I nearly missed it, actually.
They say when you get older, you start forgetting your own birthday and anniversaries. Just the other day I had celebrated two years in Hong Kong. Yet I totally missed the fact that on September 8, 2009, I had announced that my baby “blogspot” blog had been renamed to Tiny Urban Kitchen.
Here’s what I originally said:
I picked this name because it aptly describes the small kitchen that I work in everyday. Not in the far future, I plan on moving the restaurant reviews over to a new blog. This will become more of a cooking/food blog.Jen on Tiny Urban Kitchen’s “first day” – September 8, 2009
It sort of blows my mind that it has literally been a decade since I began this blog. Never would I have imagined that the blog would grow to what it is today. Nor would I have imagine it would still be here, 10 years later.
So I took an opportunity to reflect a bit about this unique journey.
2009 – 2011 Tiny Urban Kitchen . . . the Early Days
It’s been quite a journey since those early days of the tiny Cambridge kitchen of 2009, where I experimented with all types of cooking. [to see original post, click on the hyperlinked text in each photo]
I was part of an amazing community of food bloggers through Foodbuzz, an early days advertising platform (now long gone via multiple acquisitions). I met many good friends through those nascent days of food blogging, through Foodbuzz conferences and just commenting on each others’ blogs (this was pre-Instagram days!).
In some ways I miss that close-knit community. The number of food bloggers / influencers grew exponentially in the following years, and conversations eventually moved from blogs to other social media platforms.
I will always cherish the friendships I made those early years of blogging. It was really cool meeting people from all around the world through this common love of food. Even though many of us have stopped blogging, I still keep up with many through social media platforms or in-person visits. Some examples include visiting Jackie from Lashings in HK, London, and Boston (!), going Japanese grocery shopping with Marc from No Recipes, and visiting Eleven Madison Park and Marea in NYC with Andrea from High Look Food Drink, Cindy from Chubby Chinese Girl, Christine from Fresh, Local, and Best, and Talida from Talida Bakes!
2010 Project Food Blog
2010 was a crazy year for Tiny Urban Kitchen. For fun I decided to enter an international food blogging competition Called Project Food Blog: The Next Foodblog Star. Close to 2000 bloggers registered to compete. The competition would take 10 weeks and would eliminate competitors weekly as they competed on different weekly blogging challenges.
I never, never, never in my wildest dreams would have expected to win the top prize, but I shockingly did!
It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked for something, and one of the most rewarding wins I’ve ever achieved. I pulled more all-nighters competing in Project Food Blog than during my entire education at MIT and law school (!).
This summary post really captures my emotions and my thoughts after winning the competition.
2010 – 2013 Almost Famous Chef
2010 was also significant because it was my first year covering the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. Through my annual trips out to Napa Valley, I got to know a number of aspiring young chefs and learned to really appreciate their passion and the hard work they put into their craft.
2012 Saveur Best Food Blog Award – Restaurant and Dining
It was an honor to meet other nominees and winners in this surreal trip of a lifetime. My souvenir is a mega huge cleaver engraved with my blog name and award won. I shall keep it forever.
2011 – 2017 “Medium” Urban Kitchen
In 2011 we moved into a “medium urban kitchen” where I finally got to experience a real gas stove for the first time. We learned the art of grilling in our tiny backyard and fell in love with numerous restaurants, artisanal shops, and cafes in our Harvard Square neighborhood.
We became regulars at Bergamot (oh how I miss restaurants like it here in HK!), fell in love with buying cheese and other artisanal products at Formaggio Kitchen, and frequented Hi Rise Bread Co. for their phenomenal vanilla loaf whenever we had the chance. If possible, we always tried to dine outdoors in Harvard Square during the summer. It was one of our favorite ways to enjoy Boston’s beautiful summers.
2009 – 2019 Tiny Urban Travels
We didn’t travel much the first 5 years of our marriage. I started evening law school soon after we got married, which really made it hard to travel. After I graduated in 2007, not only did I begin writing a food blog, we also started taking many, many more trips.
Almost all of my trips, save the ones that really have nothing to do with food, are detailed on Tiny Urban Kitchen. Perhaps sometime I’ll add a few posts from some of my favorite non-food trips, such as hiking all the way down and up the Grand Canyon, climbing Mt. Fuji, and visits to Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Zion, Yosemite, etc.
It’s already been an incredible 10 years of exploring this beautiful world, and there’s still so much more to see. Click on each text link to see posts associated with each region.
My Taiwanese Heritage
The blog has always had elements of my Taiwanese heritage from the beginning. After all, one of the biggest reasons I began the blog was to document my mom’s Taiwanese recipes.
Since then, I’ve had many opportunities to share my love of cooking with various groups. I had tons of fun teaching a Taiwanese Cooking Workshop in with Boston Taiwanese American Professionals (TAP) in 2013.
I gave a food blogging and photography workshop to university students at their annual ITASA (Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association) Conference at Georgia Tech University. TaiwaneseAmerican.Org also interviewed me for an article on their website.
Finally, I was thrilled when the Boston Globe reached out to me and featured me on the front page of the newspaper’s FOOD section with a full page article titled Tastes from her Taiwanese Tradition, including two recipes!
2017 Moving to Hong Kong
2017 was a very eventful year. Aside from moving out of Ohio to attend school in Boston, I had never moved in my entire life. All of a sudden, after spending over 20 years in Boston, we were moving to Hong Kong because of a unique job opportunity for Bryan.
To be honest, initially it took me awhile to adjust to the idea of a move. However, after some time and serious thought and consideration, it became quite clear that we were supposed to do this. By the end of 2017, we had both moved out to Hong Kong to start a brand new life together.
On the one hand, Hong Kong is a food lover’s dream world. There are endless food choices spanning all different price points, types of cuisines, and levels of dining. It’s crazy, but in two years I already have close to 150 blog posts on Hong Kong restaurants alone. Furthermore, flying anywhere from Hong Kong is a breeze (so many direct flights!), and thus traveling around the region is really, really convenient.
In general, moving to Hong Kong has been fascinating, exciting, educational, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ve loved getting to know different cultures and ideas, having ample opportunities to improve my Chinese, and experiencing such an international city with people from all over the world.
On the other hand, it was hard to leave Boston. Tiny Urban Kitchen was born there, and I had become very close to many fellow food bloggers and restaurant industry folks in the area. I had watched various local chefs develop and hone their own craft. My friends were finally just starting to open or run their own restaurants! What a bummer time to leave.
It’s an open question where I will be in 5 years. However, my heart will always have a place in every location in which I’ve lived, whether it be Ohio, Boston, or Hong Kong.
So what’s next? 2019 onwards
Back in 2010 for the first round of Project Food Blog each blogger had to answer the questions: “what defines your blog?” At the end of the post, I had written the following:
I could have all the passion in the world about cooking, eating and photography. Yet without readers, I would have no motivation to write.
So thank you. Thank you all for interacting with me, encouraging me, and pushing me to try my absolute best to make this blog as good as it can be. I sincerely appreciate it and I will try my hardest to fulfill that goal.
Jen Che Round 1 of Project Food Blog: Ready, Set Blog – September 17, 2010
Folks, Tiny Urban Kitchen is here to stay.
At the time I pre-paid for 5 years of my domain name, intending to keep it forever. In recent years, especially after moving to Hong Kong, it’s been a bit challenging for me to figure out who I am now. Am I a Boston blogger? A Hong Kong blogger? Or just an international traveller / nomad with no real home?
At times I’ve half-jokingly remarked to Bryan how “Tiny Urban Kitchen is dead” and maybe it’s time to stop. He’ll always quickly remind me of my promise that I made to my readers back in 2010.
Don’t you remember what you said? “Tiny Urban Kitchen is here to stay.”
He’s right. My passion for food, travel, photography, and sharing have not diminished one bit. In fact, living out here in Asia, I’ve experienced so many more fascinating and unusual food experiences that I want to share.
I still continue to take photos of food and travel at the same alarming rate that causes me to constantly “fall behind” and require catching up via crazy “50 Posts in 50 Days” self-imposed challenges.
It’s true, platforms change, and perhaps someday Tiny Urban Kitchen will live on in a different form. We’ll see.
For now, however, I have no intentions of discontinuing the blog. I still enjoy using it to share about my travels in more detail (something I find hard to do adequately on social media).
So, yes, Tiny Urban Kitchen is STILL here to stay.
Happy 10th birthday. Here’s to another 10 years! 😱