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Career / Instagram
Why did you start to do food art?
When I started a family I realised that cooking for my family at home was better than eating outside as I could control the ingredients and adjust the flavours according to my family’s specific taste. From that, I wanted to encourage my daughters to eat healthy and independently so I started making Food Art at the end of 2008 when I was heavily pregnant with my second child and started posting it on Instagram in 2011.
When you first became so widely known, what was your first reaction towards it?
When more people started liking my photographs, I knew something was going to happen and that people were interested in my food art pieces but I didn’t expect that my hobby would now then become my career. It was a pleasant surprise.
As a mother of two, how do you manage the work-life balance?
I have to be very disciplined. To try and go to bed early and wake up on time. I have a fixed schedule around my kids school times as I pick them up from school everyday. To maintain a balance I focus on my work for clients during the weekdays as I try to keep my weekends free for my family.
How did you find out and get involved in Instagram?
I found Instagram on ‘most popular’ on Apple store’s list in year 2011. Instagram is very visual, a fast and fun way to share my pictures with friends.
How do you enjoy the interaction with your followers?
I love the interaction with my followers, some of my followers share with me that they follow my artwork because it brightens their day and it humbles and encourages me that I can bring joy to people in this way.
Where have you been featured so far?
ABC news, Buzzfeed, Daily Mail UK, E!Online, Huffington Post, nStyle, MSN, People magazine, TMZ, The Rachael Ray Show, Today.com, Yahoo! and most of the local media in Malaysia.
Do you travel at all for work?
Yes, I have travelled for work for varied reasons such as attending events, conducting demos/workshops or making appearances in Singapore, Turkey, Hong Kong and China.
What advice can you give to those who aspire to do what you are doing?
Keep things simple and create your own style!
What brands/companies have you worked with so far?
I am very thankful for all the opportunities I have received so far from both local and international brands such as Turkish Airlines, Mastercard, ESPN, Barilla, Sustagen, Samsung, Barbie, DBS, Driscolls, Zespri, Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s, Total Wireless and internationally renowned agencies such as Weber Shandwick, Ogilvy, Edelman and more. You can view my portfolio to see a more complete list of who I’ve worked with!
Is Samantha available to do a Food Art demo/workshop at my event?
You can contact Samantha Lee here with the relevant details and someone on the team will get back to you. However do note that due to Samantha’s busy schedule she is unfortunately unavailable for private Food Art workshops with individuals.
Does Samantha host Food Art workshops that I can sign up for?
Samantha works usually in collaboration with brands & companies for Food Art workshops/demos. Sometimes they do open these up to the public through contests, giveaways or a first come first served basis. Please check her Instagram page or News page regularly to keep updated on her upcoming events.
Can Samantha cater for my event or create a personal food art for my party?
Unfortunately Samantha does not do any catering or take any personal food art requests. However, we would like to encourage you to try Samantha Lee’s Food Art at home for yourself! You can find tips and updates on Samantha’s Facebook and look out for Samantha’s new book by checking the News page. If you post your recreated Samantha Lee Food Art on social media do remember to tag @leesamantha and #leesamantha.
What was your first creation?
My first creation was a Hello Kitty food art.
Do you use moulds to shape these creations?
No I don’t use moulds. I like to keep my utensils fuss free, simple and practical. I used to invest in a lot of bento making art sets and tools but after awhile I realized that it isn’t needed at all as using moulds generally result in a lot of food wastage, which I don’t believe in. I believe in pushing the boundaries of creativity with practical tools like a pair of scissors, knife and toothpick – with these I’ve created all my artwork.
What are some of the common ingredients that you use to make your food art?
I love to work with fresh ingredients such as rice, vegetables, fruits and poultry. These ingredients provide the best colours! There’s no need for food colouring!
What advice would you give parents who want to try making Food Art for their kids?
I keep things simple by using tools you can already find in your kitchen such as scissors, knife, toothpicks and cling film. My advice is that you don’t need to do this everyday but do it when you want to introduce new types of food to your kid as children are generally more resistant to unfamiliar ingredients but when introduced in a fun and cute way, they will be more open to it.
How do you manage to prevent waste when making Food Art?
Through sketching it out first and planning which ingredients to use.
How long does it usually take you to make Food Art for your kids?
Actually it doesn’t take that long to create these food art pieces. To create a full meal for the family from scratch would take about an hour, depending on the intricacy of the food.
Does your food art contain equal nutrients like carbohydrate, protein and fiber?
For me, I always have a personal rule to include the 3 basic nutrients of Carbohydrate, Protein and fiber, that’s why you do see in most of my pieces a complete meal rice, meat, and a vegetable dish or something similar as I believe in a balanced meal.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I get inspired from everything including my kids who share ideas with me and when I travel and sketch as well as creative art I see around me.
What is the process of creating a dish?
- I sketched my ideas before I make them into food. This is to stay organised and to prevent food wastage.
- I will also try to execute with different type of ingredients. I personally feel that food art has to taste as good as it looks and it has to be practical too!
- Then, the fun part – Cooking and Creating! It takes about 1 to 1.5 hour of cooking from scratch to finish (depending on the recipe and complication of the food art). I usually shape the food while cooking and make sure everything is done at the same time.
Do your kids help you in the kitchen?
Yes, I let my kids help as much as they want to. They learnt how to shape the food with minimum food wastage.
Do you make the same plate/art more than once?
Some of them yes, usually because I want to upgrade an old design to simplify it or use different ingredients or I just really like the character/scene!
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with your food creations?
When I work with ice cream, that is quite challenging because my country Malaysia has a hot and humid climate which makes it hard to handle ice cream because it melts too fast!
I assume the food would have gone cold by the time you plate it. Do you reheat the food? Or does it still taste good even when cold?
The food doesn’t get cold here as I have gotten use to plating it quite fast, also the Malaysian weather is quite hot and humid so the food still stays quite warm even after plating.
What is the next step forward with your food art?
I want to keep empowering and inspiring families out there through my food art to continue to be creative together so I hope I that can be fulfilled by publishing a book in the future, a food art channel and continue working with brands/companies with the same mindset.
Do you use a camera or phone to take photos of your food art?
Both Phone and camera.
What editing apps do you use?
What is your background?
I am stay at home mother with two daughters, I graduated in Mass Communication.
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I think I am more of an introvert as I really appreciate my quiet personal times.
Have you studied art or cooking before?
No, I’ve never studied art or cooking before. I use my imagination a lot and sketch almost every day. My mother taught me how to cook but I watch a lot of cooking shows as well and I learnt from experience and lots of practice.
Do you support any charities or causes?
Children and single parents are close to my heart and I try to support their wellbeing every year through participating in different causes/charitable campaigns some of which are Parents without Partners and The Malaysian Aids Foundation.
What are your hobbies?
Eating and travelling, especially wandering around cities!
What is your dream vacation?
Ample time exploring any city would be a dream vacation, but at the moment I would really love to head over to New York as I have never been.
What is your favourite drink?
My current obsession is making pour over coffee. The simplest and cleanest way to draw out a coffee’s best qualities.
Describe your style in 3 words.
Simple, clean, minimalist
3 essentials you always carry in your bag?
Hand cream, purse, sunglasses
Who is your current fashion muse?
What are some items you must carry with you whenever traveling?
My DSLR camera, my smart phone, sunglasses, sketchbook and pens, make up bag.
What brings you the greatest happiness?
When I see my kids enjoy what I do and be proud of what I do.