my blog. One day one of my mentors yelled at me because he saw my blog and asked me “Why the heck don’t I see your face in any of these pictures?” He pointed this out because if I wanted to grow my account, people would need to associate a face to name. From then on I decided to showcase myself and my life more on my feed. I think that was the beginning of my constant growth for my account. I opened my Youtube Channel and started releasing videos and that was where I felt was another outlet to my creativeness. I love being in front of the camera and talking so I felt like I could expel my energy through my blog.

I will say the constant challenge, even up until now, is making the content all on my own. Since I produce both short and long form content, I’m editing, filming, and photographing all of my own content. Fast forward to 2021 where I decided to have my own streaming/live broadcasts I’m the only editor making the marketing graphics and setting up the “live studio” to stream on Twitch and Youtube. However I started seeing this was a lot of work and while it is more efficient and cost saving to edit the content on my own, there is a better opportunity cost if I source out a part time editor. I had my own editor for my long form content but as of now I am seeking to look for a couple more editors. I’ve become so busy with collaborating with restaurants and obtaining content that I need to expand my team. On average I could attend over 20 collaborations a month and that is a lot for me to handle. So the major lessons I’ve learned is how to value my time and my worth. If I want to make quality content, that requires me to focus on evaluating all the brands I work with (instead of freely agreeing to every contract that comes my way). The greatest thing you can do to yourself is to respect your effort and protect your energy.

At the same time it’s also important to do a check if what I’m doing is truly what I’m passionate it. I know a lot of people in the community start feeling intimidated or overwhelmed with releasing content that they forget what the fun it is to enjoy food. Before I started getting busy with my blog I would seek out and actively go out to events just to visit the food vendors on site, or I would follow new menu items at restaurants. Regardless if it was a collaboration or not. That was the original fun for me and I want to be able to continue that excitement by sharing it with others.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Main Day (casual) Morning: Snooze AM Eatery
This is one of my favorite breakfast place and my favorite is . It has a retro style to it but what I’m so obsessed with is their hot chocolate. Something about it tastes so good and I’d have to show my friend while they are here. I will say though their more iconic food is their dishes.

Afternoon: Huntington Beach or San Clemente
These are my go to beaches. HB has a cool surf museum with really pretty long boards but even San Clemente has awesome shaping/surf shops too. If we are really feeling adventurous I’d probably have everyone go surfing but we will see how the waves are like that day.

Lunch: Da Hawaiian Kitchen
This has some of the best chicken in Orange County. It has a glazed chicken style that is fried and it’s what I look forward to every time I’m at the beach.

Late Afternoon:
Moo Gelato has these unicorn floats and ice cream that is always instagram worthy.
Cha For Tea is one of my go to boba shops in Irvine. They have this Mango Green Tea that is so refreshing I melt every time

Diamond Jamboree in Irvine, CA is where all the college students but I guess everyone hangs out in. My go to spots are like BCD Tofu house, BBQ Chicken, Pepper Lunch, or Kicking Crab. It’s a whole complex of such delicious food I’d have the guest decide because I can’t.

Late Night Vibes
-Go to the Artic in Orange, CA. This is close to the Angels Stadium but its actually the train station that is super colorful. You’ll probably see it as you pass by on the HWY 57. It’s a really cool spot to be in.
-While we are close to Anaheim I’ll probably take them to a small donut shop. Honestly if you are a SoCal native you’ll have to know this spot but I want to take them to M&M donuts which is only open at night. They’ve got the best blueberry donuts ever I cry just thinking about it.
-Afterwards on the way home I’ll stop by the 7 Leaves in Anaheim to get my mungbean drink cause boba is on my mind 24/7.

I could do on forever but other spots I’d most likely take them in the following list are:
-ALL YOU CAN EAT Korean BBQ (for the aesthetics maybe Gen Korean BBQ, for cheaper pricing I’d go to Red Castle/Red Palace, for my go to I’d go to All That Barbecue)
-All You Can Eat Shabu Shabu at House of Shabu. This is my go to AYCE hot spot place and I absolutely love it.
-Seaside Bakery. This is a small donut/bakery shop near Newport Beach. It’s also only where the locals would go (especially late night too with friends). I have to get their Green Thai Milk Tea
-Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, California which has some of the most amazing and authentic Japanese food. They also have Japangeles which is a cool streetwear brand my friends and I like going to.
-Koreatown. Going to the Chapman Plaza for Quarters KBBQ or even going to the other plaza with the Korean cheese corn dogs is a staple.
-Sawtelle Street with the amazing modern food like Marugame Udon, etc
-The Source in Buena Park. This is an outdoor mall with a lot of Korean Shops. They also have the MyungRang Korean Corn Dogs but they also have this tteokbokki restaurant called School Food that has the korean rice cake (one with carbonara too)
-Auntie Mailes has some of the best hawaiian food I’ve ever had. It’s located in Torrance which is known to be a city filled with Polynesian Food. While we are at it might as well go to King’s Hawaiian bakery to get mochi donuts (if we don’t already go to Fills Bakeshop in Newport Beach)

I could go on and on but it might get too long. But trust, I know where the good spots are hahaha.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a shoutout to all the restaurants I’ve worked with thus far in my foodie career. It’s a pretty big thanks but each one of those restaurant collaborations have meant a lot to me to help me produce content and be the creative I am today. I also want to thank favemenu which is a menu software company I have been working with for a couple years and the people there have helped me develop my interview series: Neighborhood Nams, and connected me to such a variety of small business.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/saikofood/?hl=en

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nina-cereno-a893aa149/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ninacsaiko

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=s62Cf73z-UvlG2Lgan3Gdg

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVPHlt0E1Ld6TkCnjBRI-mg

Other: Tik Tok: www.tiktok.com/@saikofood

Image Credits
Nina Cereno aka Saiko Food (@saikofood)

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