1. Cuisine

So You Want to Be a Food Blogger?: Tips for Budding Food Bloggers in Singapore

Merry Christmas! As a gift to our readers, this is a piece written for those who want to be food bloggers.


The “f” Word from the second student is “Food.” So “Food Blog” has two 4-letter words. (Image reproduced from My Battle with RA.)

Tips for Budding Food Bloggers

RERG is relatively new and there are many people more qualified to dispense advice but since a reader asks for tips… To tell the truth, we made quite a number of mistakes and had quite a difficult time breaking into the food blogging scene and we wouldn’t wish such difficulty on budding food bloggers. We welcome and want to help new food bloggers. So here it is:

1. Objective of a Food Blog

Food induces memories and nostalgia; RERG started off with documenting our friendship and love for one another with the food we ate together but along the way, a contributor suggested we should do better and break into the food blogging scene. He suggested it because he thought it would be fun to be at events and parties. We are a quirky bunch and do strange things to escape our ennui. So ask yourself, what do you hope to achieve? If you’re only documenting food as your daily memory–where you ate this and whom you ate with–then you can stop reading here. You can do whatever you like with your blog.

There are only three reasons to blog: Fame, money or food? If you want fame or money, it’s virtually impossible. It takes years to build up your reputation, and we only know one food blogger who manages to make money out of food blogging. At RERG, we started out for the passion of food. Without passion, you cannot convey your love for food to the readers and your blog won’t survive. But as we evolve, we realize we want to do some public good, inform the public about the food they eat.


Reproduced from Sunbyanyname

2. What Is Your Angle? 

Many food blogs are unfocused without a general theme. At RERG, our angle is political. If you read our “About” page, we believe in diversity and equality and our choice of food reflects our beliefs. Our review on Saveur Restaurantinvestigation of the quality of hospital food in Singapore; and coverage on Bake a Singapore event  illustrate what we mean by food as political and social concerns. (Is it a wonder why so many of our ministers use food as metaphors in their speeches?)

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This photo illustrates what we mean by food taking on political and cultural significance. Many political decisions are made over informal meals. In the photo, Lee Hsien Loong meets religious leaders regularly to keep in touch. The religion represented here include Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism. Guess what was served? Our guess is “mee siam mai hum” but a better guess is vegetarian food for all? PS: We love the roundtable sitting, very democratic. Photo taken from Lee Hsien Long’s Facebook, taken by Kenji Soon. 

Other focused blogs are SG Food on Foot, which gives you directions to eateries by MRT (but if he ever drives a car, we’ll call him out on false advertising! heh); Six & SevenThe Food Nomads and Daniel Food Diary write on new eateries (lots of competition there so we’d advise you take on a new angle); Wen’s Delight gives you baking recipes; so.moo.food mostly visits cafes; the vegetarian blog, Hungry Ang Mo; and of course, I Shoot I Eat I Post writes mostly on hawker food.

3. Great Photos Are a Must

Borrow from National Library Helene Dujardin’s Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling, which is better than Nicole S. Young’s Food Photography (also available at National Library). Our favorite food photographers include I Shoot I Eat I Post, Melicacy and Gourmet Estorie.

4. Read

“The crust is as crunchy as a butter cookie, so brittle that it cracks audibly when you press it with your fork; grains of cinnamon sugar bounce off the surface as it shatters. The bottom crust is softer than the top, but browned and still breakable. Where the top and bottom meet, there’s a knotty cord of dough that becomes impregnated with enough fruit filling to make it chewy. Inside is a dense apple pack of firm Ida Red crescents bound in syrupy juice.” — Jane and Michael Stern in Gourmet.

What a glorious piece of writing! Reading improves your writing; lets you know what can be or cannot be done; and gives you new insights and knowledge about food and new restaurants. Read magazines–8Days, Epicure, Appetite, I.S., TimeOut–and newspapers, Sunday Times and New York Times. More importantly, read your fellow food bloggers. We store all the fellow bloggers’ URLs in our Google Reader, makes it easier to read.

Also: read great books from authors such as James Beard, Julia Child, Mark Kurlansky, A. J. Liebling, M. F. K Fisher, Calvin Trillin, The Best Food Writing anthologies (a yearly publication), and The Penguin Book of Food and Drink.

5. Eat a Lot, Research, Learn, Then Eat Again.  Acquire Taste.

If it’s the first time you’re eating such a food, reserve judgement. Go home and research. How is it suppose to taste like? Where is it from? What is so special about it? What are the cultural influences? And then try to remember the nomenclature of the food and see if you have the opportunity to eat it again. Experience will help you develop taste, and taste is most important in any food writers.

6. Write Well.

Yikes, at first, when we started, we experimented with the voice of an ah beng, which makes reading difficult. We learn the hard way. There are two ways of writing well:

a. Develop a Style.

This doesn’t mean you have to impose yourself on the readers. (Read this article about the ultimate aim of a food writer.) Developing a style doesn’t mean you’ve to show your personality; developing a style means if we read a certain piece, we would know who wrote it. It’s quite like English literature: every writer has his or her own distinctive style of writing and the writer is merely an observer. Never impose your personality onto your readers; it shows your egotism.

b. Describe Food. Words Are Important.

Calvin Trillin, food writer of New Yorker magazine, claims he doesn’t describe food in anything he writes. Which is an amazing feat, considering his illustrious career. For us at RERG, we try to describe food so that readers can envision the taste in their minds as they read our reviews; that is our ultimate aim, to write so well that readers salivate. Avoid vague words like “delicious,” “wonderful” etc, a mistake we commit very often here. Use precise words like “citrus,” “crackle,” “dust with..”

Two of our pet peeves are people using the words “unctuous” and “authentic.” We hate the word “unctuous” because it means an “oily” person, not food, such as a person who kisses ass, a bootlicker. If you don’t know the meaning of a word, don’t use it. We hate “authentic” because there is really no such thing as “authentic” cuisine. If you go to Thailand, you’ll eat a hundred versions of pad thai – so which one is “authentic”? One of our favorite food bloggers, Yum Yum For My Tum Tum‘s pet peeve is he hates people using the words “melts in your mouth.” Every food writer will have his or her own pet peeves.


Reproduced from Just Call Me Frank

c. Write Negative Reviews.

A reviewer must pass judgement on the food s/he eats. If s/he merely describes it, then we might as well read the menu. How can a description be considered a review?

Therefore, express your opinions, which is harder than you think. A blog with entirely good reviews is as unreliable as a blog with entirely bad reviews. There are always some good and bad things you can say about an eatery. Strike a fair and honest balance in the review. If you like the place, enthuse over it. Many food writers are afraid to do so because readers may think they are not objective but we at RERG believe that eateries that do well deserve the recognition. On the other hand, if you truly dislike the eatery, state the reasons but don’t be bitchy about it.

Be honest in your review and to the PR even if it’s an invited tasting. Your duty is to the readers, not the food companies. State clearly whether the review is an invited tasting, an advertorial or you paid on your own. Readers usually trust reviewers who pay for themselves so try to do a mixed of invited tastings and eateries you pay yourself.

Be warned: Writing a negative review is actually very damaging to a food blogger because if the restaurant belongs to a group with many other restaurants under the belt, the group will hate you forever and will not ask you back for a review. We also have restaurants asking their friends and supporters to inundate us with snide comments on our judgement. Our worst experience is with a rude PR of a chocolate shop at Robertson Quay, telling us: “Please correct your articles asap.” She was doubting our taste and telling us what we could or could not say. The reviews–we went twice–were actually positive: we gave 9/10 on the first time and 7/10 for the second. But obviously, she wanted wholly positive reviews, so we deleted them. The shop was a favorite of ours but from then on, we don’t patronize it.

7. Logistics of a Food Blog

a. Self-Hosted Blog or Templates?

Do you want to get a “.com” or just use blogspot, wordpress or tumblr? The advantages of using a self-hosted site is that you’ve more freedom, appear more respectable and you can earn money from ads. But the cons include that you have to learn lots of internet-speak, which is very tedious. Since RERG is just a hobby, we don’t see the need to have a self-hosted site.

b. Blog Two Days a Week. 250 Words Per Entry.

Obviously the more you blog, the more you’d encourage people to return to your blog. It is estimated that 250 words are all the patience a reader has but here at RERG, we don’t stick to the word limit. We need a full space to express our creativity. Rules are meant to be broken. #badass.

8. How to Break into the Food Blogging Scene?

This is the most difficult part. In Dianne Jacob’s Will Write For Food, there are two ways: (1) be in the media industry (Daniel Food Diary and Miss Tam Chiak) OR (2) be in food industry, such as cook (Cook Snap Eat Love and His Food Blog) and food PR (Super Fine Feline or Hungry Cow). Obviously the two ways are impossible for most of us.

Let you in on a secret. A PR friend told us that many PRs don’t do homework: they don’t keep up with who the best or popular food bloggers are because they are already so busy with their work. Furthermore, PRs might think that new food bloggers may not be as reliable and dependable as old-timers. That’s why PRs invite the same people, people they already know, back to their restaurants.

So there are two solutions: write for an established site first and get to know the contacts before starting out your own blog OR introduce yourself to the PR companies when you are ready (preferably having more than 1, 000 unique readers a day). Be patient with the numbers. Readership will grow as long as you persevere.


Reproduced from Same Facts

Why do you want to know PRs? Four reasons: (1) Be in the know: Because PRs are in charge of the newest restaurants, which means you are aware of what the going-ons are in the food scene. (2) Accuracy: During food tasting, you get to sample a wide variety of dishes, giving you a more accurate gauge on the standard of the restaurant. (3) Knowledge: PRs also provide you with press releases that have vital information on food, ingredients, how it is prepared and background stories of the chefs which may be useful to know the philosophy of the chef’s cooking. The press releases will increase your knowledge and enjoyment of the food. You’re more informed, you write better reviews.

Besides writing better reviews, the fourth reason for knowing PRs is more practical: it frees up your money to visit other restaurants you want to visit.

Start by posting on review sites like Hungry Go Where and Open Rice. This is how most food bloggers started. Sometimes HGW or OR will invite you to write for them, which is a good opportunity to meet people.

Another great opportunity that we had was to be a finalist for OMY Blog Awards 2012.

9. Be Generous and Kind

Be kind. Try to be the type of person that would say things in front of the people what you say behind their backs. Be generous. A very Singaporean mentality: people are very kiasu and selfish about their success and they don’t want to share. But if one day you become successful, be generous and share your tips with other people. Help a new blogger out. Pay it forward. Just because someone is popular doesn’t make you less popular. This is not a competition. You do your stuff, let others do theirs. There are no winners or losers. If you help someone out and that person doesn’t help you in return, it’s no loss and in fact you gain karma points. Be the bigger person. Don’t do things out of a desire to be repaid; do things out of a desire to be a kind person because being a good person is better than being a popular blogger.

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Categories: 1. Cuisine

25 replies »

  1. Congrats. You have successfully break into the food blogging scene and have finally arrived. What is your stand on food tasting? Most of the blogs mentioned in this post rely heavily on tastings to keep their blogs going.

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    • We are just doing our thing. Dunno if it means breaking into the scene or not.

      I think readers these days are clever and cautious about what they read on internet. If they know that the review is a tasting, it means that the chef will put in extra effort to make the food tasty. however, we have encountered bad tastings and reported it honestly. so Tastings are fine as long as the invited blogger states that it’s a tasting and be honest about the food.

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      • You mentioned in para one you had a difficult time breaking into the scene and wouldn’t wish the same for budding food bloggers as motivation to the post. Thus, the premises are 1. You broke into the scene 2. You are in the position to provide tips to budding food bloggers. So, it will be nice if you can explain what is your understanding of breaking into the scene in Singapore’s context and whether you think your blog has already broken into the scene. I am intrigued by this piece of writing. Will be grateful if you can clarify some of my doubts, let me know what you think and not what Jacob (2010) wrote in her book.

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        • The reason why we ask you to look at jacob’s book is because we used it as research while writing this piece and “breaking into the scene” is a phrase she uses.

          Treat this piece as a secondary school student giving tuition to a primary school student? It’s written in goodwill, don’t overthink and nitpick, mr or miss curmudgeon. :)

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  2. Point 9 is a really good point and hard to execute at many times. I was a little nervous upon reading the first paragraph of Point 2, and was so surprised you linked up my blog…anyhoo..thanks!

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  3. It’s interesting to know even though my blog is not a food blog, more of just a record of what I ate and if I enjoyed eating at the place. Thanks for sharing! Great post!

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    • “budding food bloggers” is a phrase that we took from one of our readers. The reader asked, “Do you have any tips for budding food bloggers like me?” So we took the phrase.

      Like we said in the introduction, we are very green. Eating is a long long art, and we have only started to learn. Take this piece like a secondary school student giving tuition to a primary school student.

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  4. Don’t worry this is my final communication on this matter :) you are free to publish or not publish this. The signals secondary students give to primary school students they tutor have implications on the primary school students’ behaviour. There are many loaded statements in this post worth considering. Finally, cheers to your fruitful blogging life :)

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  5. Hi!

    I found this article while websurfing. I’m a blogger myself, new in this scene altogether and this post has managed to tie up a lot of loose ends for me! Thanks for sharing, definitely some valuable take-home advice here! Hope that you guys will keep writing for a very long time, and that the passion for food (especially for food in Singapore) never runs dry. Will keep reading :)

    X.
    Estella

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  6. I just stumbled upon this – and I have to say that the part about pet-peeve-words reminded me of this article here. I’m guilty of unctuous on yolks – so sorry – but the dictionary does have a definition (read b.) that makes unctuous still applicable!

    and great article – I’ll try and keep these in mind.

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