Fork to Belly
Courtney is relatively new to food blogging. She is a self-taught cook, and a true testament to how amazing the Internet is. Courtney claims to have learned everything, when it comes to cooking, from Google, YouTube videos, and other blogs.
I am so happy to have Courtney Chun of Fork to Belly joining me on the show today.
On Her Newly Discovered Passion for Food:
I would have to say it started maybe about a year ago. I was in my senior year of college.
Before then, I really never even spent that much time in the kitchen, and didn’t really have any experience working at a restaurant or anything. Then, I met my boyfriend. His dad owns a restaurant chain in Hawaii called Roy’s. He actually worked in the kitchen, so, I saw him making food in the kitchen, and I would help out.
I guess after that, I would watch YouTube videos of people making cupcakes or cookies. I would see different recipes on Pinterest, then I just started trying them myself. I mean, it didn’t always work out.
After a while, I got into cooking, and just really enjoying it. That’s how I got started with it. I never went to cooking school or anything. I don’t have professional skills. They’re still very basic.
On Starting Her Blog:
I always wanted to start some kind of blog. One of my friends mentioned to me, “You should start a food blog.” I was like, “Oh, yeah. That would be a good idea.”
I guess because on Instagram, I would post a lot of pictures of what I made. Another friend approached me, and she also started a fashion blog. She was just telling me you always think, “Maybe I don’t have enough experience, maybe my photography skills aren’t good enough, or my cooking skills aren’t good enough.” But that’s the whole point of the blog. If you don’t start it at some point, it’s never going to get done.
She was like, “Even if you don’t think you’re ready, maybe you should just go for it, and just see how it goes. Even if it’s not something you enjoy, then you can take a break, and stop.” So she helped me to get started.
I majored in Multimedia Arts, so I learned a lot of photography skills. I took a lot of web design classes, so that gave me a basis, a platform, to start my blog off.
I read a lot of blogger posts about how they got started, a lot of them say they have completely no experience with the photography or with web design. But they do have the cooking experience. I guess I’m a little opposite because I have the photography skills, and the web design skills, but I’m still really new to cooking. It’s kind of funny.
On Food Styling and Photography:
Food styling, sometimes I’ll be trying to put down all these plates, or arrange the forks, and it’s just not working out. I see other pictures on Pinterest and it looks so beautiful. I’m like, “I wish I could do something like that.” So I’m still definitely learning about the food styling. I’ve always been into art and design so maybe that background kind of helped.
The most helpful tip that I think I read on some blog, is that you just look at pictures that you really like. Let’s say for Pinterest as an example. You look at the type of plates they use, or maybe what kind of wooden table it’s on, or the colors. You learn that way. You read from the photo, internalize it, and think about how this can help when you’re actually doing your own food styling.
Photography’s just a whole other beast, aside from the cooking part. It’s huge. I don’t even have that much equipment. I know some bloggers, they have all the lights. They have all the different backdrops and stuff. They have really great lenses, a tripod, and stuff like that. I don’t even have all of those things.
On Learning How to Cook From the Internet:
I’ll look for inspiration through Pinterest. I use Pinterest a ton. If I see a photo of something that looks really good, like a cake or some kind of dish, I usually click on the link, and then I go to their page. I see the process about what the food blogger did to get there. That gives me inspiration.
One example is I’m thinking about doing these peach lavender Pop-Tarts because I saw a photo of homemade Pop-Tarts on Pinterest. I looked at how she did it. Then, I just go to Google, and I type in “homemade Pop-Tarts recipe.”
You know how sometimes when you Google recipes, you’ll see they have ratings on them? Normally, the higher rated ones, I’ll look at those. I’ll see what ingredients they used or the steps they took. For most recipes that are simple, it’s kind of the same process, so you can jump off it from that. You combine both, or all the recipes, and what you think might work out.
For certain recipes, like the ginger bread cake I made, and the one that you found me out from; I came across her ginger bread cake. I was like, “Oh my God, this looks so good.” Then, I search for other ginger bread cakes. They weren’t what I was looking for. So I just stuck with her recipe. It was a beautiful recipe, everything worked out really well.
For certain instances, I do use Google to help me. I also sometimes will just take a complete recipe from a blogger, then, of course, I credit them, and make sure they get some publicity from that, too.
On Cooking Through Trial and Error
I think sometimes I just may get really lucky with certain recipes, but I’ve definitely had my fair share of ones that have failed.
I did a lemon tart.
I was using my mom’s kitchen because I’m at home in Hawaii right now. I was using her kitchen for the first time. I never really cooked when I lived at home because she would always cook. She has an electric stove and at home I have a gas stove. So hers would heat differently and I didn’t really understand the temperature differences.
I was trying to make the tart filling. I guess the recipe said that you have to pre-cook it a little bit. I had it on the stove and I think I was doing something else in the kitchen. Then, all of a sudden, I hear bubbling on the stove. I run to the stove. I look and it’s like this omelet. I was like, “Now what do I do?” I used up all the ingredients.
I had to go back to the store. I was just so, “I want to be done with this recipe already.” Sometimes it doesn’t turn out how I want it to. I guess that comes with the territory, nothing’s always going to work.
On Good Online Resources for Learning to Cook:
I think YouTube is really great.
You just Google in, “How do I cut a mango?” I remember that was one of the things that I had to learn because when you cut through, it’s just the seed and you can’t really peel it away. It’s not like an avocado. It was just cutting around it and making this huge mess the first couple of times I did it. I eventually Googled about it.
I feel like sometimes it’s hard to explain certain things like that in writing. So it definitely helps to see videos on YouTube where you can just type in “How do I cut a mango?” You see a guy actually do it, and you have that visualization so that when you do it yourself, you understand it more.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I love the one that Gordon Ramsay does where he fixes up restaurants or restaurants that aren’t doing well. It breaks my heart to watch it, and it makes me feel bad, but you can’t stop watching it.
I still love watching Ina Garten when she cooks, too, on the Food Network.
What are some food blogs or websites that we have to know about?
I love Food 52. I love their shop. I always look at everything on their shop and I’m like, “Oh my God. This is so expensive but I really want it.”
I feel like they have really good food recipes that they share from other bloggers.
I still love YouTube a lot. I like watching Nerdy Nummies. It’s just really fun. It’s just so creative. I just love watching her show.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter that make you happy?
In the food blog world, I definitely enjoy seeing Local Milk’s blog posts. She just blows my mind at how talented she is.
I really enjoy Two Red Bowls. I really like her posts because she does a lot of Asian foods, too. They’re not really well known Asian dishes, at least not to American people. That inspires me because I’m full Chinese. I enjoy sharing these dishes with other people. My mom’s third generation, so we don’t really have experience trying to make these really traditional dishes. When I see other food bloggers making traditional Chinese dishes, that’s a heart warming thing too because it’s getting to see your culture. It’s also the beautiful styling that she puts into it.
What is something all home cooks should have in their pantry?
I definitely think my Ninja Blender has been a godsend. You can use it to make smoothies. It’s also a huge food processor because it has the long blades in it.
Since I’ve been back home here, I don’t have it with me. When I look at a recipe and I go to make it, I’m like, “Oh no. I don’t have my Ninja Blender.” My mom, she has this food processor where it’s manual. It’s this weird technology but you press it down, then the food processor spins. It gets so strenuous. I’m just missing my Ninja Blender so much.
Name one ingredient you cannot live without?
I would say butter or eggs.
I go through so much butter, and so many eggs. I literary, at one point, had three cartons of eggs in my fridge. I was trying to make a cake, and for a cake you need eight eggs or something. Those are the ingredients that I always need to have on hand.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
It’s not really a cookbook. My grandma, she used to write down all her recipes. She would put them together in this folder. I’ve actually been able to look back at her recipes, and see the things she’s made.
It’s kind of funny because I haven’t eaten it since I was really young. But then, I see the name and I read through the ingredients. I don’t have to see the finished product. I can just read through the ingredients, see the steps, and I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s what I was eating. Or that’s what she made me before.”
It’s been really nice to be able to have that, and be able to physically hold it instead of having the recipe written down on the Internet because you can see her handwriting.
It’s just really personal. It’s something I really cherish.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I love listening to audio books. I really enjoy reading. A lot of the time, I don’t really have the time to sit down and read with my eyes. I wish we all had four arms and four eyes because then I could do two things at once.
When I’m in the kitchen, you’re cooking or you’re using your hands, and you’re using your eyes but you’re not really using your ears. I enjoy just listening to an audio book.
Then, I also have the book myself so later on I can go back to the book and continue to read. It’s been really helpful because I feel like sometimes in the kitchen, not that I get bored, but having something to listen to, to keep your mind going, really helps and makes me enjoy the process of cooking more.
Keep Posted on Courtney:
I definitely think just following my blog.
I just made a new place where you could subscribe to it and then you get emails when I post new dishes.
My blog is the best way because I don’t always post what I’m making on Instagram. So definitely forktobelly.com.