Everyday Icons: The Food and Travel Writer

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Image Credit: Mark Williams

We are convinced Seattle-based food and travel writer Jen Chiu must have a twin. She runs a consulting business, writes a food and travel blog (in addition to contributing to various outlets), dines at The White House and visits every corner of the world (from the Pacific Northwest to Singapore to Sweden)! Today she shares a glimpse of her passionate, adventure-filled life complete with her favorite culinary experiences to date and the best compliment she has ever given a chef.

You are a food, travel and lifestyle writer AND you have a full-time "day job." What was the impetus for starting your site and essentially delving into a second career?

Back in 2010, I was working at a creative digital agency where I was surrounded by all these rad and talented designers, art directors, creative directors and writers. They inspired me to want to pursue my own creative outlet.

Coincidentally at the same time, I was developing a reputation with my friends and colleagues as the chick who loves to travel and eat out. I kept having more and more friends ask me for date recommendations or tips on the best brunch spots. I also started writing out full trip itineraries for friends and friends of friends so the blog was an easy way for me to direct people to my city guides.

What insights into travel and food do you provide your readers?  

I’d describe the bulk of my readers as busy people (whether they have demanding 9-5 jobs, chefs who work 12 hour days or stay-at-home moms with little free time) who are short on time but still crave adventure, unique experiences and an overall great time.

I describe myself as someone who loves fun adventures and will go out of my way to find the best food anywhere and everywhere (whether it’s driving to Kent to check out a Chinese restaurant that I hear serves up a to-die for crispy fish with chili peppers or rushing to Pioneer Square when I only have an hour for lunch because I HAVE TO GET MY DAILY SERVING OF LITTLE UNCLE’S BRAISED BEEF NOODLE DISH).

I’m naturally drawn to new/unusual/authentic things and have my ear (and my pie hole) to the ground for fun new restaurant experiences, cool weekend spots and international travel spots. I seek out authentic, hip, modern and non-cheesy experiences. I seem to have a sixth sense for spotting trends and deciphering the ones that are legit and will stick around (tree houses as a fun lodging option!) and not devoting time and coverage to the ones that are as fleeting (the cronut).

Will you name your favorite place on the map and the best meal you have eaten or experienced?

Gosh, that’s so hard! I’ve definitely eaten at my fair share of multi-course meals that last for hours where they refold your napkin into a swan or dolphin when you get up and go to the bathroom…and I’ve loved them all (NYC’s Eleven Madison Park is probably my favorite in that genre, Matsalan in Stockhom is up there too and Bo Innovation in Hong Kong rules).

But my most memorable eating experiences are the ones that aren’t fancy. There’s something sort of raw and authentic about them and generally involve eating with hands. On that list: Eating saltwater prawns in West Sweden with a life-long fisherman after catching the prawns with him on his boat, eating chili crab for the first time in Singapore (many, many napkins were involved, and I think I ended up having to bleach my shirt afterwards to remove all of the stains).

We have to know: what did you eat at The White House?

I interned at The White House when I was in college so between my vast copying and collating duties I ate unremarkable food in the cafeteria.

You are also incredibly athletic and attempt physical feats that intimidate most (really!); where do you find the energy (and desire) to literally tackle it all?

I’m happiest and the most Zen when I’m on an adventure, eating, exploring in the woods or a new city, on a mountain, or doing anything outside.

If I were a dog, I’d probably be one of those Jack Russell Terriers. I hear they need a lot of exercise or they start chewing on furniture or something.

Name five travel essentials you wouldn’t want to live without.

  • A great book

  • My running shoes

  • Another great book

  • My phone for the map app especially for cities not built on grids (Tokyo, Paris).

  • Cute shoes that can be worn with skirts/dresses yet are still functional so I can walk several miles a day while exploring

What is the best compliment you have ever given a chef?

“Chef, you’re not as much of a jerk as people think. You’re actually kinda nice.”

p.s. Have you met The Naturalist?