For the foodies among us, chances are, you know Tim Cheung or rather, his digital alter-ego @bayarea.foodies. A native of San Jose, Tim early on saw an opportunity in the emerging platform of Instagram, which today, is still his favorite platform, to capture and promote the culinary scene in San Francisco. With the power of Instagram, and armed with his phone, Tim managed to carve a niche for himself as a popular food influencer just by following his gut, both literally and instinctively. Tim started out, as many people do, learning as he went. Armed with ambition and vision, this self-taught photographer went out to shoot, in his opinion, what was some of the best food in the Bay Area. A true entrepreneur of the digital age, Tim got online and learned rather quickly the tips and tricks of photography. Joannie Simon of YouTube’s The Bite Shot was especially helpful to Tim from the outset. “YouTube is powerful,” says Tim, “Lighting, how to work the camera lenses, and shutter speed, or the best way to bounce light. . . I learned it all online, and Joannie’s The Bite Shot has content that is essential for anyone looking to do food photography”.
While Tim has had significant success on both Instagram and TikTok with a cool, 140 k+ followers on both platforms, it is safe to say, Tim is onto something with his photography, which is how his next project was born: “The Art of Noodles”. A commission of rich pantones featuring the bold and various ways these dietary staples can appear across cultures and the globe. Noodles mean different things to different people. To some, noodles symbolize comfort, to others noodles represent culture. Tim even had the viewpoint that noodles can be seen as language. “Different dishes exemplify what people have in their environment. For example, a heavy use of lemongrass tells you about their lives and the environment in which they live. Seasonings can be seen as a window into the different cultural environments in which these dishes are prepared.” says Tim.
As you can imagine, food photography requires patience and diligence. Logistics can play a part as well. When asked about collaborations in terms of working with restaurateurs, Tim said “I only occasionally collaborate with restaurant owners, depending on the resources I need for a shoot, like if I need insight from the Chef or a whole spread”. Otherwise, it is Tim at the helm of the creative ship for him to photograph, promote and create as he sees fit. Supporting small businesses has always been at the heart of what Tim does. He has championed independent restaurant owners from the start, and with that has come an element of fame. While Tim can traverse the hills and streets of San Francisco in relative anonymity, he did say that when he reviews a restaurant and goes back, “I get recognized, the owners and staff like to chat about the food blogging.” says Tim. “Sometimes it can be surprising to meet people that follow the platforms, but it is also affirming at the same time to know that the content is resonating with the audience”.
COVID 19 has put a pause on everyone’s life in one way or another. When asked about what is next for him, Tim said he would love to expand on the food topic, but perhaps a comparison scenario in which the LA food scene is put up against the Bay Area, such as reviewing different dishes such as the increasingly popular Nashville Hot Chicken or Birria Tacos and how they are prepared locally in each city. Tim is one to watch, with his finger on the culinary pulse. Plant-based meat that tastes exactly like meat is Tim’s prediction for the next big trend in food, which makes perfect sense with all the plant-based food products making their way into grocery stores and into the headlines.
From his review of Hot Cheeto Mac n’ Cheese to the latest twist on a classic Pad Thai, at first glance, you might think Tim has a unique perspective when it comes to food, but with 280k rabid followers, and a new commission celebrating “The Art of Noodles” it would appear there is a savvy strategy to Tim’s culinary tango.