Interview with Singapore "My Paper 我报"

1. Why Johor food?

I wanted a bit of adventure and more fun. Something less familiar, somewhere that lets me discover something surprising everyday. I like that euphoria of
uncovering a good food find, in unlikely places, off the beaten track yet accessible. In Johor, I don't have to go too far to have such a playground where every meal is literary an adventure.

2. To add on to this question, why are you particularly interested in Johor food and choose to write about Johor food instead of Singapore food with a similarly strong hawker culture?

What was initially just motivated by curiosity quickly took on a new purpose when I soon realised that the heritage hawkers of Johor are retiring and many of their stories have not been told. It became a race against time as I feel sad when I hear about famous hawkers retiring without a successor and without their life time of contributions documented anywhere.

I welcome bloggers to join me in this mission of writing the stories of heritage hawkers.

While Johor Kaki is anchored on Johor food and travel, I blog about other exciting food and places occasionally, and that includes Singapore, of course.

3. On your blog: “No paid reviews in Johor Kaki.” Why so? Have you not thought of taking paid reviews and ease some website running costs?

Yeah, this is a stringent rule I imposed on myself. I feel that this is the best way to ensure that Johor Kaki is objective. Of course, I have to think about running costs like petrol, photographic gear, costs of food, broadband charges, web hosting etc I have to look for other means to recover the costs and sustain the blog, it's just that I have ruled out paid food reviews.

4. With that asked, how much do you spend running Johor Kaki blog/s (because you have a Chinese version blog as well) on average each month? Do you feel a strain or perhaps, not at all because it is money well spent on your passion?

I estimate I spend roughly SGD1,000 a month running the blog(s). To me, it is definitely money very well spent. I feel very happy that I have helped many good hawkers and they constantly tell me so. Readers also found Johor Kaki a reliable reference when they look for food in Johor. Many Johoreans told me that they are rediscovering their own home state through Johor Kaki. I've made many new friends, whom I would never have met, had it not been for Johor Kaki blog. For me, these are priceless, and reward enough.

5. There is no paid food reviews for Johor Kaki, but you do attend food tasting sessions. In such cases, have you faced any difficulty in upholding your blogging  integrity and style since you might have to answer to the hosts for the “free meals”? If yes, how do you deal with them?

When I respond to food tasting invites, I always make clear and upfront to the hosts that I will only post food that I liked and which I want my readers to enjoy as well. I accept a food tasting only when the host agrees to this principle. There had been several occasions where I did not post after the food tasting. In such cases, I give my feedback about the food to the hosts and say that I am willing to come back again after a period of time. The hosts always graciously accept the feedback because they are serious about their businesses. There have been cases where I post about a restaurant only after my third food tasting visit.

For the benefit of readers, I state clearly that it is an invited food tasting within the first sentence of my post together with a URL link to a full statement of Johor Kaki's invited food tasting policy.

6. You run a English blog and also a Chinese one. What made you do this? What are the differences between the 2? (Though it is clear that the English one is your primary one.) Tell us more about the pros and cons of running these 2 blogs.

I have a Chinese Johor Kaki blog because I want to share Johor Kaki with the Chinese reading audience. I want them to know about the good Johor hawkers too. I intend to launch a Malay Johor Kaki blog in the near future. As I am fluent only in English, I rely on the help of my friends for translation on the Chinese Johor Kaki blog. My friends help me as and when they have the time. Hence, the Chinese version is slower growing. Ideally, I would like all versions
of Johor Kaki blog - English, Chinese, and Malay to be equal.

7. How often do you have food in Johor in a week? Does it includes food from different places such as street food, hawker, casual dining restaurants, fine dining etc?

Almost everyday :) I travel to all parts of Johor such as Pontian, Batu Pahat, Muar, Yong Peng, Kota Tinggi, Mersing and so on. Each town has their own local food speciality and hawker heroes. I especially enjoy driving into tiny towns off the beaten track such Paloh, Bekok etc. I found that Johor Kaki posts about these small towns resonate very well with readers from these places. The attachment to home town food is very strong.

I write about all food, from back alley, push cart street hawkers to exquisite fine dining. From Ramly street burgers to Wagyu steaks in exclusive restaurants. I even enjoy writing about home based food businesses like home bake shops.

8. Do you think you will ever run out of things to write/ review on Johor Kaki?

I don't think so LOL. Johor is so large, there are so many places I haven't even heard about yet. And, the Johor food scene is growing very fast, in tandem with the Iskandar Development Region. Investments and population are growing rapidly. Many new restaurants are sprouting up. Actually, there are much, much more than Johor Kaki could cover. I hope more bloggers will join me.

Tony

19 July 2013

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I firmly believe that taste is subjective and so, warmly welcome differing viewpoints :-D But, I disapprove negative comments that are anonymous or hide behind fake identities. I feel that that is unethical in the same way as speaking ill of others behind their backs. I look forward to all your comments :-D Thank you. (Date: 18 Dec 2015)

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