“Hey Andrea, you look pretty tanned. Have you been Kaya-king?”
Andrea gave a polite smile as she patiently stirred her Kaya dish bubbling away on top of her electric cooker. Despitethe scorching weather, Chiobu Collective very much enjoyed our shoot with the 21 year old as even the overwhelming couldn’t possibly melt her bubbly personality away. Although many Singaporeans nowadays may take our traditional, delicious hawker food for granted, Chiobu Collective can safely say it is different for Andrea. In fact, in our first few interactions with the food enthusiast, she mentioned about how she had a soft spot for hawker food and wanted to document the making of traditional foods before they were forgotten.
Chiobu Collective couldn’t agree more and hence started a series which explores the art and making of Singapore’s very own traditional desserts and spread. After our shoot, Chiobu Collective sat with Andrea and got to know when the NUS student started documenting her love for food on her blog, how she worked her way to getting nominated at the Singapore Blog Awards 2014.
Q. What was the turning point for you after you started documenting your journey with food?
A: It wasn’t really one point of time. My blogging niche evolved over the years. I originally started out with a pure photography blog, and I suddenly over 1,000 followers overnight after someone noticed one of my pictures. Then I decided that I wanted to tell the story behind the photo, especially for the nice food I ate. I figured, since I liked these places, I might as well share them with my friends. And that’s how food blogging for me began.
However, I have been thinking about it recently, and I have decided not to focus solely on food anymore. I found it meaningless to just review food on a casual basis…anyone can do that. When it comes to reviewing food, it is best left to the Michelin food critics. I have decided that I want to shift the focus to people, culture and food! The focus of my blog is no longer just the food, but the people and traditions behind the dishes. The story and the company are just as important as the meal, and that’s what I want to document on my platform.
After all, awards are subjective, but quality content is attractive. Ultimately, I hope my readers will read what I write because they find it interesting, not because an award said so.
Q. Did you ever think it would have taken off and you would have been nominated as the Top 10 Cooking Blogs for Singapore Blog Awards 2014?
A: I never went into it expecting to get an award. It was definitely a pleasant surprise to make it to the Top 10 Cooking Blogs in Singapore, but f or me, the priority was never to win an award but it was to produce awardwinning content. My goal is to ensure my content has quality, because that’s what will attract and retain readers in the long run, not the fact that I was named ‘The Best ____ Blog’. After all, awards are subjective, but quality content is attractive. Ultimately, I hope my readers will read what I write because they find it interesting, not because an award said so.
Q. What inspired you to document your journey?
A: Everyone is always so busy that we rush through life without really paying attention to the small things. I chose to document this because it made me focus on the small things I could celebrate in life and interesting lessons that I learnt about a culture, from a conversation or even as I’m trying a new recipe.
Q. Were your family and friends supportive of your blog?
A: Initially, not really, which is understandable. Everything is impossible until it is successful. My parents sort of laughed it off at the beginning, but I think they are proud of how far I have come. My dad has been supporting me more recently, especially after I received more sponsorships and media invitations. He’s the sponsor of my website domain! (Thanks Dad!) My brother has always been my number 1 fan! He reads all my posts and comments on them. He is the best. My friends have always been supportive, and they drop me messages about certain posts that they like and what they want to read more of. They like to tease me when we’re eating and “the food isn’t up to Andrea’s standard.”
Q. Were there any memorable experience with one of your readers or with a particular dish?
A: I wrote about my work & travel farming experience in Canada last year, and there were a ton of photos of the people I met while travelling there. A reader suddenly emailed me saying that she recognised one of the guys that I had met, and said that he was her long lost friend, asking if I could give her contact to him. I checked with him, and it was true! So I managed to reconnect two old friends. I was really glad to be able to rekindle a lost friendship. Knowing my blog had a global outreach to bring people from around the world together was pretty neat!
Q. Are there other kinds of content can viewers expect from you in future on ChiobuTV?
A: You’ll see a lot more about culture and traditions, rather than just recipes. It won’t be limited to Singapore because I love travelling and learning about new countries and cultures. But I feel strongly about Singapore’s dying traditions, and if it’s possible I’d like to document that, whether through old school recipes, or visiting old school hawkers and talking to them. Perhaps in the future, I’d like to talk to people about their stories behind a special dish, learn how to make their special dish and document their stories. Especially the cute old grandparents who have age-old recipes that they have been making for years. I can’t say for sure yet, but it’ll always go back to the people, the culture and of course, good (homemade) food. It’s always about using food to connect with the community, from the preparation/cooking process to the time you enjoy the meal together, or even vicariously through the eyes of the reader.
Q. How do you think Chiobu Collective comes in to help artists continue to hone their craft?
I think many rising artists like myself often do not have the resources to break into the market as a one(wo)man show. So Chiobu Collective helps by pooling together resources to document our journeys and assist us in our artistic expression. For me, it was encouraging to know that there was a community of women like me who are ambitious and passionate about what they do, and eager to make a difference to the world in their own unique way.