Slide Into Their DMs: Sacramento Bakers, Chefs Build Successful Pop-Ups Through Social Media

Claryssa Ozuna, owner of Hella Good 916, makes tacos for pickup at Esther’s Park in Sacramento on Saturday, April 24, 2021. All photos by Andrew Nixon

By Steph Rodriguez

People connect through food. Whether that’s breaking bread across cultures or sharing the warmth of a family recipe, food connects people to memories worth savoring.

During a pandemic, the way in which people use food to connect changes.

In Sacramento, everyone from professional chefs to home cooks and cottage bakers rely on social media as a means to introduce people to their food. It’s a simple way to post weekly pop-up menus filled with photogenic bites that are quickly devoured by die-hard followers.

“It’s like a treasure hunt. People like this speakeasy culture where you have to know about it,” says Claryssa Ozuna, owner of Hella Good 916, a weekly pop-up that specializes in quesabirria tacos and homemade tres leches cakes — all of which sell out just as quickly as they’re made.

“You have to know what day, you have to know what time, and then it’s a matter of getting your order in before they sell out. So it’s this exclusive experience and this unique content that you can share with other people.”

Ozuna shares Hella Good’s menu with more than 2,000 Instagram followers who pick-up orders on Friday afternoons. As a licensed caterer with over a decade of experience working in various kitchens — including fine dining to bars and cafes — Ozuna says she easily makes at least 300 tacos on pick-up days.

On those days, she sets up shop in South Sacramento, crisping rows of corn tortillas on the grill before covering each with mounds of shredded cheese and generous portions of savory, slow-stewed beef. It’s a crispy, melty, umami mouthfeel that’s enriched by dipping each bite in Ozuna’s flavorful consumé, a deep red, unctuous beef broth that smacks with warm spices.

“It gets pretty crazy sometimes, but I really love doing it,” she says. “I’m like the kind of person that loves to go, go, go. So, when the orders are flowing and we got a bunch of things going on, we’re thriving.”

This social media-influenced, pre-order business model is relatively new and has opened a path for many with big food dreams to cut overhead costs and break into the local industry on their terms. For these chefs and bakers, selling delicious fare was not only a way to make ends meet during the pandemic, but also a way to reach new people and offer a taste of who they are through their unique menus. …

Read Slide Into Their DMs in its entirety here. This story originally published April 29, 2021 with Capital Public Radio.

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