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What it’s like eating with a Huntsville food influencer — Practice takes, rearranging my food and he stole my eggroll

The popularity of food content on social media in the past decade has given rise to food influencers. An influencer creates content to share and engage with their followers. A food influencer specializes in food-related content, and we’ve got quite a few right here in Huntsville. A quick search of “Huntsville Food Influencers” brings up #RickyHSV.

Ricky Garcia, the man behind #RickyHSV, has thousands of followers online and regularly posts photos of himself out and about at local establishments. I asked him to lunch. A few short messages later, we are set to meet for an interview at Thai Elephant in Madison on Friday.

#RickyHSV arrives a little late. “Sorry, I’m always late. I’m usually late to work too, but I’ll be the last one leaving,” he says as he smiles, bypasses my outstretched hand, and hugs me instead.

Ricky Garcia has worked at “nearly every restaurant in Huntsville,” and has been fired from a few, “but a lot of those guys are my biggest supporters now.”

I ask him to tell me how #RickyHSV started. Garcia began posting about food places in 2019 and people liked it. He has a “People First, Positive Content” motto — a food fan rather than a food critic. He describes himself as, “The leading authority on all things food, hospitality, and cuisine in Huntsville and the greater Huntsville area.”

Garcia’s passion for food and people aligns with his personality. He tells me his LinkedIn profile lists his occupation as “Attention Generating Expert.” (Confirmed.)  He enjoys people recognizing him, the occasional “Ricky-H-S-V!” shout-outs on the street and being part of a community that works to promote food culture in North Alabama.

When it’s time to order, Garcia recommends letting the restaurant decide what you should eat, but the Yellow Curry Chicken had already caught my eye, while he settles on the Beef Salad (Nam Tok Beef).

Garcia talks about how the food scene has changed in Huntsville in the past few years.

“The market has an appetite to try different things and allow new restaurants to open up and people will actually come and try them,” he says.

He has a passion for passion. He tells me he wants to support the people working to bring their dreams to life — people like engineers who open food trucks, families bringing their secret recipes from far-off places, or a new concept eatery that decided the Rocket City was a good fit.

Our food arrives, but we can’t just eat it. The dishes are gorgeous but not gorgeous enough. Garcia instructs me to rearrange the broccoli on top of my bowl “high and tight.”

Then he states, “I need one of your egg rolls.”

Garcia has his phone out to do a short video for his post. We go through a few hilarious practice takes, not taking an actual bite, before the real thing.

I have to admit the video looks cute. After eating an absolutely delicious meal, we head outside to take pictures in front of the restaurant. Garcia holds up his food while I point at it with my thumb.

(Zany pictures are not my forte.)

#RickyHSV and other local influencers are great for people like me — people who want to learn about and try new places in the area, or need to be reminded of the ones we forgot about. During the meal, Garcia asked if I followed him on Instagram. Followers are a big deal for influencers, and in this case, the places they promote. I wasn’t following him on Instagram. Garcia takes my phone follows himself for me.

You can find Thai Elephant here.

You can follow #RickyHSV here.

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