Weekly Q&A

@HappyTummy_702 Instagrammer Suzy Hendrix explains how her home cooking took off

Suzy Hendrix
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

Suzy Hendrix is a mom, a businesswoman and the owner of the popular Instagram account @HappyTummy_702. While she already had thousands of followers before the pandemic, her channel’s new focus on at-home cooking and baking has drawn an entirely new audience of followers since—a whopping 124,000 of them. From mille-feuille-style pork tonkatsu, tteokguk (Korean rice cake soup) or sticky cinnamon rolls, there’s something on Hendrix’s page for every palate.

The Weekly caught up with Hendrix to talk about her growing Instagram presence and her delicious content.

When did you create @HappyTummy_702 and why? Around 2011. I was one of those girls that took pictures of food and was showing it on my Facebook, and I slowly realized, just because they’re my friends and coworkers, they’re not automatically interested in seeing food pictures (laughs). Some people love it, some people don’t, so that’s where Happy Tummy was created. I had my own personal Instagram where I posted vacation pictures … [and] I decided it was going to be my own little collage. The food gave me memories.

Hendrix’s spicy garlic butter pasta

Hendrix’s spicy garlic butter pasta

How did you grow your audience? In the beginning, I kept myself anonymous. Slowly, [a friend and I] started to meet up with people who had food pages, too, and that’s how we met the whole food community. It was purely like, what kind of dining experience can we go and capture and share with people? My audience was literally nobody I knew.

What’s your job when you aren’t Instagramming and cooking? First and foremost, my son and I do virtual schooling every day, so we’re in front of the computer in the mornings. We jam-pack the mornings so I can have my afternoon free. My income comes from helping local small businesses … create [social media] content. I work mainly with Dru from [local app] @Unlokt.

When did you discover your love of food? It started when I was a kid. My mom instilled in me that you have to be open-minded. I still remember to this day, I brought home a friend from school, and [my mom] was hosting and bringing out snacks, and my friend was kind of picky, as kids are. When she left, I remember my mom looked at me and said, “Suzy, if you’re not open-minded about food, you’re not open-minded about life,” and I still to this day think of that. I would rather eat something and realize I don’t like it than not experience it.

What’s your favorite cuisine? Probably Korean food, because I grew up with it and my mom cooked it. It’s my go-to when I need to be comforted by something delicious. I grew up in Hawaii, and I love food like musubi and plate lunches—things I grew up eating in Hawaii.

And your favorite Vegas restaurant? It’s so hard for me to decide, because I love so [many]. I’m the person that never orders the same thing twice. When I go to a place, I always order something else.

How has the pandemic changed the way you interact online? In March, when we got all locked down, I did what all the foodies did: We were just trying to showcase people offering takeout. [My next phase] kinda started with the Dalgona coffee trend. First, I wanted to make it for me to try. Then I was like, why don’t I try to video it? I never went in with, I have to switch gears and see if making something at home is going to be my new content. I had no plan. So I made it, and it did so well.

If there’s one thing I want to reiterate to people, it’s that I had zero cooking skills. My mom would try to teach me, and I had absolutely no interest. You’re not going to learn something until you want to learn.

Your videos are done so well. What does your process look like? Lighting is 80 percent of it. On my patio, I have a sliding door, and the lighting is really good there so I bought these photographing boards that look like fake marble. I film on the floor by my patio door, because the lighting is almost perfect throughout the day. Then I bought a portable stove—I use butane—and I can put it anywhere. People are like, “You have the best kitchen,” and I’m like, “Thanks, it’s not my kitchen.”

Wait, you’re cooking on the floor for every video? I’m literally on a square on the floor, and I bring all my cooking stuff with me. I edit all my stuff that has to be baked, so you’ll never see me putting something into the oven, because it’s an old oven. It doesn’t even have a good clear window (laughs).

Hendrix’s mini apple pie tacos

Hendrix’s mini apple pie tacos

How did you learn to edit? Practice. With video, you have to capture people’s attention in the first five seconds. It is a process. What is my opener? What’s going to capture [the viewer] to keep watching? I’ve been using YouTube non-copyrighted music, and I try to do my transitions with the music. A really popular [app] I use is called InShot, and there’s a new one called Splice that’s good. The biggest challenge is trying to show everything you want to show. You’re telling a story.

How long does each video take? It takes me all day. But somebody else may be able to do it faster. That’s from the moment I gather my ingredients, then determine my strategy and how to film it. Then, I film it all on my phone; there’s no DSLR. It’s very DIY. My friends are like, “Suzy, you have so much patience,” but I just take my time.

Do you have any advice for foodies or Instagrammers? Don’t worry so much about the vanity matrix, don’t worry about your stats. Everybody cares about how many likes you have, and if somebody says they don’t, they are lying. But you can’t let that overwhelm the fact that you want to do this. Share what you want. Not everybody is going to like everything, but when you go back and you’re still happy with it, share it. That’s what I’ve been doing.

What’s your goal for Happy Tummy in 2021? I want to continue what I’m doing, and so much of it depends on the world: What’s going to happen? That’s such an unknown this year. Is the vaccine going to come out and things truly go back to normal, or do they not? And what will that mean for these restaurants and where a majority of my income comes from? You want these local businesses to thrive.

Tags: Food, Instagram
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