Inga Lam said her family was initially conflicted over her career in media, a job that she said many parents often consider unstable.
“People are always like, ‘How is your mom okay with this?’ and [my mom] said, ‘Well I was not okay with it,’ because she didn’t even know what Buzzfeed was,” Lam said. “I think that’s the thing … for our parents who are maybe not familiar with the digital media industry.”
On April 6, the Boston College Taiwanese Cultural Organization hosted a virtual speaker event featuring Lam, a senior video producer at Buzzfeed’s Tasty and creator of the new YouTube channel About To Eat.
Lam, who was raised in Hong Kong and Taiwan, creates content that showcases the intersection of food, travel, and culture. She produces and hosts different long-form series on Tasty, in addition to making both recipe and lifestyle videos on her personal YouTube channel.
Lam said she takes a specific approach when creating videos for Tasty.
“When I’m thinking of a frame for a Buzzfeed video, I think there’s a certain way we approach [it] … the main focus is … virality and to cater more to reaching a broader audience,” she said.
Lam said her passion for Asian cuisine and desire to share a more personal story drove her to start her personal YouTube channel this year.
“The videos I put on my channel are for me,” Lam said.
Inspired by her Taiwanese heritage, Lam said she considers her personal channel a place where she can showcase Taiwanese culture more freely. The video production process at Buzzfeed is more data-based, Lam said, which might limit her freedom to choose the content she wants to produce.
“So Buzzfeed’s super into data, right, it started as a tech company, and there are analytics of what types of cuisine are more clickable, and I think Japanese, Korean food are like on top, you know, and then maybe like Chinese,” Lam said. “And so I think for Americans, who are like the main Tasty audience, at first it was a little bit like, you know, they don’t even know where Taiwan is … so I think it was hard in the beginning.”
When she had the platform to introduce Taiwanese cuisine to her audience through her personal channel, Lam said she had concerns as to how she could describe a rather niche cuisine to the American public.
“I was very obsessed with the idea of making the unfamiliar familiar,” Lam said.
To make the “unfamiliar familiar,” Lam said she had to find engaging ways to introduce Taiwanese recipes.
“If I straight up said, ‘Let me tell you about this Taiwanese pineapple cake’ for example, I don’t think that would be something that everybody wanted to click on … but if we frame [it] in a way that might be more interesting to people, so that when they click into it they are more intrigued by it—that started making it easier for me to pitch different things that were maybe more specific to my culture,” she said.
Lam then shared her opinion on authenticity and her take on modernized Asian cuisine in the United States.
“A lot of times when you think about what is authentic, you probably just mean like this is the flavor you used to taste at home that your mom made,” she said. “But the truth is, all our moms make the same dish very differently.”
Lam said this has led her to specify the role her personal experience plays in her recipes on her personal channel.
“That’s why when I do my recipes right on my channel I always say this is my family’s way of doing it—it doesn’t mean that the way your family does it is wrong or whatever it’s just like, this is my personal experience,” Lam said. “I acknowledge that there are a lot of different ways that this can be done.”
Featured Image by Aditya Rao / For The Heights