Anna King Shahab talks to some of New Zealand’s next top food bloggers, each providing inspiration and a decent feed (get it?!) to their legions of followers.

1: Mr Baker

Thirty-year-old father-of-one and design graduate Dane McGregor is a guy who just loves to bake, and he posts his efforts on Instagram and on his blog, (along with images of the occasional succulent garden - "It just suits the aesthetic," he says).

Hamilton-based Dane had started a baking business with a fellow kindergarten teacher, but the pair were soon discouraged by the certification rigmarole. Rather than give up his tin dreams, in August 2015 McGregor switched what were design/illustration profiles over to Baker Gatherer. He now has thousands of followers and uses an agency to attract sponsorships.

"Most of my baking is driven by nostalgia," says McGregor, who was encouraged as a young child by his mum to experiment in the kitchen - something this kindy teacher is now passing on to his pupils with a weekly Wednesday baking day. His design and photography skills have attracted enquiries over styling jobs for clients. "A lot of the time, though, the jobs, as well as events I get invited to, are up in Auckland," he says.

"What I'd really like to do is encourage more of a food collective here in the Waikato, to be more pro-Hamilton."


2: Queen of the Forest

Aesthetical, educational and inspirational, 37-year-old Unna Burch's The Forest Cantina is becoming one of the best-known food profiles in the country.

Burch, a former hair and makeup stylist, launched her Instagram account in 2014, but there were another "550 days of practising" before she felt ready to go public with her obsession with cooking, plating and styling. Within a matter of months Burch was offered the role of food editor for Wellington's Capital magazine, and a book contract. (She has just self-published her second book, Home, with the help of crowdfunding.)

The Forest Cantina has a Facebook page and blog, but Instagram is Burch's main platform. She now has a long list of brands keen to work with her. "I create fresh and interesting photos using their products, which they then use online and in print."

Burch, who admits to being a perfectionist, might take "anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours" to work on a single post. She draws inspiration from her family (her husband runs a building business, and the couple have two sons), their little plot of land on the outskirts of Wellington, and the produce it provides her to work with.

"Our little home is surrounded by bush, which is where the 'forest' bit comes from; you can see the bush from every window."

3: Rainbow Bright

In terms of numbers, followings for Kiwi food bloggers don't get much higher than that of
@monsingh, Rotorua mother-of-two Monisha (Mon) Singh. In little more than a few years the 42-year-old, who originally hails from Banjar, Northern India - "a Himalayan farm girl," she laughs - has amassed more than 50,000 followers on her Instagram feed: a vivid landscape of smoothies, chia puddings, fruit platters and wholefoods-focused dishes. If anyone deserves to use #eatarainbow, it's Singh. Making rainbow-hued smoothies started as a way of keeping her love of colour and fresh, vibrant produce alive when she moved from India to Invercargill with her family and felt somewhat displaced. Then just over a year ago her younger son suggested she start posting them, along with other creations, on Instagram.

Singh's striking pictures, which she says take no more than five minutes and are taken on auto setting, "because I have no photography skills" are accompanied by positive mantras, which in the case of some ultra-slick influencer might feel contrived, but coming from Singh, are entirely heartfelt.

"That's who I am, I say how I feel."

Singh has plans to open a restaurant in Rotorua - Indian cuisine, with a difference - as vibrant as her feed.

4: The New Generation

Jane Lyons and Will Bowman are forces behind The Next Meal. The couple, aged 23 and 26, met three years ago and realised they shared, Lyons says, "an obsession with all things food" partly thanks to being raised by food-focused parents (Will's mum Sarah Bowman is a respected food writer).

The pair's inherent curiosity for different cuisines and techniques can be seen in their regular Instagram feed, and on their website where they sometimes post recipes (cured egg yolks is one to try).

Until recently, Lyons had been working as a writer and a cooking teacher with Garden to Table, and Bowman in a marketing role with Hipgroup, before they shifted to Lyons' home town in the Hawke's Bay to prepare for a big OE.

"Despite consuming a lot of time, which we love, The Next Meal is still a hobby," says Lyons. "We're particular about what products we use and haven't delved into sponsored posts as yet."

Their social media presence is more a way of exposing their talent and networking.

"We've done a few pop-ups, the most recent being with artists Holly Houston and Jess Hemmings, who we met through Instagram. In July we're going on a food adventure around Italy and Greece and we'll meet up with some Instagram friends there."