In Cantonese we have an expression that literally translates to ‘Camera Eats First’. Before digging into a meal, do you know someone who insists on taking photo after photo? My family and I are guilty of this sometimes. Perhaps this is our equivalent of the British urge to take ‘a cheeky Boomerang’ for every occasion.
There’s something so satisfying about capturing an overflowing, orange egg yolk, or the perfect pasta pull. In this day and age, how does one resist snapping a photo of a beautifully plated brunch spread?
Late at night when I can’t sleep, I find myself scrolling for hours on social media, looking through food photos while growing increasingly peckish. One of my favourite Instagram accounts (@yumm3i) is run by the multitalented Amy Lau. Together with her partner @freshmikeeats, who amazes followers with his creative and dynamic photography, Amy has mastered the art of the noodle pull, the creative flatlay, and ice cream swirl.
I was lucky enough to speak to Amy about her passion for food and her career journey, and I hope you enjoy hearing her story as much as I did.
How, and why did you start your food blogging journey?
I remember I was at my final year of university studying Biomedical Sciences. It was 2AM, rain was battering against my window and I was supposed to be writing my final dissertation on The Developmental Origins of Disease and Malnutrition (I still remember the title) but deep down all I wanted to write about was food and my next adventure.
So that’s how Yummei was born, in that moment of deep self-reflection, that maybe I was studying something I couldn’t foresee a future in. Starting a blog gave me that creative outlet that I clearly craved, and since I was always on the hunt for my next meal.
What’s your favourite aspect of your career?
I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to travel to so many different countries and try so many different types of cuisines throughout the course of my career.
I have worked in marketing for food (ranging from FMCG, Fashion, Music, Luxury, High-end dining to casual dining) since accidentally falling into this industry through my blog.
What does a typical week in your life look like now, and what was it like pre COVID?
Pre COVID, I used to be out 4-5 times a week, meeting friends and reviewing restaurants with my boyfriend.
Now, it is a lot of Zoom/ Team calls and home cooking. I only leave the house now once/twice a week to head into the city to have meetings for work these days. I feel 100% more productive with this new lifestyle. I do secretly really enjoy this new normal.
You’ve travelled to lots of places, including my hometown, Hong Kong! Could you tell me about your favourite place you’ve travelled to?
My father is from Hong Kong, so it’s home.
I fell in love with Japan the first time I went to visit it. The Japanese respect food on a whole other level, the craft and care they take to prepare a simple egg sandwich to an omakase sushi experience was enlightening to my very soul. Really I just couldn’t wrap my head around the food in their 7/11s being just as delicious as the high-end restaurants I visited.
The people there are so kind, compassionate and friendly; there wasn’t a single person that I came across that did not go out of their way to help me if I was lost. Needless to say, I went back to Japan the following year, and the following year again. This year my trip was cancelled because of COVID.
Where’s your favourite place to get bubble tea in London?
Wootea or Kissaten or The Alley – there are so many to choose from!
What are your favourite London restaurants for a student budget?
During university I lived opposite the British Museum, so finding hidden student-friendly restaurants was a real pleasure with so many restaurants just on my doorstep.
I have many fond memories of Misato in Chinatown, an unassuming restaurant known for their huge cafeteria-style plates of Japanese comfort dishes.
Another of my favourite restaurants is ICCO, a family-run Italian Pizzeria where you can grab large, freshly-made pizzas for as little as £3.95.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during lockdown, and how did you adapt?
I secretly really enjoyed lockdown, I never used to stop working pre COVID, and probably was on the brink of exhaustion. Lockdown allowed me to sleep a bit more and take care of myself, though the gyms and restaurants being closed definitely forced me to be more resourceful and try-out home workouts and start cooking more.
What’s your favourite thing to cook at home?
I am a creature of habit and love making Hainanese chicken rice.
If you could eat anything in the world at this given moment, what would it be?
Japanese wagyu A5 with a side of garlic rice.
What are your thoughts on the food-reviewing community on Instagram?
I have met so many incredible and wonderful people through the food-reviewing community on Instagram. Foodies are really welcoming and friendly, so I have made a lot of friends that I have become very close to.
Working full-time with social media can be overwhelming: what are your favourite ways to relax/unwind?
I don’t work full-time on social media, it is a part of my job. I’m currently working as the Brand Marketing Manager for an international burger brand, and through Instagram have started my own Creative Agency with my partner Fresh Mike Studio, offering content creation and consulting to travel, food and beverage, hotel & restaurant brands.
How do you deal with negativity on social media?
I am blessed to not have had to deal with much negativity on social media. I don’t let it phase me though, and try not to take anything online too seriously
Were your friends and family accepting of your career path when you first started out?
My family really wanted me to go and do my PHD or go into Medicine, they really did not understand what I did until about a year ago.
For ages they thought I was some promo-girl for restaurants and bars, and just taking pictures of food.
Any next steps in your career?
I am feeling blessed to be where I currently am, and hope to take the leap and fully go and quit the day-job and focus on my new business – a creative agency & consultancy – https://www.freshmike.com – purely started out of luck because so my friends/clients would reach out to me for various projects, as well as working full time as a Brand Marketing Manager for an international brand. I’m taking it in baby-steps.