I wanted to do a review initially, but I’ve been really peeved about comments I’ve received from people I know/don’t know, basically everyone, who assumes that being a food instagrammer/blogger is damn shiok, because we get to eat free food all the time. Hence, the following post.
First and very foremost, I would LOVE to clear the air that 90% of the reviews you read on my blog are paid with my very own money, as an undergraduate. Yes. You can finance your cafe hopping addiction as an undergraduate. Don’t lame, you don’t need to be damn rich to eat. (Let me share some tips with you guys at the end of this post). To be honest, the number of sponsored/media invites posts have been increasing over the past months. I used to have 99% of the reviews funded by myself, but now, it’s probably just 90% of them.
Why did I choose to do food blogging?
I chose to do this because I eat a lot and I love to eat. Also, I used to have the habit of googling about the cafe before heading down to check out the ambience, food, and especially the MENU. Must see how much first and see got budget to go then can go mah. However, I’m always not too pleased with the reviews I read because they are always missing something. For some, a personal take on the experience, as they seem to be describing the dish off the menu; others had no addresses or opening hours; while for most, there are no menus attached to them, and that is probably why I make it a point to do so in all my posts.
Since I’m eating so much, I might as well do something productive with it, right? That was the main reason why I came up with this blog to share my experiences with you guys, and hopefully be of some help to someone out there like me.
Woes of Being a Food Blogger
1) People assume you get free food all the time – It’s in fact very expensive.
This is the most annoying thing that I have to deal with almost everyday. I mean, yes I do get tastings, but no, I don’t get free food EVERY WHERE I GO. I am just Explodingbelly, I’m not like Lady IronChef or something. These guys are way out of my league and I don’t do this for a living. It is especially annoying because DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH MONEY WE HAVE SPENT AND INVESTED IN THIS?
You all know cafe food can be pretty crazily priced, like how they can price a low cost waffle with fried chicken for like $21. A main with a cup of coffee and dessert, would probably set you back at least $25 to $30. In fact, I do think that several average priced restaurants are even cheaper than going to cafes some times. Yes, we all pay for our own food, especially for cafe food. Every cafe date out with just 2 people would usually set us back about $50 to $60. On good days, $45. Besides, if I were to visit a cafe alone, that’s $20 per trip. BUT will you be happy if I were to blog with ONLY ONE ITEM ON THE MENU? I guess not. And yes, I have to make a return trip to spend another $20 or so, just to get a more balanced review.
This blog. I thought blogging was free. All my life. Until I decided to start blogging about food. My domain, my hosting for this little website you guys enjoy, all requires money. Because wa free blogs got very little space for me to upload my pictures. A few hundred dollars may not be a lot to you, but as a student, THAT IS 2 MONTHS MY TUITION PAY OK? AND THE NEW CAMERA. I GOT TO TAKE BETTER QUALITY PHOTOS. OUCH OK? But okay lah, I like sharper pictures, so let’s not rant about that. HAHA.
2) You get fat
This is my second biggest woe. I used to be really, really, really health conscious. Like #fitspo, #eatclean and shit. I prep my own meals everyday and ate chicken breasts at least 5 times a week. I have my cheat meals every weekend, and blogged about them. Caught on the fun with blogging and food photography, and I decided to let this clean eating take a back seat.
This is really what I eat everyday.
While I love the gym and lifting weights, it is quite tiring some times to force yourself to the gym because you ate too much the day before, or know that you’re gonna eat a lot. Really. So for those of you who have been wondering why I’m in the gym everyday, it’s the food. And I’m actually very sad that I’m undoing all the hard work by stuffing my face with food. Some times, you even have to starve yourself in the day, just so you can control your daily intake of calories. #truestory
I know some of you may be like if cannot finish or don’t want to eat so much then you control yourself lah. I also know, easier said than done. If 2 people share 1 main, how to write blog post? And if it’s a tasting, some times it may not be nice to waste food, also, the owners may misinterpret your intentions and feel disappointed that their food isn’t of standard.
3) It’s extremely time consuming
While I do go for tastings, it is not all sunshine and unicorns. Taking your time out of your schedule to travel for tastings can be time consuming, especially if you have to take the public transport, and try to navigate your way there. While at it, you’ve got to snap pictures of food, and that.. Takes a damn long while, especially if you’re in a group tasting session, because everyone has to snap pictures too. Many people, few nice angles = Take damn long. ALSO, all our photos need to edit one okay? Phone cameras or good cameras also the same hor.
Damn kua zhang (exaggerated).
Even if it’s not for tastings, traveling to cover different places to generate content and inform your followers of new openings for your instagram and blog requires time too. It would be REALLY AWESOME if the new cafes decide to open “officially” and not be ready for operations at all, causing a wasted trip, or a need for a return visit. Behind the facade of exciting and pretty food pictures, we face such problems on a pretty regular basis, that our followers may not even be aware of. Also, being the first might also mean the cafe may be in their trial and error stage, and you eat really crappy food.
For loners like me, tasting sessions can get intimidating as well, because of the need to socialize, and not being able to eat your food in peace. It makes things better if you know the group of individuals at the same tasting sessions, otherwise, it can get quiteeeee awkward.
4) You eat cold food
Behind the pretty pictures, it’s the crazy amounts of time, styling, getting of the right angles and adjusting your camera settings for the environment. It gets pretty stressful for me some times to take pictures of my food, especially after a few bad shots, or under very challenging lighting. I get really annoyed by the fact that I can’t portray the food as well as it was presented for me, and I’m not doing it justice, so I’ll keep trying until I get a decent shot. Besides, not all places serve their food very instagram worthily, and you have to take time to make sure you help them to make their food look nice.
See melt already. No lah, this one it’s cause we poured the espresso over. HAHA.
By the time you start to eat, your latte art has already disintegrated with all that bubbles, and food has already cooled down. 99% of the time, cold food doesn’t affect our experience because we are used to it, and to me, if it’s good, it’s good. Maybe except for beef and ice cream, don’t take too long for those, obviously. You cannot imagine the excitement and joy that I get whenever I don’t have to take pictures of my food and straightaway dive into grabbing them in my mouth. Yes, very deprived, this girl.
5) People always assume you have the best ideas.
It’s not like I am selfish, but some times it really gets quite tiring when you always have to be the one to decide where to eat, what to eat, and what’s good or not. People have the expectations of you to make the best decision for food, without understanding the fact that, the more you eat, the more hmmm how should I put it.. refined/experienced? your tastebuds get, and honestly, one man’s feast can be the another man’s poison.
Every one has different preferences for food and it is damn sian to be all up to you to give ideas and stuff. Ya I know that I am aware of more places, but hor, if you want me to suggest a place, at least.. Narrow down the search lah. You know websites like Openrice and Hungrygowhere, also must narrow search one right? My brain is the same. Tell me the location, budget, number of people and type of cuisine lah. And not nice, don’t blame me lah, some times the place not consistent, some times my taste buds spoil, some times we order the different dishes, most of the time, this doesn’t happen. So.. Heng ah.
Well.. Let’s put it this way, as long as you are working in a tiny circle where you have cliques, and some people doing it NOT out of passion, but for the benefits, there will be politics. It’s like omg.. Why can’t we just co-exist peacefully?
I am not amused.
Why am I still doing it?
Ya I complain a lot ah. That’s ME. Ranting queen. Despite all the nonsense, and the occasional rant, I would think this hobby is something that has opened my eyes to 1/10000 of the world even more. Who would think an online platform like Instagram or Blog would let you learn things about the real world? I did, and I’m glad I did. Otherwise, I would be still bubble wrapped in my own bubble of a perfect world.
1) Do everything with passion
I’m still doing this because I like writing. I like sharing my experiences, I like talking to myself, basically. That’s why I blog. I feel extremely happy and fulfilled when people tell me that they found a good place to eat because of my reviews, or when cafe owners tell me that they like my pictures. It’s the little things that count, it’s the little comments that make my day most of the time. Knowing that just a little input from you in this World Wide Web could actually help someone to find a good place to eat, is quite shiok lah. Even though not as cool as saving the world or something.
2) I learned a lot along the way
Like I’ve said, this experience has allowed me to learn about people, and opened my eyes to the world. I’ve also met amazing people from Instagram and tastings, that till today I still find it amazing that I did, because my mother say cannot anyhow talk to strangers, especially online.The events I’ve been invited to through my blog has also been extremely eye-opening, like the tea appreciation session. I never knew tea making got competition one. And since then, I really appreciated tea A LOT more. I also get to try a lot of different foods, and cuisines and explored different places through the love of food and the passion to find better places for food! It’s great, really.
See! Make Xiao Long Bao leh!
3) Where do I get the money from?
Yes, the million dollar question. Honestly, if you want to go into food blogging just for the benefits, it’s not worth it. My friends and I have looked into this. 1. You get fat. 2. You spend a lot of money. The benefit? You get tastings – and it makes you fatter. That’s the only benefit really. If you want to do anything, just stick to what your parents taught you – Do everything with passion. Do it because you like it, do it without expecting anything in return.
The best way to cafe hop? GO with a group of friends. Splitting the cost amongst 3-4 friends really makes it better. You can pay the same price as you go alone, but get to try more food. OR like what I usually do with my friends, we share 2 mains and a few sides amongst 3 to 4 of us, and we spend WAY lesser, and can visit more places. Besides it is always fun hanging out with like-minded people.
Earn money, go teach tuition. Don’t eat good food everyday. Save up for the weekend to go eat!
Read my article: http://explodingbelly.com/2015/09/23/9-cafes-to-go-on-a-budget/ HAHA! Advertising much. But it’s true!
Also, go figure out the use of apps like The Entertainer App or Sugar App to get more bang for your buck. The Entertainer App requires an annual subscription fee of $60, but you get 1 for 1 deals at ALOT of places, like Jewel Coffee! SHIOK. They even have offers for Fat Cow too! It’s best to go on a date with this app. Sugar app allows you to skim prices of certain items of a place at selected places. I got my sandwiches from Bread Yard for just $2. Besides when you first sign up, you get FREE $10 credits. That means, I got my sandwich for free. Shiok? Shiok.
Yes okay, that’s the end of my rant and I feel so much better now. I should go back and do my work.