I was born in a small town, but always fancied city life. My father grew up overseas as my grandparents were in the US foreign service. I grew up hearing stories of life in Cairo, Warsaw, Greece and Amsterdam. It was no surprise then, at a young age, I set out for something more exotic. In my case, this meant New York City.
After university I started to build a career in advertising. Working in NYC in Advertising had its advantages. When I was starting out, my meager salary was supplemented by dinners out with clients and luxurious trips to exotic locales for television and photo shoots. I started to learn about food and wine and other gourmand delights. I stayed in a great many 5-star hotels all over the world. I shopped like a pro – knowing what to buy in which city and learning how to spot good craftsmanship from my days as a salesperson at Bloomingdale’s on the high-end designer floor – a job I took to make ends meet in my early advertising days.
Over time and with the variety of friends and mentors from the different cultures and backgrounds that NYC brings, I learned about and most generally stumbled upon the finer things in life. As I explored close to home and traveled further afield, I recognized the difference between merely average and high quality. I discovered how simple presentation could elevate the humblest of meals and make even a cup of tea feel special. And then when my salary approached my appetite for the finer things, I became discerning – but with a view that a dark hole-in-the wall joint famous for its local brew and burgers could be just as inspiring as a multi-course tasting menu. Value is not a dirty word – it doesn’t mean cheap. For me, value means something that is worth its asking price. So by my definition, a $75USD steak can be just as “valuable” as a $5USD burger.
A career change took me into international marketing which opened up the world in a new way. Frequent international travel exposed me to all manner of cultural interests and experiences. Each business trip I took, I managed to plan a personal side trip to explore the culture of the place I was visiting. And so it was – from business class flights and 4 to 5 star hotels / dining when on business, to budget airlines and rail, smaller boutique hotels and local dining when on my own. But always with an eye for something special – that charming little place with the oh-so-special wine list / guest room / signature cocktail that you want to return to again and again.
So, when a job posting in Bangkok opened up almost 7 years ago, I jumped on it. And from the vantage point of Thailand I began to intimately explore Asia. And as it turns out, living in the developing world is no different – there are bright and shiny gemstones and diamonds in the rough no matter where you go. After visiting 10 countries in as many months and writing about it on a personal blog, I began to receive a lot of feedback about how I should “do something” with all my knowledge and experiences. And so Accidental Epicurean was born.
After my Asian initiation in Bangkok, I did 2 more years in Singapore, and I write to you now from my lane house in the Jing’An District of Shanghai, China, where I live today. Like many expats, I bring to you a wide and deep variety of personal experiences as well as the promise of a great many adventures yet to happen. I hope you will join me in these discoveries and in stumbling upon the good life.
(Joanna has a BA in Journalism and Psychology from the University of North Carolina and an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business. Her writing credentials span from poetry to industry analysis to travel & food writing. Her poetry has been published in an anthology of North Carolina Poets and various regional literary magazines. She has contributed to articles on the advertising industry in Advertising Age and Ad Week. She has been a contributing writer to CNN / CNNgo online, Chubby Hubby blog, as well as SE Asia Globe and Look East magazines. In 2010, Accidental Epicurean was nominated by Saveur Magazine as “Best Culinary Travel Blog.”)