Today Laura and Heather are joined by Briana DeBolt and Chamere Orr, local food influencers for the healthy lifestyle brand, A Full Living. As creators of delicious low-carb at-home recipes and Chicago foodies who love to travel, Briana and Chamere focus on showing their followers how to live a fulfilled life without breaking the bank. They combine their talents for marketing and photography to showcase delicious, globally inspired low carb and keto friendly recipes on their site afullliving.com. We recently invited Briana and Chamere to explore our first ever Coffee and Hot Cocoa Crawl during Hygge Fest, and we are excited to work with them again this month to showcase a few of the local restaurants participating in the 4th annual Andersonville Restaurant Week, kicking off this Friday and running February 21 – March 1.
Listen to Episode 98 with Briana and Chamere of A Full Living!
- We’ll start off with Briana and Chamere’s background and how they met. This episode is recorded on Valentine’s Day, and we can just tell you, they are the cutest couple ever. They have a “millennial love story” and met on Tindr. After both being on the app for a while and deleting it a few times, they found each other. Briana was drawn to Chamere’s interests in yoga, dancing, and photography, and that “he looked like a really genuine person.” They hit it off right away. Their first date was at Millennium Park, walking around with Chamere’s camera. They hung out all day, went to a show that night, and ordered takeout. Briana shares she was both grossed out and impressed with how much Chamere could eat. Chamere shares he was very nervous on that first date, “I was sweating on the inside,” but that they really vibed.
- Briana is the oldest of four kids, with busy parents who weren’t great cooks (sorry). From a young age, she started watching the Food Network and began experimenting with cooking. When college came around, she initially started in culinary school. But, she found that she enjoyed cooking but not necessarily the food industry setting. After college, she took a job in software marketing and kept cooking as her side passion. She would cook for her friends, they would ask for recipes, which led her to starting a blog. And then she met Chamere, which was the push she needed to start pursuing sharing her food world with others. She grew up in Traverse City, MI but has lived in Chicago for the last 7 years.
- Chamere shares that ever since he was young, he was into artistic things like dance and painting. In high school and college he began exploring photography more, excited about making beautiful images, often inspired by films, Tumblr, Flickr. His first camera was a Canon, and began taking photos whenever he could; still life, portraits, street, anything. When he met Bri, he had never shot food…yet. When he and Bri began creating recipes together, Chamere began getting into the nitty gritty of food photography, considering closely texture, color, and light. Then, he started bringing street photography influences to his work. “Bri makes all these beautiful dishes and I get to eat them, taste test them, and shoot them every morning, so it’s good!” In the beginning, Bri shares that she needed a lot of help with her food photos, and that Chamere’s style has improved a lot as well. Street photography elements that Chamere brings to his food photography are story telling, narrative. He likes to emphasize color and abstraction, bringing in elements of the surrounding environments and the people eating the food. Chamere tries new things everyday, and is excited to see where his photography will be a year from now.
- The Chamber started working with Briana and Chamere two years ago in 2018 for Andersonville Restaurant Week. At that time, their brand was called Pantry Grubs, but has since changed names to A Full Living. We’ll be honest, we may have read “Pantry” as “panty,” and apparently are not the first people to say that…hence one reason they decided to change their name. Pantry Grubs was very food specific, but A Full Living includes more about their lives, travel, and other lifestyle elements. “A Full Living means living a fulfilled life, your best life,” Briana says.
- Travel-wise, last year Briana surprised Chamere with a birthday trip to Mexico City. She found a crazy good deal on a Southwest credit card with points and a companion pass, and worked her dad to rack up points so she could surprise Chamere. Chamere may have shed a tear or two when Briana surprised him with the trip and says, “I did. I was super excited, because that’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.” They have also been to Norway for a wedding, and Thailand. “We want to go anywhere and everywhere…and eat all the food.”
- For Andersonville Restaurant Week on February 21 – March 1, we asked Briana and Chamere to visit a couple of participating restaurants and preview their featured menus. The night before this podcast was recorded, Chamere and Briana set up in Uvae Kitchen and Wine Bar for a preview tasting and photo shoot. Uvae will offer a $30 three-course prix fixe, with each course offering four different options and 3 oz. wine pairing per course. They tried the duck liver pâté and a salad to start, with “really amazing, perfectly cooked” mango chutney scallops for the main course. Chamere ordered a pasta dish, served with mushrooms and ricotta cheese. For dessert, they ordered apple cinnamon bread pudding and panna cotta. Briana says, “I want to go back for Restaurant Week!” View the full Restaurant Week menu here.
- They also previewed and enjoyed Oda Mediterranean Cuisine’s exclusive Andersonville Restaurant Week menu. Chamere shares it was such a pleasant experience, as they got to meet Tamte, the owner. The offering includes Georgian cheese bread served on a skewer, which they describe as a “foodie’s dream, with cheese for days…one of the best things we’ve eaten.” Appetizer platter hummus, baba ganoush. A flavorful Georgian eggplant with walnuts and pomegranate dish. “Everything is made with love, and you can tell,” says Briana. They also tried Georgian wine, which is very on-trend right now. It’s a beautiful amber color, and offered at $30 per bottle for Restaurant Week. For entree, they had a combination platter, served with salad and hummus. “Fantastic, I can’t wait to go back.” You can view Oda’s menu here. “Uvae and Oda are two really great, really beautiful spaces that would be really good for date night, or going with your friends or family. Friendly owners and staff who make you feel really welcome.”
- At Uvae and Oda, Chamere had a large lead light and they got the shot, but it is super stressful! They are very conscious and careful to be as discreet as possible. Exploring the nuances between shooting food in their own kitchen vs. shooting in a restaurant, Chamere shares that he likes to use mainly natural light, and sets up by a window whenever he can. In restaurants, especially at night, it can be nerve wracking to set up a lightbox when everyone is eating. Part of their “Full Living” philosophy is to be healthy, but to also fully enjoy each experience. This means not requesting edits to menus or dishes, and planning special meals, dining out, and trying new things as a part of healthy living.
- Outside of Restaurant Week, are there any favorite Andersonville restaurants dishes? Chamere immediately answers Little Bad Wolf, the Wolf Burger. He celebrated his birthday there twice, and loves that restaurant. For Briana, Vincent is a favorite. As a weekend local Uber driver (she’s given 9,500 rides!) Briana recommends Vincent to her passengers often. Her Favorite Vincent dish? It’s hard to pick. Maybe the pate? “It’s to die for.” She loves that the restaurant is always trying new things, even down to the decor.
- Just a few weeks ago, Briana and Chamere took on Full Cup Route on our first ever Coffee & Hot Cocoa Crawl. Favorites were Ridman’s Coffee at Lawrence and Clark, which they enjoyed for their beautiful space and abundant natural light – a great place to work and photos. They visited Kopi Cafe for the first time, which is warm and cozy, living up to its reputation for being a truly international cafe. They discovered Lost Larson’s back patio and enjoyed the fire pit as well.
- The mastermind behind most of the recipes is Briana. “We’ll be driving, and she’ll be spouting off eighty different ideas. It’s constant, it’s all her, that’s her domain!” says Chamere. Briana didn’t used to consider herself a creative person, but then realized that her creativity shines through her food. She tries not to use dyes and use natural ingredients. If she doesn’t know how to do something, she watches YouTube to figure it out.
- Chamere asks Bri, “What are some of your favorite things you’ve made in the past year?” She answers, “Low-Carb Turtle Vanilla Cheesecake with candied pecans, chocolate crust and caramel sauce from scratch. And it’s SUGAR FREE. People can’t believe it’s sugar free, so that’s a big win.” Other favorite recipes of Briana’s include Low-Carb Death by Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies, and a Jalapeno-Popper Chicken Skillet with chicken thighs cream cheese, bacon, jalapenos, onions, garlic. She also created a Low-Carb Reuben Skillet with corned beef, mustard, swiss cheese and homemade thousand island dressing with sauerkraut, which blew up on Instagram. A favorite Briana created cocktails of Chamere’s is the Blood Orange Serrano Pepper Cocktail (see above), with infused Serrano tequila.
- Partners in both life and business, their lives have been enhanced by one another. (Queue romantic Mary J Blige tunes). It’s definitely given me a lot of confidence in starting another business, just being OK with the unknown and doing something with Bri that isn’t always certain. Some months are good, some months are not. But it’s a lot of fun, and it’s made me pick up a lot of skills like local design, coding a website, more photography skills, and a lot of marketing.” “Being with somebody, and working with somebody every day that I can really rely on – he’s such a hard worker, and he always comforts me. Being able to rely on him is just really really nice. I’m really grateful for that.”
- Another hobby of Chamere’s is his music, and he recently released an EP. House, hip-hop with ambient, jazz, video games, and films are all influences. He has gone by the artist name Minus One (one less thing you’re missing out on.) He’ll go by Chamere going forward. You can find his photography on IG as well, under @minusoneofficial.
- If Briana and Chamere could trade places with an Andersonville business for a day, it would be Little Bad Wolf for Chamere so he can learn how to make the Wolf Burger: a three patty with house-made pickles, fried onion straws, egg and bacon. “A delicious, well-made burger.” Briana would love to be at Vincent for a day, with their fun cocktail and menu offerings. She would love to see their creative process, and adds that she is especially a fan of their mussels. “They are always reinventing the wheel, but at the same time making you feel at home.”