Simon Park is the author and photographer of the Sydney food and lifestyle blog The heart of Food. When he isn’t spending his time immersed in the subject of food, he works in the IT industry and as a freelance photographer.
April Smallwood

21 Mar 2012 - 11:34 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Simon Park is the author and photographer of the Sydney food and lifestyle blog The Heart of Food. When he isn’t spending his time immersed in the subject of food, he works in the IT industry and as a freelance photographer.

Along with some fellow food bloggers, Simon had organised the Eat. Drink. Blog. 2011 Australian food bloggers conference, bringing food bloggers together from around Australia to network and learn new skills. He was also in charge of running the associated food photography competition, showcasing some of the best images in food photography by food bloggers for that year.

How long have you been running food photography workshops, and do you enjoy most about them?
The food photography workshops have been running on and off since July 2011. What I enjoy the most about running these workshops is the opportunity to share my passion and knowledge of food photography to allow others to share their own passion for food in the best possible light.

I also love how pervasive the interest in good food has become. Only around half of the participants at these workshops are food bloggers. The rest are foodies looking to be better able to capture their wonderful food experiences to share with their family and friends, as well as a few professionals that take food photos for work.

You offered a Twitter follower a food tour. How did that go?
It started out as a request for a dining buddy on Twitter, as I was housesitting for a friend in Marrickville and didn’t know anyone in the area. The first response I received was not by a food blogger as I was expecting, but rather a recent Twitter follower; an American tourist here on a work visa.

We hit things off surprisingly well. What I’d initially planned as a one-time-only dinner ended up becoming a food tour of sorts – a series of food outings with a combination of some places that she had been meaning to check out as well as few budget-minded good eats that I wanted to show off as a proud Sydneysider.

A similar thing occurred with a different person, though this person was not entirely a stranger. It was the brother of a friend who had come over from the US for a few days. This time around, it was more dessert-centric, as this person was a pastry chef by trade, though it played out much the same. In other words, it was a lot of good food, a little over-eating, and some fond food memories to take back home.

I don’t see myself as a tour guide sort of person, but by sharing your passion for the local food you can’t help but become one, or at the very least an advocate of sorts.

What’s your favourite thing to write about – restaurants, events/festivals, travel, photography or recipes?
I probably would have to say restaurants on the whole, but anything to do with food and food culture is generally something I love to write about.

What flavour combination have you come across that's unexpectedly amazing?
I’m not sure if I’d call it amazing, but one combo I picked up from a former work colleague that works surprisingly well was peanut butter and Vegemite on toast. It may seem gross (it certainly did to me initially), but if you get the ratio just right, they work really well together. Like when salt is added to caramel or bacon is paired with maple syrup. Actually, bacon with a lot of sweet applications is amazing, but there’s nothing unexpected about that.

What would your blog followers be surprised to learn about you?
In spite of my family background, I don’t particularly like going out to restaurants to eat Korean food. It’s not that I don’t like Korean food. I actually love it. It’s just that I’ve been burned so many times with mediocre Korean food in the past that I’m reluctant to seek it out. At best, it tends to be no better than what I’ve had at home or at other Korean households. There are a few Korean restaurants that I like, but only for a particular dish or two that they do very well.

Where would you like to take your food blog?
I’d like to do what I can to provide more and better content on the site, as well as continue with sharing my passion and knowledge regarding photography as I have with the workshops to date. I’d love to also incorporate more recipes on the blog, particularly some of my favourite Korean dishes, but I’ve yet to find a rhythm between cooking and shooting that I’m comfortable with.
In your opinion, what are the hallmarks of a great food blog?
The most significant hallmark of a great food blog in my mind is the ability to engage and inspire the reader. This may lead to them to learn more about a cuisine and food culture that they’re not familiar with, try out a restaurant they’ve never been to, attempt to recreate a delicious recipe to share with friends and loved ones, or learn a new cooking technique.

Great food blogs not only do this well, but they also tend to be informative, entertaining and often have amazing food photos.

How interconnected is the Australian food blogging community?
It depends on how you look at it. At the state level, there is a fair amount of interconnectedness, particularly around Sydney and Melbourne, helped along with a number of social gatherings that have been organised by bloggers.

Across Australia, the community on the whole isn’t quite as interconnected, though it’s starting to become more so at time goes on. National events, such as the annual Eat.Drink.Blog. Australian food bloggers conference, certainly help by giving the opportunity to meet face-to-face with bloggers from other states. There are also various online activities such as recipe challenges and blog hops that raise awareness of blogs and bloggers from around the country as a by-product. In either case, social media platforms (particularly Twitter) are a vital part of maintaining and strengthening this interconnectedness.

Do you often revisit restaurants, or do you prefer to only try new ones for the sake of your blog?
It’s a little bit of both. I’m always keen to find new places and explore places I’ve heard about, not just for the blog but for my own sake. However, there are also times that you want to go to a place that's familiar and you know is good, perhaps because it’s convenient or you’re seeking some comfort food.

If I do revisit a restaurant for review purposes, it’s usually due to a significant change in circumstances, such as a seasonal menu, refit, change of management, or a lot of time has passed since the last review.

Is there a cuisine you’d like to become better acquainted with by the end of 2012?
I’m very interested in Southeast Asian cuisines at the moment, particularly Malaysian and Vietnamese. I’m also interested in the growing trend of Mexican food of late, so perhaps more of that too by the end of the year.
Having grown up on Korean food, what are some of the dishes you hold dearest?
I grew up eating a lot of jajangmyeon as a kid. It’s a noodle dish with a thick, gravy-like black bean sauce with bits of pork, diced vegetables and sometimes seafood.

Daeji bulgogi, a spicy marinated barbecue pork dish that’s made with thin slices of either the belly or neck cuts, is another favourite; one that is very popular with a lot of people I know. I always have it wrapped in a lettuce leaf with some rice and a little ssamjang chilli paste for an extra kick of spice.
Lastly, there a dish that doesn’t seem to be that well known called dak dori tang, which is a simple dish of braised pieces of chicken with potatoes, carrots and onions with a mildly sweet sauce of soy, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and a touch of chilli. It’s almost like a stew, but my mother makes it so that most of the flavourful liquids are absorbed into the ingredients of the dish. That’s comfort food for me. She rarely ever makes it, but, when she does, there’s nothing better.

If you had to live off either for the rest of your life, which would you choose: cheap take-away joints or high-end fine dining establishments?
I tend to gravitate towards the casual end of the dining spectrum, so if my only choices were those two and nothing in between, I’d probably go the cheap take-away. Thankfully, nowadays, cheap does not always equate to bad or unhealthy.

What is your favourite cuisine to review and why?
I guess it depends on my mood, in the same way that I don’t have one favourite cuisine to eat. Regardless of the favourite at any given moment, it helps if the dishes are interesting and photogenic. It makes the blogging process that much more enjoyable.

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