Daniel Gray: Seoul Eats in Halifax

Daniel Gray is in Halifax this week to participate in One World One Table, the 2010 Culinary Tourism Thought Leadership World Summit. Gray is the man behind  http://www.seouleats.com, as well as the Dining Editor for Groove Magazine and contributor to the Seoul Tourism Website. Perhaps most notably to Food Network fans, he also lent a helping hand to the TV series Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods when they filmed in South Korea.

On Monday, Gray will once again lend a helping hand, but this time to business owners who want to know how to reach culinary consumers, harnessing the might of media and marketing themselves through print, web and television. We had a brief chat about blogging, food and media.

How did you get started in blogging? When did you start Seoul Eats?

I started blogging soon after I moved to Korea because I wanted to learn how to use the computer more. I was pretty much technologically inept before I moved to Korea. I started Seoul Eats about 2 and a half years ago after I got a writing gig at a local magazine and after I found that many people liked reading my reviews.

What kind of effect do you think food blogging has on culinary tourism and food trends? Do you view blogs as simple reporters or do you think there is a more complex chicken-and-egg type relationship?

It can have a big effect, but it takes time. The writer has to be the face of the blog and they build a sense of community and trustworthiness around them. If the bloggers stay on the net and never interact with the “real” world they remain as reporters. If they start interacting with people in the real world then they can have a major impact on the culinary tourism.

How do you think Seoul Eats plays into that?

Seoul Eats has become an essential marketing tool for the tours and cooking classes that we do at our studio. It is also a way to showcase what our company has done. It has been an invaluable tool because it has a culture surrounding it. If I am looking for a chef or translators or even comic artists for a project I’m working on, Seoul Eats helps me find the people.

Do you think the media relationship with food has changed over the years?

In the Korean press, no. The newspapers still don’t have restaurant critics or food experts writing articles for them (which I am happy about). In outside media, I think it has. Food has become the show and the process of making it and the presentation seem to be more important than the actual skill. This is probably due to the popularity of many cooking shows like Iron Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, and Top Chef.

Do you find there to be a vast difference in eastern and western approaches to food and food culture?

Yes, In Asian culture, the food is supposed to be shared so it is more family oriented. Instead of going vertical- they tend to go horizontal so more people can eat and share. In Western cultures, the food is more individually focused for a single experience. That’s why they tend to be more vertical and sparsely plated.

Seoul Eats obviously focuses on life in Korea—it’s right there in your masthead—are there blogs that you feel give a good example of life in other countries from your experience as a reader or culinary tourist?

I enjoy reading Eatingasia.com, the amateur gourmet, Chez Pim, Chocolate and Zucchini, http://www.mytartelette.com, and the Girl Who Ate Everything.

What do you hope to accomplish in Halifax?

I hope to meet other people in the industry and learn from them. I also hope that I can share with them my experiences.

What are you excited to experience here?

The lobster, the fresh air, Tim Horton’s Coffee (I had a roommate that talked about this place all the time), Poutine, and good cheeses.

And—if you’re in Halifax, or when you get here—where do you hope to eat? Will you try our Korean restaurants, or are you more interested in Atlantic Canadian fare?

I am hoping to find one Korean restaurant here to review for an article I am working on.

Gray’s session “Reaching the culinary consumer of today—and tomorrow” takes place at 2pm on Monday, September 20. For more information, visit the One World, One Table agenda online.