MEET JOHNNY CHENG
Can you tell our readers about yourself and your blog?
Well, in regards to myself... I love networking. I think that in any business or career path you decide to go into, it is not what you know but who you know. I believe that this applies to anything you do. With that being said, because I love to connect and network, I felt that blogging or "Instagram blogging" complimented my personality well. Blogging forces you to go out a lot and be more sociable. I think that blogging is all about networking and fun! I have no motives for any of the connections that I have made. I just believe that everyone has a story which we can all learn and grow from it.
In regards to my blog, it obviously is all about food. I chose to blog about food because eating is definitely one of my personal interests. When I first started my blog however, I had it set up as a personal blog -- posts about my self and vacations, etc. Eventually, I found myself posting stories about more and more food whether it be the food I was eating on vacation or food that I was eating on a regular night out.
What inspired you to start your blog?
I would have to say that my wife inspired me to start my blog... she was definitely the one that triggered it. (@eat_car on Instagram) She has her sake sommelier certification which allows her to provide education and promote sake to the public on a global scale. She has also started a side business called Sake Kurabu which is dedicated to her passion for Sake as well. So, I wanted to support her by getting to know the industry more which meant that I needed to not only learn about Sake, but I needed to learn about food as well. From that point on, I was on an investigation to find out what needed to be done in order to be successful. I started taking photos and found that good content lead to greater engagement which is what is needed if you're using a social media tool such as Instagram. She helped me realize that I was able to combine a personal interest with business.
Eventually I was invited to the Sweetery Food Festival event which was located in the Roy Thompson garden. This event was filled with vendors for sweets. At this point I only had about 400 followers on my social media so I was pretty excited. I met many other foodies and became more intrigued about the whole blogging and "foodie" business. It was amazing to meet more people who had some of the same interests as me and found this as the perfect opportunity to meet new friends! Food and photography interests made these connections easy!
How would you describe your blogging style?
If you have nothing good to say, then don't say anything at all! I never critique any restaurant I go to. I would rather reflect whatever it is that I am posting to a life story. Even if the experience is bad, I have learned to spin the story to give it a more positive outlook. By creating posts that relate to real life experiences, it allows my audience to connect with me on a virtually personal level. I like to tell stories and I like to add a bit of humour into them as well!
What are some strengths you have that really helped you in blogging?
Personal connections are an asset. Knowing how to network will give you a huge advantage in this type of business. Having a strong business and analytic background would also be a strength that has helped a lot in blogging for me. On any type of social media platform, you must think of it as a marketing tool. You need to analyze your target market and demographics so you know what types of posts will appeal to your followers the most.
Balancing your personal life and work life is hard enough as is, how do you motivate yourself to keep the blog up and running?
Time management is key. I appreciate my job very much. I am very lucky to be able to hold a position of an accountant and be able to constantly be on the go to blog at the same time. With the company I work for, I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule which makes it easy -- there is no overtime. In regards to where I get the motivation to keep blogging, I believe that passion is a huge factor. You need to love what you do in order to keep going. By doing so, people will see that effort and time that you put in and that same energy will carry on to your audience.
What is your greatest achievement outside of blogging?
I think that gaining recognition in general is a huge achievement! Like, you finding me to talk right now is good recognition. The fact that the boss or VP of my company knows that I have a food blog shows me that my efforts have been noticed. Also, getting to know more people who share the same interests is priceless. The people who I have met so far in this journey have taught me a lot about the restaurant industry, photography and much more. I started out with just a camera and didn't know what to do with it. But in less than a year, they have taught me how to properly use a camera with extra tips on angles and even lighting.
What do you do in your spare time?
I eat. When I eat outside of blogging, I never take pictures of my meals. I do it only when I find it interesting or if it is for "business". I am also a movie freak! I will go to the movies, stream the movie and buy it on blu-ray all at the same time! When you get older, you will notice that you don't seem to have the time for everything. I have no time to catch shows... but, right now I'm trying very hard to catch up on my Marvel and DC shows. If you haven't caught on by now... I am a comic nerd! I also love to travel -- Japan and Hawaii are my favourites!
What was the most challenging moment in your blogging journey so far?
I would say balancing what I want to post with what my followers would like to see because in a way, you do not want to be seen as being commercialized. At the same time, you don't want to post something that no one else finds interesting. So, if I'm invited to a restaurant where I need to post something, I ask myself how do I post this without making it look like an ad/commercial? I also find it challenging to write what I truly feel without crossing lines. I noticed that a lot of other bloggers or "instagrammers" just post photos without taking the time to make it look nice -- their photos either have bad lighting or the photo itself is just too grainy. It just seems as if they don't really care -- they post what they want. I always strive to get to a medium where my posts don't look like they're just another promo ad but I also put in effort in making them look nice as well. I find these to be the most challenging things in blogging in my personal opinion.
Can you name some of your favourite bloggers?
@hungry.jo and @joannasable. I think that Hungry Jo and Joanna Sable are the best in the industry for food. Joanna is a food consultant and @hungry.jo is a very successful food blogger. There are a couple of other people who I have not met in person but I do know them through Instagram -- @foodyensation, @hotatekudasai or @lavivienyc. They are all very engaging, positive and their photography is on point. I have learned a lot from all that they post. Last but not least @frances.menu who is actually a friend of mine. She actually taught me a lot of camera tricks -- she taught me how to use the manual mode.
Have you met anyone interesting/famous on your blogging journey?
Alvin Leung. He is a 3 star michelin chef who was also on the show called Master Chef. Also, Romain Avril who is the head chef of Lavelle in Toronto.
What would you say that is the biggest challenge about your genre of blogging?
That's easy -- there's too many people! Everyone can be a food blogger. The challenge is that quality does not always grant you success. A person could post an amazing photo but end up with only 300 hits. It's all about marketing, who you know and how you can engage with your audience.
What would you say that is the greatest satisfaction of being a blogger?
There is a whole network that comes along with this whole blogging industry. It is a good feeling when people start to recognize who you are and what you do. You start getting invites from PR companies and/or restaurants. They trust my opinion or level of expertise and I really appreciate that.
In the future, where do you hope your blog will take you?
I definitely hope that I can travel around the world. Right now, I only blog about restaurants that are located here in Toronto but, I would love it if one day someone messaged me from Paris saying "Johnny come to Paris! We'll take care of everything!" That would be a dream! Being a travelling food blogger would be a good goal.
Do you have any advice for others who are planning to create a blog of their own?
Business 101. You need to treat it as a business. You need to understand your audience. Who are they? What do they like to see? Gender? Age? Ethnicity? For example, if a majority of your audience is Asian, then you'd know that Asians typically like to see cute and colourful things in their posts. However, that does not always apply to all your audiences so that is something you need to keep in mind! Photography is key! Camera's on phones are getting better and better. I just ordered my Samsung S8 and there's a food photography feature on it that I think will be quite useful in what I do! You need to understand how to take a good photo plus all the other factors that go a long with creating a good photo (e.g. lighting). Lastly, passion is very important. If you have no passion for it and you're just chasing numbers, you'll never get the feeling of satisfaction. But if you love what you do, then just keep going at it. You'll learn so much from it and from others within the industry and eventually gain that same success.
If you had to choose one restaurant to wine and dine at, which one would it be?
Noma in Finland. Its Norwegian. It was voted as one of the best restaurants in the world for a few consecutive years in a row now. They are well known for their food but unfortunately they are extremely expensive. The second one would be Jiro which is located in Japan. He is known for being the God of sushi. Again, it is very expensive to try his food. I've read a lot about his food and how amazing it was. You are not even allowed to take photos of his food!
Where is your favourite vacation spot or where would you like to visit?
Hawaii and Japan. I've been to both already but I will always want to go back to both. Hawaii, because you get a view, there's a city scene and it just feels like paradise! I would love to retire there one day. Japan, of course, because of the food. The scenery is great and I love the culture. People embrace new and old technology at the same time. There are old fashioned people who still go to temples and then new school folks who appreciate advances in technology. The innovation in this city is just amazing! Also, anything that is viewed as weird here in North America is a fad in Japan which is interesting.
What gives you FOMO?
I would say when people travel and I'm stuck in an office. OR when I'm stuck in Toronto weather and I look online and see my friends in warm, sunny California!
What is your zodiac sign?
God of communication... the Gemini! We have a short attention span and we love to communicate!
What does most of your money go to? Food, clothing or other?
Definitely my food, my house, my car... typical Toronto expenses! I am also a big Adidas fan so that would be what my money goes to clothing wise. I collect a lot of Adidas shoes... I am a shoe head. I also have a collection of Funko Pop toys... my wife was the one who instigated this hobby!
Current favourite song?
Chainsmokers -- Something Just Like This. I am a big Chainsmokers fan. I generally like to listen to a lot of EDM. I'm trying to go to a few more music festivals before I turn 40. I want to go to Ultra in Japan this year hopefully! So, i'll start with Ultra and maybe end with Tomorrowland.
Any guilty pleasures?
Because I have no time, my guilty pleasure is playing Just Dance as my cardio exercise!
Where is your favourite place to shop?
Country wise -- Japan and NYC. I go to NYC about three times a year for the food and shopping. I love looking at the new trends. NYC always happens to have my favourite brand, Superdry, on sale! Apart from Superdry, I also love Adidas and Uniqlo!
Which Instagram account do you find yourself “creeping” the most?
@lavivienyc -- She posts a lot of overlays in such a creative way. I think her posts are beautiful. I always go back onto her page to creep her latest post. I am very interested to find out how she takes her photos! I'm gonna go to NYC to find her and shadow her one day.
Do you support any non-profit organizations?
Yes! I do a lot of United Way charity. I volunteer annually for the Scotiabank Rat Race and the CN Tower Climb. I believe that it is a great way to give back to the community and also network with many others!
Which Instagram accounts do you think people should be following?
That's easy... ME! @foodie.fob