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Evan Mah, Creator of one of Atlanta’s Most Popular Food Blogs

Name: Evan Mah           
Year: Junior
Major: Sociology, Journalism Co-Major
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
Emory junior Evan Mah started a food blog, ToothFish, five years ago. Now, it’s rated number 16 on Urbanspoon! Her Campus Emory sat down with Evan to learn more about him, and his blog.  (Note: The picture of Evan doesn’t reveal his face so that restaurant’s do not identify him as a food critic.)
Her Campus Emory (HCE): Tell us a little about ToothFish
Evan (E): The Toothfish is a blog I started 5 years ago when I was a junior in high school. The main focus is reviewing restaurants around Atlanta and Memphis but occasionally I post something I’ve cooked.
HCE: Why did you decide to start the blog? Is there a story behind it?
When I was a junior in high school, I wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day by making reservations at one of the two 5-star restaurants in the city. Considering my entire family is involved in the restaurant business, food is really the quickest way to our hearts. Well, Mother’s Day came, and we all dressed up and drove downtown to this antebellum house — one of those restaurants with a ton of tradition behind it. Long story short, the meal was a disaster. I think my waiter was on LSD because she was insane in all the wrong ways. As for the food…it was the kind of meal that would convince everyone that expensive restaurants are silly and pretentious and that we should just stick to frozen dinners.
As we drove back home, we started talking about the meal and the farther we drove, the more angry I got about how this restaurant had ruined my Mother’s day present. So that’s when I decided somebody needed to know about this culinary landmine just waiting to destroy thousands more wallets and appetites. I wrote a “review” for my school newspaper, and I guess because people like reading rants, they kept encouraging me to review another restaurant. I’ve been reviewing ever since.  I should also say that over the years I’ve slowly figured out how exactly to conduct and write a review and have gained a better understanding of the craft. I rarely rant these days.  
HCE: How did ToothFish become so popular?
E: That’s a strange question. I’m not really sure, and to be honest I think it’s less popular than people think. I was 8th once on Urbanspoon because I was reviewing new restaurants in Atlanta every week so people were curious, but in general — no, I don’t really know. I would like to think it’s because people find my pictures delicious and my writing interesting but who really knows.
HCE: What’s your favorite thing about writing about food?
E: In general I enjoy entertaining people so what I love about food writing is being able to make someone care about a restaurant and hopefully laugh in the process. Creating an experience on the page is rewarding as well as giving people a perspective they haven’t considered or context they might need to understand whether a restaurant is, in fact, any good. It also allows me to act like I know what I’m talking about. Who doesn’t love that?
HCE:What’s your favorite post you’ve ever written? Why?
E: That’s a tough question, and I’m not really sure I can give you an answer. I can say, though, that I love writing about restaurants when I have extreme feelings. If I’m giving a restaurant 1 star or 5 stars, then you can bet the review will be interesting. If I give the restaurant an ambivalent 3 stars, the writing might be on the bland side.
HCE:Restaurant recommendations for Emory students
E: Ecco in Midtown has always been my favorite, although they recently changed head chefs. It’s a classy experience fit with a beautifully lit dining room and an inspired menu that pulls mostly from the Mediterranean (specifically Italy). There’s something on the menu for everybody and prices range from $12 or so to $28. So if you want pizza or pasta, they have it but if you want a nice fish, they’ve got that too. Be sure to order the goat cheese balls and the olive oil, sea-salt and dark chocolate ice cream. These dishes can teach you about food if you pay attention.
Antico Napoletana, Anis, Baraonda, Holeman & Finch, the Iberian Pig and Empire State South — these are great, too.
HCE: You’ve dished out bad reviews for, what most would consider, “fancy” restaurants. What, then, do you eat at Emory?
E: Context is everything so you have to appreciate food for what it is, where it is. I can’t hold the DUC, for example, to the same standards I would hold Bacchanalia, where dinner is an $85 prix-fixe. Eating is also about nutrients so if you have to close your eyes and not think about what’s inside the stew, consider it.
Lately, I’ve been eating a lot of sandwiches from the SAC: chicken tenders or grilled chicken on cheddar bread. I tell them to toast it extra long and then I add cucumbers, pickles, pesto-mayo and mixed greens. I also have a kitchen so in the event I get hungry late at night, I’ll toss some spaghetti with garlic and red pepper flakes and finish with a good olive oil and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. Takes about 10 minutes.