When he started blogging about food nine years ago, Daniel Ang (CS'04) did not expect many people to read his articles.
“I just wanted to share my own food experiences with people. To me then, I’d be happy if five friends read my blog posts,” said Ang, who started his now-defunct personal blog on the microblogging portal Livejournal.com.
His foray into the blogging world exceeded his expectations quickly. A couple of months after starting out, the blog caught the eye of the Singapore Press Holdings. It then approached him to write food reviews for its interactive web portal omy.sg in May 2008. In 2011, he set up his official food blog, DanielFoodDiary.com.
Fast forward to 2017, Ang now has up to three million readers monthly on DanielFoodDiary.com. Most of his regular followers today are Singaporean, with one-fifth of his readership base hailing from neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
In April this year, Influence Asia — Asia’s largest social media awards event by Gushcloud — saw Ang receiving the Singapore Food Influencer Award. Ang is the second recipient of this award following Shirley Wong from Little Miss Bento in 2015, when the event made its debut.
When he is not busy reviewing food, Ang is also an adjunct corporate trainer at Eagles Mediation and Counselling Centre and an associate mass communication lecturer at various polytechnics. He juggles writing, teaching and exercising, believing that working should not affect one’s health.
“People don’t see the effort that goes into food blogging. There’s actually no glamour but a lot of trade-offs. For example, I don’t like exercising at all, but the more you eat the more you have to do it.”
DanielFoodDiary.com is largely a one-man show. Ang hires one to two interns on occasion but enjoys working solo. “I feel that when you outsource too much, you may lose sight of the reason why you started,” he said.
“A lot of people don’t see the effort that goes into food blogging. There’s actually no glamour but a lot of trade-offs. For example, I don’t like exercising at all, but the more you eat the more you have to do it.”
Founder of Danielfooddiary.com
He writes about a wide variety of food, from hawker centre delights to restaurant fare. However, Ang has two strict criteria for the food places he reviews; they must be new to the market and something he feels his readers will enjoy. Ang said that his decisions on what to feature next are made by looking at current trends and the responses to his posts on social media.
Every month, he makes it a point to check out new food places. He finds them through recommendations from friends, or sourcing shops undergoing renovations. “I will spend my waking hours going around empty shops to check what’s opening,” he said with a laugh, “It’s crazy.”
“I’m really xiao on about food,” he quipped, using the Singlish slang for being very enthusiastic. In 2013, Ang once made a reservation nine months in advance for his upcoming review on the internationally acclaimed Spanish-based restaurant El Celler de Can Rosa. The restaurant was named the world’s best restaurant later in the same year and for a second time in 2015.
“How can you say that something is the best without trying the best? So, I made it a point to save enough money for the trip,” Ang said.
The turning point in his food blogging career came in November 2013.
After writing a review on the five best “liu sha baos” (golden custard buns) in Singapore, the post received over 77 shares on Facebook which was 30 times the reader traffic he usually received then. Today, that very article has been viewed more than 12,000 times.
It was then that Ang realised the virality of listicles which spurred him to embark on his monthly quests to compile his recommendations for new dining spots. “Many websites are doing it now, but listicles were not very common then,” he quips, “I was possibly the first—at least in Singapore—to do a monthly new cafes post.”
Ang shared that his time at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information has helped him greatly in his career. Senior Lecturer Nikki Draper taught him ‘Broadcasting 101’, which exposed him to camera angles, video editing and how to use a boom mic.
Ang also cited former comedian and food connoisseur Moses Lim as his inspiration, who, like him, learnt the craft of cooking and food critiquing from ground zero. Ang was attached to Lim for his first few assignments under omy.sg. While Lim had already been a food critic for several decades, Ang recalled how passionate and hardworking he was.
“[Lim] was still going into kitchens and talking to chefs, and I really want to be someone like that, someone who never stops learning,” Ang said.