Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Jocelyn Wong is an alumnus. In fact, Justine Wong is an alumnus.
This post was updated July 30 at 9:01 p.m.
When words fail, food speaks.
For alumnus Justine Wong and her sister Jocelyn, this mantra is the foundation behind their food Instagram account, @hangrydiary, where they share restaurant and food reviews. The two first created the account back in 2015 as a way to document the different dishes they came across in what Jocelyn said is a diary-like fashion.
“We both really love going out to try different restaurants,” Jocelyn said. “That’s why we wanted to talk about what we see in different restaurants and even travel and include what we really like in different cities.”
In addition to posting food and restaurant reviews, the account occasionally features original recipes inspired by the sisters’ favorite dishes. They also sprinkle in interviews with chefs, inquiring how they cooked certain dishes or what inspired them to put particular items on the menu. When reviewing restaurants, Jocelyn said she and Justine consider the taste and quality of the food to be the most important criteria. However, depending on the restaurant, Justine said they also look for other aspects that give the dining experience a signature spin.
“We should know what ingredients they are using,” Justine said. “Then (there are) also the skills and techniques they use – how they represent that dish and (how) that dish also represents the chef’s journey and their history. For fine dining, it’s the whole experience.”
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Over the years, Jocelyn said she and her sister have witnessed their content evolve as the Instagram niche and algorithm have changed over time. Interest in food blogging has grown and more accounts have entered the scene, requiring them to adjust accordingly. While the content of their posts has remained focused on reviews, Jocelyn said when Hangrydiary first started, the account was mostly photo-based.
However, with the current levels of competition, Jocelyn said they have been turning to Instagram Reels and video content to gain more exposure. In order to consistently create content, Jocelyn said the pair must plan in advance, which involves contacting the restaurants beforehand about taking photos during their visit and hitting multiple restaurants on the same day.
“During the weekends, we would visit eight to 10 restaurants on Saturday and Sunday so that we would have enough content,” Jocelyn said. “We had to wake up at 8 am in the morning and then start driving around. It wasn’t easy, but we really enjoyed that.”
Jocelyn said she and Justine spend a significant amount of time and energy capturing their experiences at every restaurant. Graduate student Jeremy Shen, who met Jocelyn and Justine through their Instagram page, said he was surprised to see how much work and time goes into the content creation process when they visit restaurants. Shen said this can involve setting up professional equipment such as tripods and reflectors.
“They need to find the best spot for lighting, make sure that the silverware and decorations are in the right place, make sure that the angle is right, and make sure that all the food is nicely presented,” Shen said. “It takes a long time to get everything set up and get the perfect picture.”
One of Hangrydiary’s goals is to bring people together through its content. With a following of 130,000, the sisters strive to use their platform to help their community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jocelyn said the pair reached out to small businesses and asked for promotional materials to post to the account.
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Through their account, the pair also emphasize their native Hong Kong roots. In the past, they collaborated with Wanderlust Creamery, an ice cream shop chain, to create Hong Kong-style ice cream flavors inspired by the sisters’ backgrounds. Additionally, they try to introduce Hong Kong and Chinese food content alongside the account’s variety of cuisines.
“We want to tell people what Chinese food is all about because people might have a different perception,” Jocelyn said. “They may think that it’s more like Panda Express, but what (we want) to show them is that there is a lot of uniqueness in Chinese food, and I think our goal is to promote that.”
The sisters have also branched out to selling products such as plates and other kitchen utensils, although the initiative is currently on hold as they focus on other endeavors. Moving forward, Jocelyn said they also hope to focus more on sharing some of their own recipes, such as ones passed down from their grandmother or inspired by dishes they’ve tried. At Hangrydiary’s core, Jocelyn said she and her sister hope to build a sense of community through their food blogging journey.
“I think food connects everyone,” Jocelyn said. “That’s why we wanted to talk about what we like to eat.”