Until a few years ago, those in search of just the right dining experience on the Treasure Coast were relegated to what I un- affectionately refer to as the "Yelpification" of the industry. Weeding through crowd- sourced opinions probably isn't the most efficient way to evaluate a new dining prospect these days, especially if you’re a “foodie.”
But if you think local food blogging is a casual endeavor, then you haven’t met Thomas Miller, aka “The Foodie Guy.” He’s been a professional food blogger for six years in our area and I first knew him as The Vero Beach Foodie. His reviews originally focused on Vero Beach restaurants but by last year his website and social media pages revealed that he had expanded his footprint and his blog was now gaining regional prominence as The Treasure Coast Foodie & Savor Club.
"I decided that it was too narrow of a market and at some point, I would run out of new restaurants to review, so I rebranded to The Treasure Coast Foodie in spring of 2020. This opened me up to a much larger area and so many more restaurants to write about" he said.
We met up for a Q&A session while he was "on the job" for a review of a little Indian restaurant in Fort Pierce. Thomas arrived with some cool gadgets that produce the photos and videos that populate his blog and will make you instantly hungry. I was surprised that his equipment was so nimble and minimalist considering the quality of his photos. He explained that he shoots with a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra using a selfie flash for extra light when needed and though he is no stranger to professional cameras, he compares using those for social media and website photos to driving a Ferrari in a Go- Cart Race.
He was well-organized, methodical, and incredibly professional. We were presented with an enormous amount of food which raised two questions in my mind: Is he really going to eat all of this and how is he going to keep track of everything?
Of course, he doesn't eat everything presented, often opting to take the leftovers home but his documentation process is remarkable. His first order of business was to listen intently as the owner described each dish as he made notes on the menu. Then he photographed each dish individually, and then all together, diligently checking the lighting and taking more notes. As he worked through this meticulously organized process, he commented that he is accustomed to seldom eating a hot meal during a review. Not surprising. I was already captivated, and we hadn’t even eaten yet!
As we began sampling the various offerings, he was quick to recognize the nuanced flavors that would likely evade my considerably less sophisticated palate. He identified numerous seasonings with startling accuracy, no small task, particularly with Indian cuisine, but he took care to communicate with the owner and ask questions throughout. More note taking ensued. And though we were in conversation the entire time, Thomas never missed a step in his routine. The whole experience left me with a feeling of privilege as well as a surprising discovery in my not-so-short life to date; I like Indian food! I’m not a picky eater but Thomas has a gift for talking (and writing) about all things culinary in a way that makes you want to try everything, whether it is still hot or not.
To date, Thomas Miller has reviewed more than 250 local restaurants and gourmet markets. As a Google Maps Local Guide, he has submitted over 2,500 photos that have been viewed over 36 million times. His foodie tribe is over 25,000 on the Treasure Coast and his Foodie Meetups & Chef's Table Dining Experience events are considered some of the Top Culinary experiences in the area. The Savor Club offers members exclusive deals and discounts with local establishments and invitations to special dining experiences including occasional “Restaurant Review Dining Experiences” where members can join him as I did, go behind the lens with him, and taste the same dishes they see in his reviews.
The next time you find yourself contemplating where to eat check out TreasureCoastFoodie.com or on Facebook or Instagram @thetreasurecoastfoodie. If you’re a restaurant owner and would like your establishment reviewed by The Treasure Coast Foodie contact Thomas on his website or social media.
Get to know the TC Foodie
ITA: Have you always been a foodie? Miller: I've always enjoyed good food, but only over the past 10 years has food been more important to me than ever before. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a chef, but discovered how long the hours are and low the pay is, so I went into Healthcare Information Technology, but never forgot about my love of food. I got into blogging because it allowed me to keep the day job and still blog on the side. When the opportunity presented itself, I quit my job so I could pursue my dream full time. I love discovering the creativity of the local chefs and trying new things.
ITA: What do you most enjoy about your job/business? Miller: Meeting the passionate owners behind the dishes and the stories of how they got started, and of course all the food that goes along with the job!
ITA: You're very methodical in your approach to conducting a review. How did you develop the process? Miller: I consider myself to be very organized and I just developed my process over time. After conducting over 250+ reviews, it's just second nature anymore. When I go into a restaurant for a review, I'm there to work, and I take that work very seriously. I want to do my very best to highlight the owners, the restaurant, and the food they serve.
ITA: What are the things you take into consideration other than the dishes themselves while conducting a review? Miller: Getting to know the owners, what type of atmosphere is it, basically just soaking up the entire experience so I can try to convey that to my readers.
ITA: What was the last thing you tried for the very first time? Miller: Wow, tough question since I've eaten so many different foods over the years, but I'll say Birria Tacos. I've only seen them in videos, but I just found a place in Vero that serves them. The tortilla is dipped in a consume, grilled, then meat and cheese are added and folded over like a quesadilla. You then dip them in the consume when you eat them. They are all the rage on social media!
ITA: Your bio says you're particular about your butter. Tell me about that. Miller: I've tried all the different kinds of butter I can find locally, and I keep going back to my favorite, President Butter. It's the sweetest, creamiest, and saltiest butterI'veevereaten,andit'sjustsodarn delicious!
ITA: Do have a favorite spice or herb? Miller: I love rotisserie chicken seasoning. I find it to be very versatile. I even sprinkle it on my cottage cheese!
ITA: Is there anything you won't eat? Broccoli! The only way I would consider eating it is if it was thoroughly cooked and covered with a sauce. I just don't like the texture or flavor of it. It's my kryptonite!
ITA: Do you cook at home? If so, what is your go-to dish, and have you ever had any cooking disasters? Miller: Yes, and I believe that is what makes me a better food blogger. BBQ is my go-to when I get a chance to cook at home. Brisket is the Mount Everest of BBQ meats since it takes so long to cook and is difficult to get right. I figured I would learn the hardest one to cook first, then the rest should come much easier. My first few were terrible, just like elastic and I couldn't eat it. Over time, with practice and patience I finally got it right. I've even developed my own special brisket rub!
ITA: If you could fuse different categories of cuisines to come up with a great dish, what would they be? Miller: Caribbean, Cuban, and BBQ. I love all the great flavors and textures associated with these three cuisine types.
ITA: Is there a particular review that stands out in your mind? Miller: It happened quite a few years ago when I was first getting started. I had a chance to review a local bakery and it was one of the most over-the-top experiences I've ever had. The baker made five different tiered cakes with over 120 servings for us to try. There were only five people at the tasting, so of course, we all went home with a major sugar rush!