When people think of social media professionals, negative stereotypes come to mind but rarely do people realize that those who succeed in the field are typically hard-working, intelligent people with a strong and varied background.
Felicia’s internet presence emerged some years ago when she began writing for the Philadelphia City Paper and reviewing restaurants on Yelp. The more that presence grew, the more ethereal she became.
She is a terrific writer with an impressive breadth of knowledge in the arenas of food and drink who always stays true to herself. She has a magnetic personality and it shines through in her story.
1. Tell us about your background.
Born in Drexel Hill, PA, grew up there with parents and in Southwest Philly with my mom-mom and pop-pop. Went to high school at Villa Maria in Malvern, thence to Temple in North Philly. My only years away from Philly were study abroad in Rome, and two years in Manhattan.
2. How did you work your way into the culinary field?
Both my mom-mom Kitty D’Ambrosio and my aunt Gina D’Ambrosio are self-taught chefs in that they never went to culinary school. My aunt has had a catering company based in Lancaster, PA (Food for Thought, shameless plug!) for about 20 years and I started working for her when I was 12 in her Bed and Breakfast (since sold.) I was gopher, minion, maid-of-all-work and later, floor captain and I learned 80% of what I know about food and 100% of what I know about hospitality from my mom-mom and aunt.
We hosted weddings, we soothed weary travelers with scones and wine, and basically lived in the kitchen and garden. It was a rude surprise at my first real “restaurant” job, at Caffe Bellissimo in Springfield, Delco, that I was working with 5 gallon buckets of chicken base instead of picking fresh watercress out of a stream. I’ve been a waitress, expo, barista, hostess, bartender, donut-fryer and manager over my career, and worked at Monk’s Cafe, Rouge, Capogiro and so many more.
3. How about social media?
The first time I used Twitter was when I was Yelp Community Manager for Philadelphia. That was not the right job for me at that time, and after I left I started my own personal twitter @Feliciafied. When we conceptualized Federal Donuts, it was natural for my contribution to be in media and communication, since I am not the best line cook. I am a late Facebook adopter as well, but it has served us well as a communication medium with our guests, since it is perceived as “easier” to jump into than Twitter, which still confuses people on how it works/why you should use it.
4. What was it like being on television?
It was awesome! Andrew Zimmern is a true pro, as well as being genuinely sincere and a nice person to work with. We had a blast eating and talking with the real people who make Philly’s food scene so delicious. In a perfect world I would host a travel show where we’d race motorcycles and go surfing, then eat our faces off.
5. What was the highlight of your career?
Being on TV is pretty cool, and I loved being a food writer/blogger for City Paper, because every day you learn something new. But, I have to say, I love my job as comm chief for Cook+Solo now more than anything. It’s so fulfilling to work with people who truly believe in hospitality and making killer food above all else. Not working with jerks is the greatest thing ever.
6. The lowlight?
About three weeks after we opened Federal Donuts I had a minor nervous breakdown from the door banging loudly every time someone walked in or out, and people on social media screaming “Why don’t you just make more?!?!” about our sell-outs. I was not sleeping properly cause I’d been a bartender for 15 years and now suddenly had to wake up at 4:30 am every day; it was not pretty, I didn’t eat anything that was not fried for awhile. I started crying behind the speed rack when the door banged again and Steve Cook took one look at me and sent me home.
7. Let’s cut to the chase. How did you get so awesome?
I was always a nerd who was picked on until I was about 14 and got contacts and boobs in the same week, but that never stopped me from being myself. I knew that even though I wasn’t popular, I was somehow cool in some way, and someday, people would get me :)
8. How did you connect with Michael Solomonov?
I’d been covering Zahav for Meal Ticket, the City Paper food blog, and the printed edition of the paper since Zahav opened in 2008. I did some video things with Mike Solo, and he is just so affable and interesting, and we became socially friends. My ex boyfriend, who is rad, took Mike surfing and they are still pals.
9. Tell me about your role in the beginnings of Federal Donuts?
I worked in the shop only for a few months because it became immediately apparent my skills did not lie in donut-glazing and robot-maintenance. I’m good at Twitter. Less good at getting up at 4:30am to fry things.
10. Are you still an active part of FedNuts?
I’m a partner in Federal Donuts and the five partners make all the big decisions together. I also work out of the Cook+Solo office at Zahav, and FedNuts GM Tom Henneman is always there for part of the day, so we get to regularly level-set and talk about what’s going on in the stores. I also handle the PR for FedNuts and all the Cook+Solo properties.
11. What do you do in your current role as Director of Communications for Cook+Solo?
All inbound press inquiries, pitch to press local and national, go to lots of events and tweet/take photos/keep things flowing, handle all the social media, organize wedding cake orders for FedNuts, travel with Mike Solo and help him do events, and make sure we are taking every opportunity we get to spread the word about Zahav, FedNuts, Percy Street Barbecue and our upcoming restaurants Abe Fisher and Dizengoff (opening in June at 1605 Sansom St.). I also am the only chick who does the five-minute plank every time we do it as a team. I can send you the five-minute plank diagram too.
12. What advice do you have for people who are looking to get into writing and/or communications?
Do an internship at a magazine or newspaper to learn how to write concisely and correctly to the style (say, AP style). You don’t need to go to journalism school if you are lucky enough to have a good mentor, like Drew Lazor has been to me. Read EVERYTHING you can, this is important for anyone who aspires to be a communicator or writer. Work for free early in your career, but not for too long because it devalues everyone’s work. Don’t work for peanuts. If you ask someone established for advice, keep it simple, specific, and above all brief — don’t ask for a lunch for three hours where you grill them.
13. Is there anything you’d like to discuss that we did not ask about?
I think it’s important to note that the only reason I was able to survive as a writer was because I was simultaneously a bartender and server, for at least one or two nights a week, the entire time. People should not expect to make money as a blogger — you have to do it for passion and creative and professional growth or not at all. That said, editorial is so much fun and you can learn so much — but you have to think outside the box to make a living.