Food blogging is really taking off in our wonderful city, thanks to Brisbane’s ever-evolving food scene. But, what is it like to be an actual food/beverage blogger?!
We catch up with Samantha Wijaya-Hickey from Sipping Brisbane to delve a little deeper!
Q. How did you get into food reviewing?
A. I started Sipping Brisbane as a hobby, snapping my orders when out and about, as a lot of people do. One day, a few months in, invites started coming through. I wasn’t expecting it – reviewing wasn’t really my aim but I thought “alright, let’s give this go”. I remember the very first event I went to, there were veteran bloggers there who were so welcoming and we all had a bunch of fun. Several events later, I felt that posting photos with only a short description of what I ate didn’t give the vendors much justice. I was editor at my college newsletter years ago so I know a bit about writing. I started re-using that skill and expanded my captions to include reviews that were more worthwhile.
Q. What do you think of Brisbane’s food scene in comparison to other big cities like Melbourne or Sydney?
A. It is incredibly exciting to see so many new venues popping up in Brisbane. So many, I can barely keep up! Unfortunately, with openings, there have also been several closures. We don’t have the same demographic or population as Melbourne and Sydney and we rarely see a restaurant buzzing here at 9pm on a Wednesday. Just when a place is starting to pick up, we can get distracted by another hot opening. I think we will definitely get there as venues build a loyal clientele. For now, the scene is still young, and even though we want quality and value, and the whole experience, it’s not enough for a venue to be a “great spot”, they need to have a point of difference.. with a bit of Queensland faire!
Q. How often do you dine out / review restaurants?
A. I try to keep outings down to 2-3 a week. Some weeks are quieter than others and some are super busy. This week I had 6 or 7 events and whilst I try to go to all of them, it’s not always possible. We also have kids and if a restaurant is flexible on a date, I try to include them to maintain that life balance. The kids are actually great at helping create content and Ava who is 7 will pop her own little review on her IG account. Some places also request that we bring the kids, which adds extra content all round!
Q. Are you literally living most peoples dreams (eating amazing food for free) – is it all it cracks up to be IRL?
A. It is definitely all it cracks up to be, although the bathroom scales may tell a different story! Obviously I love what I do otherwise I wouldn’t continue doing it and for me it’s more than just eating. It’s about supporting the industry, I enjoy meeting the owners/chefs and sommeliers and hearing their stories. When you start listening about the personal side of a business and the passion behind it, the partnership becomes more authentic and valuable.
Q. Your photos are great, how hard is it to get the right shot of the meal you are eating? Any tricky situations? People looking at you strangely for rearranging tables of whipping out lights?
A. Aw thank you so much!
IG is firstly a visual platform, photos need to be eye catching and in a sea of amazing photos, you have to do your best to make sure your photos have a chance to stand out. Getting the right shot can be a challenge and many people are curious as to why you’re moving plates around and aiming a torch at your dinner. But it’s about having the right lighting, finding the right angle, including a pretty background if it’s available, and then you go home and follow it up with a bit of editing. I’ve done shots where I’ve had to squat really low to get an angle (always seem to happen when I’m in heels!). One such shot was of avo on toast that I wanted to make a bit more interesting. It took a while, my thighs were burning but the shot turned out awesome. It was reported by a couple of mega accounts which was great extra exposure for that cafe!
Q. Do you have a favourite Brisbane restaurant / cafe / food truck / vendor? Who and why?
- Fine dining: Aria and Pony.
- Northside restaurant: Casa Cibo (the best crab linguine).
- Northside cafe: The Colour Nine and Arlette’s Kitchen.
- Asian: Spice Den and Moga.
- Burgers: Ribs & Burgers.
- Bars: La Lune and Customs House (especially the pop up bar!).
- East Brisbane: PawPaw (their Pad Thai is to die for).
There are so many others but I love these places not only for the good vibes, but they are also consistently welcoming and friendly to whoever walks in.
Q. Who do you think does Brisbane’s best food and wine pairings?
A. I recently attended a pairing hosted by Winnifred’s and Organic Champagne. They specialise and import small grower champagne directly from the Champagne region in France. The tasting was at Aria and the pairings were so divine, as you can imagine! What they do is work with different restaurants to select food that best matches the champagne and it’s always well thought out. The experiences are hosted throughout different Brisbane restaurants, and they also host private parties with the option of a private chef. So really, Brisbane’s best food and wine pairing could well be in a suburban dining room!
Q. When you are at home, do you eat the same type of cuisine as you do when you’re out and about? Can you cook?
A. I love cooking.. I have fun in the kitchen but I wouldn’t say it’s my forté! We eat and cook a lot of pasta.. if I could have pasta every night of the week for the rest of my life, I would! I also love all seafood. My husband makes the best BBQ salmon which we have on Sunday nights and call it Sexy Salmon Sundays. Earlier this year I did a collaboration with Channel Seven‘s MKR where I was invited to recreate dishes from the contestants. I was super hooked on the show, making the collab even more fun and inspired me to venture out and cook a wider range of cuisines. Currently working on that….
Q. Is there anything you don’t eat? Or have had to refuse/turn down at a restaurant?
A. As a foodie, I’m fine with most things but three things I simply avoid are carrots, peas and offal. I’ve been lucky at events and invites that I’ve never had a really terrible dish and even if a dish has something on it that I don’t particularly like, it’s not hard to eat around it without being rude. I have had to turn down a dish once.. it was our anniversary dinner at a high profile venue and I questioned my plate of octopus, which hadn’t been properly cleaned. Unfortunately, after speaking to the chef, they stood their ground and returned my plate with all the slimy octopus bits that I had spat out. We still visit occasionally but let’s just say I never ordered the octopus again.
Q. If you had to choose 5 Brisbane venues to eat before you died, which 5 would you choose and why?
A. Anywhere on Eagle Street Pier for the stunning views. Julius or Beccofino for the duck ragu. Proud Mary for the cocktails and amazing location. Louisiana Red Claw for their if-i-die-tomorrow-it’s-worth-it spicy seafood boil. And at home for my Salmon Sundays.
Who else wants Samantha’s job?! (yes, please)