Malcolm Fa is the founder of FoodNationNY.com, a web presence aimed at serving the online food-loving community through emphasis on restaurant/meal recommendations, product reviews, and local cuisine, markets, and more. Mister Fa is my kind of food lover for a number of reasons, not the least of which being our shared status as native New Yorkers and lovers of tea and Thai cuisine. I was fortunate enough not long ago to pick his brain in an interview that despite our never having met in person, felt like a sit down with an old friend. He shared his thoughts on staying motivated as a food blogger, the best and worst recent things to happen to dining out in NYC, and a good deal more that you’ll want to read about, New Yorker or not.
Flavorful World: We’ve reached that time of year when temperatures are falling and some parts of the country have already seen snow. What is your favorite warm alcoholic cocktail, and why?
Malcolm Fa: My favorite warm alcoholic cocktail, honestly I don’t have one. I’m more of a Captain and Coke type of guy. To me the drink itself never gets old. It’s simple doesn’t take long to order when you’re out and about, but you have to have a lime wedge. Cheers.
FW: What has been your most memorable experience as a food reviewer? What made it so?
MF: My most memorable experience is my first ever review, hands down! It was around 9/11 last year. The review I did was at Battery Place Markets, located at Ground Zero in NYC. I didn’t know what to expect. I remember that morning; it was humid like nobody’s business. I was completely nervous. I mean meeting with CEO and Marketing Director with sweaty hands. Not a good look or impression. It was myself, no camera crew, no script at all. Everything was free styling sort of speak. I arrived there late; you know how NYC traffic goes. During the interview, I felt like the interview wasn’t balanced. I wasn’t talking enough and the Market Director was talking over me. On my way home, I started to brainstorm on what I can do better. After that everything changed from there.
FW: Name one professional chef whose work you admire but have not met, and tell us one question you would ask him or her if given the opportunity.
MF: That’s easy, Chef Chuck Hughes. I don’t know, I think I can relate to him a lot better especially with women. The women love him and he knows it. The number one question I would ask is, “What do you really do on your days off?” Ha!
FW: Apart from an obvious love of food and culinary culture, what keeps you motivated as a food blogger?
MF: Wow, great question. What keeps me motivated? Simple… meeting fellow foodies and getting to know how they discovered their passion for food. What led them there? I like to find out and pick one’s brain about it.
FW: Dining out in Manhattan is among the things I miss most about my hometown. What is the best thing to happen to New York City’s dining out scene in the past three years? What is the worst thing to happen to New York City’s dining out scene in the past three years?
MF: I’ve heard so much about Pok Pok NY. I’m dying to try their Ilke’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings which has been featured on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”. I’m still waiting for my invite. [In answer to the question regarding the worst thing to happen to NYC’s dining out scene]: I think we all know this, and sad to say, Super Storm Sandy. Some eateries out there still haven’t reopened their doors.
FW: If you could choose to have lived and eaten during any other era besides ours in humankind’s culinary evolution, what era and geographic locale would you choose, and why?
MF: New Orleans! (NOLA)Why? It’s the food, of course. The festivals, live music, Mardi Gras, the Holidays throughout the year, Tales of the Cocktail and the Toddy, the neighborhoods with a southern charm like The Marigny, Oak Street, Jackson Square…all of those elements are like a Gumbo: A perfect recipe from something great over time.
FW: Who is Food Nation NY’s target demographic, and what have been your most successful methods for keeping its material relevant to that?
MF: This question is somewhat answered in my blog’s product marketing page. Initially our target market was New York; overwhelmingly our popularity grew to a nationwide audience. While growing FNNY we used all types of social media platforms to interact with fans.
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits.
MF: Who thinks of these questions? (Laughs) I’m going off a limp on this one. I will call it “Brooklyn to Beijing.” For the simple fact I’m born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and my grandparents are from Beijing. Before I die, I would like to travel there.
FW: When you aren’t cooking and/or eating delicious foods, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
MF: Another good question! When I want to get out and get away from it all, I like to go to different sporting events. I’m huge into it. I’d probably be doing something around it if I didn’t love food so much. I also like being in the spotlight like going out and enjoying NYC nightlife. Don’t get me wrong sometimes I like just sitting by the fire watching a good movie and having a nice cup of tea. Yea, I’m that guy who loves tea.
*Note to readers: Want to lend your voice to the growing number of hungry New York-area souls who can appreciate a well-prepared meal and tell you where to find one? Check out FoodNationNY.com, scatter some ‘Like’ around its Facebook page, or follow along on Twitter as this great site continues to unearth new and interesting food finds of all stripes.