The Foodie of Foodies!
What initially started as a mini holiday turned out to be a lifetime move…having spent more than a decade in Indonesia, Jed Doble has become a household name not only in the local food industry; but also, globally.
How did you start your career in the food industry?
It’s a natural progression – I’m a foodie by nature and before coming to Indonesia; I had already done a couple of magazine food articles and it just clicked. I like putting my experience in words and describing food is all about words and making someone taste the food just by reading what you write. As a food writer, it’s important to develop your palate and experience a variety of cuisines. You tend to create a better viewpoint and build your credibility. Through the years, I’ve come across people who said this is the best dish (for international cuisines) and I’ve always wondered; how can you say this is the best if you’ve not tried it in their homeland? For example, someone claims this is the best sushi they’ve ever had; but how can you say it’s the best if you’ve never been to Japan and tried it there? Tasting these cuisines in their authentic places helps a writer to develop their taste buds for what’s truly authentic – it blows your mind away and I love those moments. Whenever I travel, I make it a point to experience a new cuisine; not only because it’s my profession, but it’s also my personal passion and pleasure.
Can you walk us through the entire process of writing an article? From the time you formulate the idea, up until it’s published.
If you asked me this a few years ago, I’d probably say the first thing I’d be doing was to look at books or magazines as I am a voracious reader. But today, I’d say it’s looking at Instagram/Twitter; especially when I’m in the car and stuck in traffic. Normally when you talk about research, all that comes to mind is boring, boring, boring; but in my industry – it’s fun, fun, fun! There’s lots of interesting content on social media, whether it’s up and coming places in town or new food trends. I am also constantly on the lookout for new talents (chefs) and follow them on social media. Some of them stand out for their plating, some for their menu…it’s a constant process. As writers, we are consistently gathering information and seeing what we might be able to use at some point in the future.
Interestingly, research does not only impact what we write. As an individual we constantly evolve, and I am not the same person I was a decade ago. Not only in terms of writing, but we as individuals also grow. Think about a whiskey that has been distilled over a decade, or a wine bottle that has been left unopened for a long time; it gets better and better. The same way.
People assume that food writing is easy, and everyone is now calling themselves food b(v)loggers. What are the qualities that they need to have before they can get into the industry?
I agree; people think it’s simple, but it isn’t. With food writing, people assume that I can just describe it by relying on my sense of taste. But it’s the weakest thing that a writer can use – as it limits the description to sweet, salty, spicy, or bland. The goal is to have your readers taste the food simply by reading what you write, getting them to visualise the plate and taste the dish in their mouths is the highlight. Understanding flavour, knowing what blends with each other, and being familiar with different cuisines are important. All these factors build your credibility as a food critic and people will start trusting your reviews. A top-notch food critic should be able to make the readers experience the food through their writing. Visual descriptions normally is the best way to do this. Another key element is to always network! Whether you have 30 seconds or 10 minutes with the chef, always find a way to introduce yourself and share your experience. Do your research beforehand and find a connection with the chef – that way (s)he will remember you for years to come!