Hong Kong: It’s Sunday night and stalls from Tong Chong Street Market are winding down and packing their bags. As the lights dim and the carts roll out, I am lucky enough to geek out with Janice Leung Hayes (otherwise known as “e_ting”) about the tastiest tomato salads possible, juggling full-time work and writing, and how we can all spread a bit of goodness every day.
Describe WHAT YOU DO as if you were talking to a five-year-old
I write about food and I operate a farmers’ market.
What did you have for BREAKFAST this morning?
A coffee – an Indonesian cappuccino!
Tell us how you slipped into WRITING and BLOGGING
I first started blogging when blogs were a new thing, in 2000. It was when I moved back to Australia and my friends and I all started blogs to keep in touch. Melbourne is a very food-focused city, but I was never really into food. However I read a lot, and I realized that people were reading food magazines and food journals. I started reading them out of curiosity, thinking “why do people want to read about food so much?” And that’s how I got into it, through reading other food articles and just the disbelief that people would actually want to read about food.
Then I got into restaurant reviews but thought, “you know … I don’t know if I really believe this guy. I’m going to go to that restaurant and see if I agree!” And I started writing about it. It eventually became what’s on my blog (www.e-tingfood.com) and the blog became what I was eating, what I was cooking, where I was going… and then people who weren’t my friends started reading, commenting, and messaging me. This all made me want to research more about what makes a good restaurant, so I started digging.
Was this all at the same time as a full-time job? Or school?
It was at the same time as school. I had a lot of time in university while I was doing linguistics, French, and commerce. When I came back to Hong Kong I started interning at Luxe Guides – for which I am forever grateful for – and stayed with them for roughly five years. On the side I always had my food blog, and it was a really important part of coming back to Hong Kong. It helped me reintegrate and explore the city. Eventually, I just thought “maybe I can do this on my own.”
How did you TRANSITION to being the founder of Honestly Green and starting the Sunday markets?
So, I started eating out a lot and it got me asking things like, “why does this tomato salad taste better than that tomato salad?” That’s when you get into growing.
Around that time, I also visited Noma. It was very new and people were really excited about eating locally – it wasn’t such a cliché yet, which got me thinking about Hong Kong. I wanted to do a story on it and started researching. That’s how I found the farmers for the market and it showed me that people were returning to older ways and, basically, were trying to rebuild an ecosystem.
The thing is, I assumed that if people were growing organic produce they must be selling it, right? But then I went to supermarkets and there were very few for sale, which is why I wanted to start the markets. It was that simple. I had no idea about licensing, logistics, anything. In Australia, we have markets every weekend, just in random carparks and schools. It can’t be that hard!
What’s next for your FUNNEST LIFE POSSIBLE?
I … don’t know! I’m not a huge planner. I just feel like if you are heading in a certain direction and if people recognize that, it will just happen.
Kind of like taking the opportunities as they come along?
Yeah! But I do believe you need to be ready for the opportunities. I feel like I need to continuously improve my skills in case something pops up. This is why I do things that sometimes seem unrelated … like I went on a course about big data a while ago. I was just curious.
How can city-folk in Hong Kong strive to be more SUSTAINABLE?
I think what people forget is that you can change a small habit every day. Like taking public transport, or taking more passengers in your car. It’s actually economical.
What is something you personally find difficult to change?
I recently bought a reusable cup and I keep forgetting to bring it out. I’m really embarrassed every time I have to use a disposable cup. Actually there a lots of things I have to keep reminding myself, like … buy things that last or take better care of things!
What does the word GOODNESS mean to you?
Goodness is selflessness for everyone’s benefit.
What distracts you MUCHLY these days?
Hmm… TV and the internet. I love and hate the internet. It’s like a black hole, but simultaneously it’s great how it connects people, what you can find out, the things you can actually do online.
/ Words and Photographs by Anne Berry /