Mark Wiens Dives Deep into His Decade of Food Reporting
Asia/ Delish/ People

YouTube Superstar Mark Wiens on Savouring Success Through Food Reporting

You Tube Superstar Mark Wiens on Savouring Success Through Food Reporting

Mark Wiens is bonkers about food. Having run his eponymous YouTube channel since 2010, the foodie has amassed a following of 10 million subscribers tuning in weekly to indulge in his international tasty escapades.

“I've been abnormally obsessed with food ever since I can remember,” the YouTuber told The Beat Asia in an online interview from his home in Bangkok, Thailand.

Mark has ventured everywhere to expose the greatness of food: Ghana to dine on exotic animals, Uzbekistan to sample sheep and horse meat, Mexico for tacos galore, Las Vegas to showcase glitzy buffets, Delhi to survive spicy street food, and Spain to chomp on seafood.

After a decade of food reporting on YouTube and entering his fourth year of operating his Bangkok-based pad krapao-focused restaurant, Phed Mark, the foodie superstar sat down with The Beat Asia to explore his illustrious journey, from budding food lover to notorious culinary reporter. 

YouTube Superstar Mark Wiens on Savouring Success Through Food Reporting

Born of mixed Chinese-German heritage, Mark spent his early life travelling the globe, following his missionary parents to France, the DR Congo, and Kenya. Primed by his global living experiences, he developed an insatiable curiosity about food.

“Food was a major part of visiting family, specifically travelling to Hawaii, where my mom is from. The island state has access to great seafood, fresh ingredients, and a unique cross-cultural blending of Hawaiian and Asian - Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos.”

Mark pursued his tertiary studies at the multicultural Arizona State University, engaging with his long-held culinary curiosity with a range of international faces found on campus. He routinely headed south across the U.S.-Mexico border on “food rampages,” as he coins, to join friends in their hometowns, soaking up Mexican cuisine and culture.

“Even though I wasn't able to travel as much when I was in university, I was still able to feed that curiosity of food and culture, and learn about other people being where I was,” he says.

Graduating from college in 2009, Mark collected his savings and committed to an adventure across the world to eat and sightsee. His first foray into recording his experiences began with the founding of Migrationology, a blog journaling guides and information for each country he visited. Mark soon found himself moving to Thailand later that year to teach English, digging deeper into the underbelly of Southeast Asia.

YouTube Superstar Mark Wiens on Savouring Success Through Food Reporting

“It took me a year to realise that I don’t enjoy [visiting] museums or running around hitting a city’s top 10 attractions. I’d be happier focusing on food.”

“For two years, I continued to capture the food I was eating and pen blog posts. I loved exploring street food, not just for the food itself, but also for the atmosphere and culture. However, when you just take a photo of the food, you can’t sense that atmosphere. It’s hard to imagine the action or energy of a place.”

“In 2010, YouTube existed simply as a place for watching unedited funny clips. I had a small point and shoot camera, a Canon PowerShot, and began to upload simple shots of food that I enjoyed onto YouTube, describing the flavours and sights. That’s where the emotion of food comes from. I knew video would be the future [online], so I decided to upload two videos each week, non-stop, of my travels around the world. I have never stopped.”

For a decade, Mark has zeroed in on presenting local street food to the masses, rich finds hidden in communities that many a tourist may never seek. “I fell in love with street food because it’s accessible, visual, and budget friendly.”

“Old school mom-and-pop house-style restaurants serve some of the best street food on earth. With street food, you can sense the energy and freshness of the food, and you can connect with the person cooking.”

Mark has previously quoted in interviews his inspirations from Anthony Bourdain, and it is easy to compare him to the late revered food presenter. “He was a pioneer in food and the possibilities of being able to travel to a destination to explore the food and meet the people through food.”

“[Like him], I love how you can connect with the owner of a restaurant or food stall, who may be the chef or family. You can have a personal conversation with them and many people in the neighbourhood. Everyone has their own unique story of how they started cooking, and it's this connection you get with eating street food.”

YouTube Superstar Mark Wiens on Savouring Success Through Food Reporting

It is the yummy bowls of noodles, warm plates of meat, and salty-sweet-spicy nibbles that have rendered Mark determined to report on the world’s street finds for 10 years running. “It's always been about the food. It's not so much about the videos, because even if I wasn't making videos, I would still be eating [laughs]!”

Mark’s need for innovation in the international food space came in 2019, when he joined three Bangkok-based industry friends, Khun Tan, Khun Pongthep, and Chef Gigg, to launch Phed Mark restaurant. “It started with a conversation with good Thai friends about pad krapow, a national stir-fry dish of Thailand cooked with holy basil and different types of meat.”

“It’s a diehard Thai dish that everyone knows and loves; there are many variations. We asked ourselves, why don’t we open a small restaurant serving a version of the dish we love?”

“It is an honour to be a part of this project. Thailand has been my home base since 2009. My family is Thai, my wife is Thai. The possibilities are endless.”

YouTube Superstar Mark Wiens on Savouring Success Through Food Reporting
Photo: Instagram/@migrationology

The possibility for Mark to extend himself beyond the YouTube frame, and onto the silver screen, came in 2022, when the foodie was invited to the Lion City to create “Food Affairs with Mark Wiens,” an HBO Go-Singapore Tourism Board partnership exposing Singapore’s rich culinary culture in a six-part docuseries.

Mark continued his non-scripted act on TV, employing the temperate city as his playground to explore everything from local hawker finds to Michelin gourmet palaces. “The project was novel to me and exciting to dig deeper than I usually would in a city for a month.”

As he reflects in our interview, Mark is dogged in continuing his mission to serve his online community with a feed of engaging, yummy adventures across the world. “As I get older, I want to provide more value to serving my audience with more education of food.”

In mention of future opportunities to appear in front of the silver screen again, Mark says to watch this space.

Make sure to catch up on where Mark Wiens is travelling next to eat by heading to his YouTube channel or Instagram.

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