Jamaica is rich with diverse people; no one knows this more than Tiana Chung. Growing up, when she wasn’t embracing the culinary side of her father’s Chinese family culture, she was introduced to ‘outta many’ experiences by her mother via palate. Organically, Chung became a food lover, which spawned a career as a content creator, podcaster, and photographer of all things cuisine.
“I truly am in love with culinary content, and it’s something that I yearn to share with people. When I have a bite that I really like, I want to talk about it. When I learn something new about food, I need to share it. So, the love of it is what keeps me motivated,” she told Food.
Going by the moniker WongaGyal, she recalls the days which sparked her food flame. Receiving encouragement from her vegetarian dance teacher to go into food writing after describing the feeling following a bite into the famous Kentucky Fried Chicken became the catalyst for Chung, who embarked on taste bud pleasing adventures across Trinidad, St Croix and Cuba.
“I had amassed an absurd amount of photos of food on my iPhone, and decided to make an Instagram account just to share my travels with friends and family. Of course, the algorithm got me and started showing me content from other culinary content creators and I realised that this could be a passion worth pursuing,” she said.
The priceless knowledge and experience she gained throughout the Caribbean shaped the dynamic storyteller we see today.
“WongaGyal is a culinary explorer. It’s more than just a love for eating food; it has grown into a love for food in general. I now love reading about food, learning about food, cooking food, and watching food-related content. I am particularly interested in the stories that food has to tell, and how deeply connected each ingredient is to culture, history, geography, and even biology and chemistry,” she shared.
Chung continued by noting, “WongaGyal has offered me the outlet to not only explore those things but to also share them with a community that’s just as excited about food as I am.”
These days, she enjoys making dishes like Shakshouka. “It’s so easy and flavourful, but it was also one of the first dishes that I started off totally unfamiliar with and I took the time to ‘master’. I even did a video content piece about it for Smart Eggs back in 2020,” she said.
For those wondering, Shakshouka is a popular dish typically made and devoured in North Africa and the Middle East. Because its main ingredient is poached eggs, it is usually considered a breakfast meal item, but it can be eaten for lunch and dinner as well. The foodie is also a lover and maker of a good baked mac and cheese.
Inspiration for content creation comes from insights from other culinary masterminds on social media. Once she gets inspired, Chung wastes no time on bringing visions for the palate and beyond to the spotlight. This one-woman show sources all of her props, doing just about everything behind the scenes. “I like to let the food tell the story on these types of content pieces,” Chung added.
With this creation came the fuel to feed her passion for food photography. She received an extra push after a local brand declined to work with her because she only took pictures with her phone. “That was an absurd response, but I am grateful that it gave me the push to invest in my passion myself,” she revealed in hindsight.
The foodie went on to become the voice of season, premiering the first episode of her podcast two years ago on July 26. The outlet gives both her listeners and herself an avenue to think about and discuss the unique flavours of food.
“Flavour is one of the few stimuli that engages all five senses. What we see, hear, feel, smell and taste all contribute to the experience of flavour. But the average person doesn’t even think about that; I didn’t before WongaGyal. So why not explore hearing about food some more? And that’s what inspired the podcast journey,” she highlighted.
So how exactly does Chung strike a balance? She’s still working on that. Working from home, she can have control over her schedule.
For Christmas, she spent the season with her family and cooked ham for the first time for her mother. “There was baked mac and cheese, candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, jerk chicken, oxtail, rice and peas, and sorrel, of course,” she dished.
Speaking of food, she listed her top six plated delights and the places you can go to indulge in them:
• Seafood Risotto from L’Escargot in St Ann
• Curry Goat Pasta from Broken Plate
• Jerk Chicken Spring Rolls from Usain Bolt’s Tracks & Records
• Smoked Salmon Benedict from Lido Harlem in New York City
• One big Fried Fish with 3 Festival and an ice cold Pepsi from Aunt May’s or Aunt Merl’s in Hellshire
• Doubles with slight pepper and a glass bottle Coca Cola from the doubles man at University of the West Indies, St Augustine, (North Gate).