Monday, July 23, 2012

Food Hero Tuesday: Ale Wilkinson of The Dim Sum Diaries

Say hello to Ale!
Note from the Editor: Every Tuesday, TFT HK will bring you a post or article from/about one of our local or global food heroes. These are people who inspire us, and whose visions align with the values that TFT espouses and promotes. This week's post is an interview with Ale Wilkinson, the creator of the popular food blog The Dim Sum Diaries. A passionate foodie and avid blogger, Ale is also a PR and marketing executive. Ale, we at TFT HK salute you!

Hi Ale! Thanks so much for being with us today. Tell us a little about yourself! 

I’ve always been interested in writing. When I was young I used to write ridiculous fantasy stories and plays just for fun, and used to always say that when I was older I wanted to be a writer. However, when it came to choosing a degree, I opted for modern languages rather than journalism, and it took falling into a sales job here in Hong Kong (nothing to do with writing or languages!) to make me realise that I needed to follow my dream after all. With no real experience or qualifications, I decided the best way to go about it would be to start a blog, and of course I had to combine this with my other real passion: food. I’ve been writing The Dim Sum Diaries since March last year and absolutely love it. It has become a part of my life that I can also share with my friends and family. Although it does consume A LOT of my free time, at least I’m doing something I enjoy.

It's wonderful to hear that you followed your heart. Since you're both personally and professionally invested in the dining scene here, let me ask you this: what do you love and hate about dining in Hong Kong?

I love the variety of cuisines on offer, how you can pretty much find any cuisine under the sun, even some of the more obscure ones. I don’t particularly like that there are hardly any independent restaurants and that most of them belong to a dining group, but then again with rents the way they are in HK, I guess it’s the only way that restaurants can survive!

I hate poor service and the fact that a service charge is added to most bills, even when it is terrible, but I love that new restaurants are starting to change this and give diners the option of adding a tip if they feel it is deserved; as most waiters will be working for their tips, it means the service will invariably be perfect.

And what is it like to be part of the food blogging community here?

It’s such a great community to be a part of and I don’t think it would be quite the same anywhere else in the world. As I said, The Dim Sum Diaries has only been around for just over a year, yet it is already recognised by so many people. It started off being just friends and family who would read it, but shortly afterwards I was inundated with emails from people I had never met before saying how much they love reading it and even asking me for recommendations. It’s such an amazing feeling knowing that people actually care about reading what I write, even if they aren’t even based in Hong Kong. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some inspirational food bloggers at many exciting events, which I know that I would never get invited to if I were somewhere like the UK or the US where the food blogging community is just so much wider.

What food blogs do you read?

I love Janice Leung’s E-ting and also love Tom Eats Jen Cooks. Although it’s more of a website than a blog, Sassy Hong Kong is also one of my favourites - and I’m not just saying that because I write for them!

Those would be two of our top picks too! Since we often look to you and other bloggers for reviews of new restaurants, can you tell us about your favorite new dining option here?

I absolutely fell in love with Brickhouse. It has such a fun, lively vibe, delicious food and dangerously tasty cocktails. I’ve still only been just once, as Hong Kong seems to be on a restaurant opening frenzy at the moment, so it’s hard to find the time to go again, but I definitely plan on returning for a relaxed yet tasty dinner one night. I love that it stays open until 5am on weekends too!

Are there any restaurants that you like to eat at regularly?

Trusty favourites for a quick bite include MANA! and Nha Trang; these are often two of my regular lunch spots. Dinner is a slightly different story, as quite often I’m trying out so many new places that it’s almost impossible to go to the same place twice. Having said that though, I can’t get enough of Heirloom’s tacos.

How has the Hong Kong dining scene changed/evolved since you moved here and/or began The Dim Sum Diaries?

Restaurants seem to be opening up all the time at the moment; it’s so hard to keep track and my evenings seem to be constantly filled up, meaning there is little time to actually get down to writing the reviews. I can hardly complain though, as obviously eating out is part of who I am!

And do you find it hard to eat healthily when dining out?

Yes! I find it hard to stop; if a delicious dish is in front of me, no matter how full I may be, it’s almost impossible to listen to my stomach and stop eating. What I do is try to keep my lunches as healthy as possible, knowing that it’s harder to resist tasty dinners.

When you're not out and about, do you enjoy cooking? If so, what’s your favorite recipe?

For savoury dishes, I love making curries. Thai green curries, Indian curries, as long as it’s got a bit of spice and a lot of flavour, I’m happy. For sweet dishes, I love baking cakes. Although it’s quite a fiddly recipe, I make a pretty delicious version of Jamie Oliver’s carrot cake that always goes down a treat whenever I make it. I most recently made one that I decorated in Angry Birds style for my brother’s birthday; he loved it!

I bet he did! Other than HK, what is your favorite food country?

That’s a very tricky question. I’m torn between a few: Italy, Thailand and Uruguay. However, I guess if there was one cuisine I couldn’t live without, I think it would probably have to be Italian.

Thank you for sharing with us today! We can't wait to read your next review on The Dim Sum Diaries!

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