Nowadays in Indonesia especially Jakarta becoming a blogger is a phenomena amongst Gen Y where we all very connected through our social media. Building friendship through interactions – likes, comments – on the social media profile. Then continue to develop more through meetup. From travel, food, technology, to fashion, it seems these bloggers have what it takes to talk about the subject. One industry that has the interest of locals is the Culinary industry. New restaurants or cafe are opening in town, and this balance out with places force to shut their business due to increasing competition.
Here, I would like to share views from Ruby the man behind Wanderbites, Culinary Bonanza by Ellyna the lady famous for its striking red hair, and Rian Farisa from The Gastronomy Aficionado. After Q&A section with these bloggers, I believe they have what it takes on how to build and sustain a food blog in these crowded market.
What makes you choose to be a food blogger?
Ruby (R): I never choose to be a food blogger. I only follow my passion, which are photography, writing, and eating. People who give me label, as a “food blogger” is not me.
Ellyna (E):It came from my love of food and trying new places to eat.
Rian Farisa (RF): Because I love to eat. You can see from my tummy . Well, when I learn and implement my English skill, of course the higher my skill the most part that will utilize are writing and/or conversation. As the opportunity to use English daily is very limited hence I decided to write. The easiest method and free method in 2009 was through blogging. To be honest, when Friendster is the go-to social media, I tried several time to blog through that platform. However, in 2009 I decided to commit blogging via WordPress and this is continue until now.
How to choose your blog topic?
R: I always look what’s the story behind this place. When a reader stumble and read my blog, they must know there is restaurant review and street food column. Both of them are equally important to me whether it’s from Indonesia or abroad. By looking at both side – street food and restaurant – we would gain comprehensive knowledge on the culinary industry of the country.
E : Random. Depends on where I eat at the time or my writing mood.
RF: As I said before, that’s easy. It’s because I love food, I love having food as the finer things in life aside from other forms of lifestyle such as music or film. Also it’s because food is more accessible for everyone and I think by writing about it feels like having a secret key to anyone’s heart.
Do you start blogging as a full-time or part-time first? When is the right time to pursue full-time blogging?
R: I never be a full-time blogger. Until now I only blog when I have free time.
E: Now this blog is my hobby. I have not think to take this blog too serious because I still work for my family business.
RF: First blogging as a hobby but after in times this blog has generate enough income for me and then I decide to become full-time; Accepting the ups and downs of being a full-time blogger. There is no specific time if you want to become a full-time blogger but you need to know what you want to achieve through this blog. The vision. Is it solely for fun, financial freedom, opportunity from blogging, or else? you have to choose. But, the time to start is now. In the end, blogging takes time and not instant.
What made you stand out among other blogger?
R: How to tell a story. Quality of photos. Authenticity. Whenever I come across a bad dish I always tell the truth. I tell it in a constructive manner tough.
E: Places I visited and try, style of photos and writing. There are many blogs that are visually attractive (pretty and attractive photos) yet does not relevant with the topic or writing. When I blog I focus on my writing, sometimes it looks very editorial. The reason is I want to share informative info about a place and not share my personal life.
RF: From the beginning I direct my blog as a medium for me to become a journalist or international writer. I think this what differentiates me from other blogger. The need to write informative and helpful article that help readers. Of course this is a process that need a continuous improvement. Other bloggers essentially creates their own signature. A blogger who’s talented in photography / has basic photography could be a food photographer. Someone who has a web design skill eventually the blog become their own portfolio.
How long it takes for your blog to receive steady visitor and keep increasing too?
R: Around 3 -6 months if you post regularly and maintain a good quality writing.
E: Approximately 6 months after the blog running.
RF: Around 1 year. I made my blog in 2009. I think now to start a blog focus on food is getting more and more difficult since the blogging market is getting more saturated. Several who has high Instagram followers are lucky because there they got the most traffic from.
Who’s your inspiration for food blogger?
R: Katie Quinn Davis from What Katie Ate.
E: None specific. I seldom read other blog. Currently I’m more interested reading food related article from Eater.com, Finedininglovers.com, Buzzfeed, Seriouseats.com, and Huffington Post.
RF: I admire renowned food writer from big publisher in the US. One of my favorite is Sam Sifton. At the time when I started to blog he was the Food Critics for New York Times. I also admire Ruth Reichl poetic writing style on each writing about food. Hence, I try to experiment on my writing style to be more poetic. In terms of writing quality, I received many feedback from other editors and writers. Eventually this improves my writing quality.
Are you busy doing cafe or restaurant hunting on daily basis?
R: On daily basis I’m busy working as a food photographer and videographer. I also have my own company that focus on self-development. Hence 70% – 80% of my time is dedicated to that and the remaining is for blogging. I do random Café or restaurant hopping when its lunchtime or on weekend.
E: I have a 9 to 5 full-time job. Whenever I receive invitation I try to go to the most important one or I really looking forward to it. I keep professional between work with family and maintaining this blog. I cannot count the days I have to sleep really late to finish editing photo and updating the blog.
RF: Restaurant or cafe hopping has been less and less. Especially now when I have more responsibilities. However, there are times when I’m traveling I try my best to try new place and explore the culinary part of the city. Also, mostly I work at home or cafe while I tried to finish one or two articles and edit photos for my blog.
Have you encounter any problem while being a food blogger?
R: If you mean is paid review, so far I have no problem. Nowadays I have very little time hence I it’s difficult for me to accept and come a restaurant invitation.
E: Maintain my weight. Also, one time when I criticize a new restaurant by chance the owner read my writing. Then, through them I get information because of my review all staff goes to meeting to discuss. Hence, I unpublished my article. Thankfully my relationship with the restaurant PR is still good.
RF: Almost none. But, one time I write experience about a certain restaurant for a magazine. I write my honest experience.. When the article published one of the staff left derogatory remarks on the comment box without realizing he/she left their identity. I just laugh and ignore it. Of course I delete the comments.
Congratulations! I see that your blog is huge now. When it started to receive attention from media or brand?
R: I started my blog in 2010. Around 1.5 – 2 years running brand started to explore my food blog. In my opinion, people start to appreciate food blog in 2012.
E: When I joined Instagram.
RF: 1 year after starting my blog. Media and journalists friends from online and offline media started seeing my writing skill. From then there are the several partnership in terms of content producing and branding. This still ongoing regularly.
What it takes to become a food blogger?
R: Gotta have passion for food, understanding of the culinary world and credibility. The passion to keep writing even tough blog traffic is still low. Fully understand to write meaningfully and know what and why you choose to comment on the food or dish. Stating your opinion and idea to build and give improvement to the industry and not bringing it down.
E: Love and appreciation about food is essential.
RF: First, is the vision to share your knowledge. Then, you need to be persistent. Make sure what you write or make is up to the highest standard and not only for fame. With the spirit of sharing, blogging wont be only to gain fame hence we give better contribution to the community surround us. You need to dedicate yourself fully. This become the basis for your productivity.
Creativity plays an important role too, as you need to adapt to the latest trend. Variation and constant learning is essential to keep improving our knowledge on sharing our experience through writing.
In your opinion, when would the blogging phenomena would phase out?
R: Not sure. Just enjoy the ride. I never wish this blog would be phenomena. So, I don’t mind if in the future it’s not a phenomena anymore.
E: I think this trend would last long. There will be new blog coming out.
RF: As long as the spirit of sharing and writing still intact, I’m sure blogging will last quite long. Especially this profession won’t have effect when there’s force major. A writer’s to be always a step ahead of the game, they need to constantly learning, think creatively, and making improvement at their writing style.
What is your favorite food or dish?
R: My favorite food is Bagansiapi-Api from my hometown. I also love Rujak Bagan, Curry rice, and Bagan noodle.
E: Right now I don’t have any special preference. I hope in the future when I have the opportunity to taste more dishes and places, I would have 1 favorite restaurant.
RF: At my position today its frustrating to choose 1 favorite place or food because of the culinary experience I’ve done. In fact at this point is where I reminiscence the food old days such as eating porridge or a simple fried rice. Also, historical places to eat in Bandung such as Toko You or Suis Butcher even tough if we compare the taste there are many competitors that can match it.
How to be the first to know if there’s new restaurant opening?
R: If you’re online and you have good circle of foodies, you’ll know one way or another.
E: Nothing special. Everything is by chance or when the restaurant contact to give info about opening place or new menu.
RF: Technology plays an important part. Access to information is becoming easier. Other than receiving personal invitation from the restaurant, I usually get information from fellow bloggers and restaurant directory.
You might recall that particular scene from Friends where Joey Tribbiani shouted the lady he’s dining with for trying to grab fries from his plate. Well, He’s no Tribbiani in that sense. According to Ruby, he’s a Tribbiani who love food and just can’t seem to get enough of it. An Om-nom-nom-nivore, foodie, aficionado, or whatever you want to call Ruby. A Tribbiani who’s strong in culture. While he’s Italian, Ruby is Indonesian with Chinese roots. This defines his palate and the food he enjoyed the most. While Ruby have tasted Michelin Star restaurants, he still find ultimate comfort in Cheese Martabak. Quoting Ruby: “So call me a food blogger, food writer, whatever, but I prefer the term “Food Storyteller” cause essentially that’s what I love, sharing stories of food, travel, culinary hits and misses”.
By refusing to accept his fate as a bored banker, Rian decided to embark on an exciting journey to become a full-fledged writer by sharing his foodie’s life account in a blog. Just within a year, Rian started to enjoy his newfound, secret part-time life as a food writer for lifestyle magazines, in-flight magazines, newspapers, and occasionally as a food correspondent for a national TV station. Rian finally embraced his other life as his main job since 2012 and currently enjoys his stature as the writer for The Foodie Magazine, while at times he also shares his two cents about food with everybody he encounters.
Culinary Bonanza (circa August 2011) is a personal blog, which Ellyna manage all by herself. It started out as a medium in which she pour about her personal thoughts and feelings, but after a few posts, she decided to focus the content to just one topic – her passion about food. Ellyna sees herself as a blogger with attitude. Quoting her: I dislike wasting food, I have an issue with body image, I run to keep track of calories I ingested, and I do not believe in publishing criticism.
Text: Shabrina Koeswologito