It truly has been an interesting journey getting here — from what started as a well-deserved homage to San Francisco nine months ago to what it is now, 100 posts later, a constantly evolving collection of elegant photographs and personal stories about food.  It has been fascinating learning about brining my own chicken and corning my own brisket, discovering amazing hole-in-the-walls in the most unexpected places, and meeting equally passionate foodies in this wonderful city.

The journey has been frustrating, too.  Oftentimes, I feel that my life has been reduced to a miserable obsession with blog stats.  It sounds funny but it’s actually sad when you think about it: how I am so deeply fixated with clicks and views, with being gawked at and spotted.  It’s not sad, it’s pathetic.  While I worry about my blog impressions, I worry about a million other things in the kitchen like the butter burning, the pan de sal not rising, the ube ice cream melting, and the natural light in the loft fading too quickly before I can finish my shoot.  Feeling frustrated may be an understatement. Feeling defeated may be more appropriate.

But despite these somber feelings of defeat, the journey has actually been very rewarding.  When the clicks are down, I turn to readers like Cindy and Jon who write thoughtful and detailed notes about what worked and what didn’t while they recreated my recipes.

I turn to readers like Dina, Iya, Lou and Bruce, who love not only my photographs but also the stories behind those photographs.

I turn to Dennis and his hairy knuckles.  Yes, those hairy knuckles kneading the dough for char siu baos are his.  He’s my number one fan and my number one critic. Whenever I am ready to pack my camera and quit, Dennis is the one who cheers me up and pushes me to write my next post.

Shooting Brining with Chicken

Shooting Chocolate-Dipped Peeps

Shooting Chocolate-Dipped Peeps

Where do I go from here?

Writing Jun-Blog truly has been a wonderful experience.  But where do I go from here? I don’t want to be just another food blogger who makes asparagus soup because they’re in season or who makes strawberry coulis-infused pancakes because they’re coulis-infused.  The web is already saturated with amazing food-blogging moms and chefs who, frankly, can do a much better job that I can making asparagus soup and making strawberry coulis-infused pancakes.   I want to be different.

I have always drawn inspiration from the incredibly diverse food offerings in San Francisco and the Bay Area, from fine dining to street food, from the Farmers’ Markets to the unique ethnic grocery stores.  Lately, I have also been inspired by stories about beekeepers, fishermen, farmers, and mushroom hunters — stories that reconnect me with the people who bring food to my kitchen.  I think it’s truly fascinating to learn about why honey tastes like vanilla or why morels thrive in lightly charred pine trees.   Our salmon fishing trip a couple of weeks ago, even though we came home sunburned and empty-handed, gave me a deeper sense of appreciation for the hard work fishermen do so I can enjoy a plate of grilled fish for dinner.  Growing a vegetable garden. Canning tomatoes. Making berry jams. Butchering pigs and deer.  These are the kind of stories I want to write more about.  Although, I must say that I enjoy dipping Peeps in melted Venezuelan chocolate, too.

Shooting Marshall's Honey

Shooting Salmon Fishing

Reinventing Filipino Food

Revisiting my roots on a recent trip back home has made me realize how much I miss and how much I love Filipino food.  I’ve always wondered why there’s a dearth of great Filipino food in the Bay Area considering its diversity and its huge Filipino-American community, one of the largest in the country.  Filipino food is a rich blend of Spanish, Chinese, and Malay influences, among others.  The amazing local flavors, textures and ingredients deserve so much more attention and affection.

I get so thrilled whenever I hear about chefs in the city trying to reinvent Filipino food.  Kitchenette’s offering in a recent street food event is a perfect example of how it should be done: taking something truly Filipino — a souring technique called kinilaw — and elevating it by using fresh local ingredients.  There’s so much more to Filipino food than the ubiquitous chicken adobo, lumpia and pancit in cafeteria-style restaurants.  Filipino food needs a little bit of sophistication to make it more appealing to the more discriminating international palate.  And that’s the big challenge.

These are exciting times for Jun-Blog.  A hundred posts may seem trivial but for a chemical engineer turned photographer, it’s a huge thing.

  • OohLookBel

    A very entertaining insight to your life – and the fact that you seem to have a camera growing out of your face! And congrats on your 100th post :)

  • iya

    happy 100th!

    thanks for the special mention. :) ang effort pala ng pinagdadaanan mo para makapagproduce ng fantasticawesomeamazing pictures. lights and angles galore! *apir*

  • Jessica

    I’m so glad I ran into your blog. I can definitely relate to your wanting to be different and not just another food blog. However, it seems like you’re onto something and that you’re closer to finding your voice.

  • Slobbering on the Keyboard

    Your photos are awesome! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve woken up at the crack of dawn to cook an elaborate lunch just so I can take photographs of it before leaving for work…hazards of being a food blogger!!! But your food and photos are yummy!

  • Pia

    Congrats, Jun! I don’t much like to cook (Joel is actually my fry cook, he likes doing that) but the pictures in your blog are excellent. They inspire me to eat! Now that I see how hard you prepare your shots make me admire them and you more. I admire the fact that you go to the sources of your food. It’s actually very educational, I use some of your posts to teach my daughter about food. Maybe this should be one of your goals for your future posts.

  • Helen

    I love this post! It’s really interesting to see how what positions you have to take up in order to get your shot and the setup next to the actual shot itself. Congrats on your 100th post!

  • Kaitlin

    Great post – I can relate to all of this.


  • Jean

    Congrats on your 100th post. As a new blogger myself (from the Bay Area and Filipina) I understand the preoccupation with your blog stats. I’m excited to see the changes ahead for your blog–I agree that filipino food lacks mass appeal because the general “colorlessness” of our dishes belies the flavor that waits in each bite. I look forward to seeing more of your beautiful photos!

  • Talia

    Just found you on FG (chalk up another gawker win) — we recently posted our 100th and I can totally relate to your stat checking as well as your quest to find your perfect niche. We are loving our blogging and developing our own voice and its fun to see it come together. I think it all evolves naturally in the end. anyway, fun to have found you, and congratulations on a milestone on teh blog!

  • TripleScoop

    100 post what an accomplishment! Here is a toast to reading many more posts and may your next 100 post be as enjoyable as the last!

  • emmo

    Heh. I love the pictures of you taking pictures. Clearly I need more things to climb on in and around my kitchen. =)

  • Liren

    As a food blogger mom of Filipina heritage who did indeed make asparagus soup at the height of asparagus season, and an avid reader of the jun-blog, I could relate to this post on so many levels! I too wonder about the endeavor of blogging, the light in my kitchen, and the purpose of it all. But I do see it as a creative release, and for you, I like to think of it as a wonderful expose of your talents. You are quite an amazing photographer and storyteller, and I enjoy reading your posts very much. I especially agree with your feelings on the outside world’s view on Filipino food, but I do think that bloggers such as yourself are paving the way to reinvent the perception people may have. Keep up the great work! And thanks for the peek behind the scenes :)

    Congratulations on your 100th post!

  • katie o.

    jun- this is fantastic! i’m not the only crazy food blog photographer out there! congrats by the way! you have something to be really proud of!

  • Cecile

    very inspiring to see the artist at work with matching balancing act on top of the dining and kitchen table

  • Marisa

    Congrats on your 100th post! And thanks for sharing some behind the scenes photography footage – always interesting to see how shots are set up, lit, etc.

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you so much everyone for your thoughtful words. You have no clue how much your notes made my day.

    And I wish all my fellow bloggers the best of luck, too in finding their voice. At the end of the day, enjoying a mango rhubarb pie or strawberry coulis-infused pancakes is all that matters.

  • Veggie Belly

    i am happy to see im not the only one performing precarious acrobatics on my counter top to get that shot! i love your post!

  • Stephanie

    Congratulations! Your blog is really thoughtful and well-written.

  • Zarah

    love all your post!