19 May Creative Minds – Kana Kawashima
Welcome to my new series Creative Minds! Since starting Minn’s Munchtime my aim has been to share my love of music and food. Along the way I’ve met other like minded musicians who have created their own methods of showcasing their culinary obsessions. I decided to start Creative Minds to celebrate their curiosity and entrepreneurial talent, but it’s also been great to have a chat and catch up with friends. I hope you enjoy their stories as much as I have.
I’m thrilled to start Creative Minds with fellow violinist Kana Kawashima, creator of The Foodician. Currently living in Edinburgh as a member of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, she is used to growing roots in new places having moved from Japan to London, Vienna and back again. It was while studying in Vienna that Kana began sharing her favourite meals on Instagram. Her timing couldn’t have been better as the Insta foodie scene was only just starting to take off. As this wave grew she became part of its community steadily gaining friends and followers.
Life wasn’t always so gastronomic for Kana. Dislikes in her childhood included cheese, mushrooms, most veg…as she says, her tastes were ‘basic. At Italian restaurants I would order spaghetti pomodoro or margherita pizza every time’. However she knew good cooking from her parents and through them understood the importance of eating well. Her parents would often cook Japanese meals on the weekend which provided variation from boarding house fare at Menuhin School of Music. In the wonderful transitional blur of first year undergrad she would call upon them for cooking 101s – how to cook pasta, rice, noodles, the works.
She soon found her feet and was knocking out tasty Japanese food like nobody’s business. Okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes) and fried chicken became signature dishes, especially since there weren’t many Japanese restaurants around. Kana observed that since the frequency of restaurants opening in Vienna is relatively low compared to a city like London, when a new place turns up it’s even more exciting and special. She would take photos of these moments for her own memory and soon these would fill her Instagram feed.
If you follow Kana’s social media you’ll recognise her photography style – close shot, the picture filled with food as if you’ve leant in to smell it. Camera lovers amongst us will be interested to know her weapon of choice is an Olympus Pen EPL-7. This mirrorless style is more lightweight than a DSLR, helping her feel less awkward taking photos at the table and able to maintain a low profile. Finding the right lens for food photography can be tricky. The one she prefers is zoomed in so you can take close up photos from further away. This produces a portrait look with the subject in focus and the background gently blurred.
Of course there are as many ways to photograph food as there are people. ‘I’m often attracted to styles which I wouldn’t necessarily do myself [with the equipment I own]’, @girleatworld being a fantastic example. Her colourful ‘food in hand’ shots in front of incredible scenery around the world is so fun and full of life. I’d love to have her photos on my walls at home. @viennaeats has got flatlays down to a T, not surprising since she’s been posting since 2013 – she was one of the first friends Kana made through Instagram’s food scene. Another of Kana’s favourites is @little_meg_siu_meg whose feed is full of fine dining, often Michelin restaurants. A guilty pleasure is ‘seeing people’s really grubby foods…it makes you feel a bit sick as it’s so rich and fatty but still kind of satisfying’. If we can’t eat mounds of oozy melty cheese or hearty rich ramen soup everyday at least we can look at it and live vicariously through others.
With the food industry booming on social media, Kana felt the need to have a more permanent platform. Even today we’re seeing Tik Tok thriving while other outlets are already saturated. Seeing these channels come and go she thought it would be a good idea to have her own space. If nothing else it meant she wouldn’t have to keep up with all the different formats. At this point she wanted to add more detail about each dish than suits an Instagram post. The Foodician website allowed her to do that with greater control over her content and how she wanted to present it.
I adore The Foodician’s logo. A cute piggy carrying a violin case, hand on hip. It sets up the fun, relaxed and no fuss style to Kana’s posts. The focus is photography with plate’s eye level images taking centre stage. She bases her content around two well loved cities – London and Tokyo. The London page features a multicultural snapshot of cuisines representing the huge melting pot we’re lucky to have in our capital city. Meanwhile her Tokyo offerings celebrate Oriental food through varying iterations of izakaya, the fluffiest soufflé pancakes, Taiwanese noodles and more.
Of course this is a beloved hobby but it does take a lot of time. Sorting and editing photos, constructing the post itself, visiting places more than once to get a better overall picture. Plus Kana’s reach was increasing rapidly. It’s testament to Kana’s skill and enthusiasm that she was able to build her following to thousands of people. Her sister used to have a blog too which helped Kana connect with other social media creators. However she eventually reached a point where she decided to take her foot off the pedal. ‘At the beginning it was really fun, I enjoyed going to all the different restaurants…I got invited to more and more events, launches, meet ups…and it started to escalate’. This is great news if you intend to pursue this as a career but being a musician will always be number one for Kana. ‘I found I had to filter [events]…it’s much better when you take the pressure off’. Figuring out balance is something we can all relate to. Taking a step back and making small changes can have a significant impact. After Kana re-jigged the scales in her favour she was able to fully enjoy the process once more.
Future Foodician plans include more Scottish recommendations. Seeing as she’s based near Edinburgh’s top restaurants I expect mouthwatering photos and lots of whisky. On her want to go list is Michelin starred Restaurant Martin Wishart in the historic port of Leith. This has an enticing mix of modern European cooking with traditional French techniques using local Scottish produce. If you’re visiting the Scottish capital one of Kana’s highlights is Timberyard where they celebrate seasonality and natural wines in a smartened up former warehouse. You could coordinate it with a Scottish Chamber Orchestra performance for the full Foodician experience!
This is the quick fire round, named Petits Fours (‘little ovens’) after the miniature sweet treats traditionally served at the end of a meal.
Minn: When we can travel again where would you like to visit first?
Kana: In an ideal situation South East Asia as I’ve never been to that part of the world. Maybe Vietnam as I LOVE Vietnamese food. Or Thailand, Malaysia…
M: What’s a good book you’ve read recently?
K: Right now I’m finishing Julian Barnes’ The Noise of Time which is about Shostakovich. Also The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. It centres around the Black Death and the stories of people attempting to escape it. Though it was written in the 1300s you read it now and it’s like the current situation!
M: What gadget would you like to invent?
K: A device so you could go back in time. I would re-live amazing meals and savour the smell of the food!
I hope you enjoyed this first episode of Creative Minds, please give it a thumbs up below if so! Thanks to Kana for being my first guinea pig and sharing her fascinating food story with us. There’s more to come from bakers to home cooks and entrepreneurs, all sharing their love of music, travel and food.