For this first FAQ of 2014, I was happy to talk with Gio Ray Mangaya-ay, creator of food blog The Hungry Giant. His is a food blog I’ve admired for quite some time now, but only recently reached out to for some fresh insights and perspective on food and cooking. Given that he is living my dream (spoken as a man who discovered his personal passions perhaps later than most) as a culinary student, and blogs regularly about the delicious things he’s cooking and eating, Gio is more than qualified to speak on tasty things, having created so many (wait’ll you read how he’d bring some spice to vanilla ice cream in the menu challenge I posed to him!) He shared with me what excites him most about creating new recipes, ways that food blogging has influenced his cooking habits, and a lot more that you’ll be glad you read about.
Flavorful World: What excites you most about creating and sharing new recipes, and why?
Gio Ray Mangaya-ay: Sharing recipes has always been a great way to communicate, to express. That’s my form of self-expression. It’s one thing to cook something good but it’s another to have a platform to share it to someone out there. It’s amazing how food blogs can invoke so much emotion from someone who might be looking at the photos or reading the prose. The world becomes this communal table, (if I’m making any sense), and that has always inspired me to do what I do.
FW: How has blogging about food influenced your cooking style and habits?
GRM: I’ve learned to keep it real when I cook and photograph. It’s personal satisfaction. I try to avoid writing about something that I don’t believe in. The same goes for cooking.
FW: What is the most important thing you’ve learned as part of your education as a culinary student? What is the most important food- or cooking-related thing you’ve learned outside of culinary school?
GRM: I’ve learned to respect ingredients on a whole new level. It’s an amazing thing to bring together a slew of items into a plate and have it taste amazing. Also, tasting food every step of the way is crucial. Outside of cooking school, I’ve also learned that taste is subjective, and what might make me happy might not have the same effect on someone else.
FW: Tell us what inspired your most recent culinary creation.
GRM: During my internship I’ve been baking so much breads. It’s not my recipe but because I love baking so much I’ve “taken ownership” of the process. So the breads I make are inspired, in a way, because of the thrill I get from baking.
FW: What has been the most challenging part of your culinary study thus far? What has been the most enjoyable part of your culinary study thus far?
GRM: The long hours and physical exhaustion remain my biggest hurdles. But to know that I’m doing work that I’m proud of has made it worthwhile.
FW: January 16th was International Hot and Spicy Foods Day. Design a three-course meal around this flavor concept, with each course representing a different cuisine style.
GRM: This is a tough one! For an appetizer I would bring out fresh tuna tartare with wasabi aioli. Maybe I’d include a simple green salad on the side, with prawns dredged in chili powder and then fried. I would make a lamb stew, with tomatoes, red wine and peppers as the base. Then for dessert I’d make a chocolate lava cake served with ginger-jalapeno vanilla ice cream on the side.
FW: Tell us what wine, beer, or cocktail you would serve with your most recently created recipe and why you chose that beverage.
GRM: I’m not really an expert on spirits and I’ll be very blunt and say find the cheapest beer and serve the food in the company of good friends! I haven’t created anything new lately so it’s hard to be specific.
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?
GRM: “I Am Hungry.” I think this sums it up well. I’m hungry for a lot of things, and yes, including good food.
FW: When you aren’t cooking and/or eating delicious foods, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
GRM: I’m almost always on Facebook and I recently discovered Instagram, so that takes up most of my time.
*Note to readers: Like the man said, you can find more of him, his food, and his culinary journey on The Hungry Giant‘s Facebook and Instagram pages. He also has a Twitter account, the following of which has become my most recent addiction for the humor and always-enticing food photography that always leave me hungry for more. If that’s not enough, then be sure to follow him on Pinterest too, and just try to come away from the computer without wanting to cook and/or eat something great. I dare you.