Little Miss Bento aka Shirley Wong Loves Doodling and Packing Lunch Boxes – This Led Her to Become A Renowned Food Artist
What comes to our mind when someone mentions food? Taste and if we think a little harder – presentation. Enter Miss Shirley Wong and your food is not only appealing to your taste buds but also fascinating your eyes!
On a fine Friday evening, I am at Kumoya Toki-doki Pop Up Cafe – world’s first Tokidoki-themed restaurant located on Jalan Klapa street in Singapore. Tokidoki, which means ‘sometimes’, is a Japanese brand with international fandom. To create this insta-worthy eating experience, Little Miss Bento collaborated with Kumoya for the once again after successful collaborations in the past, including the Care Bears, Miffy and Sanrio’s Cinnamoroll.
As I walk inside, Little Miss Bento is sitting on our table engrossed in doodling with a cup of lemon tea lying and her MacBook kept on the other side of the table. I interrupt her personal art session with an evidently loud “Hi”.
Family’s Support, Creative Instincts and An Undaunted Enthusiasm For Food
As we settle down, Shirley offers me a drink and orders some of the best looking food from the colorful menu. This place is extraordinarily vibrant and cheerful. Beautiful pink unicorns hanging from the ceiling and walls painted in Tokidoki characters – I make a mental not that whenever I feel low – this will be my “go to place”. I begin the interview with the most obvious question. Why explore art in food? What brought this on? Shirley laughs and tells me that this was never the plan, it just happened.
He explains that she loved spending time in the kitchen since school days and the best thing was that her mother never restricted her, she let her experiment. “I find myself to be very lucky because my family has been supportive of my pursuits always – first it was my parents and now it my husband. Their confidence in me drives me.”
How It All Began
Shirley was not always sure that she would take Food Art as a profession but she was always creative at heart. As an art enthusiast, she studied Dance from The Hong Kong Dance Academy and went on to become a professional dancer at the Arts Fission Company for almost 4 years.
It was there that she met a Japanese woman who eventually proved to be a major influence in her life. This woman used to bring traditional lunch boxes to the office, this gave Shirley ideas to get creative with food.
“I started packing lunch boxes and experimenting with creative ideas while doing so. Interestingly that gradually became the high point of my days.”
Her colleagues started appreciating her beautiful lunch boxes and gradually she became popular. On a friend’s suggestion, she started posting pictures of these boxes online and after that there was no turning back. Today, she has more than 338, 000 followers on Instagram and 50, 000 on Facebook.
Awards, Associations and The Moniker
Shirley tells me that she started a blog in 2012, after winning the Hello Market Decoben Grand Prix and International Bento Contest. She named her first website littlemissonigiri.blogspot.com. In just a year’s time, her popularity multiplied insanely and she decided to re-brand herself and Little Miss Bento was born. She also won the Singapore Blog Award in 2015, and the Influence Asia Awards 2015 in the food category.
Today, Shirley Wong is a certified food instructor with the Japan Sushi Instructor Association and Japan Salonaise Association. I ask about her take on such massive rewards in such a short period of time.
“It is important to keep working hard, without expecting or anticipating rewards. When there are rewards, enjoy the success but you need to be aware that they may not be consistent. Just follow your passion with dedication and a pure heart.”
We are interrupted at our food arrives. It looks delectable and beautiful. I am in awe of the presentation. I am curious. “As a food artist, what comes first – the presentation or the food?” I ask.
Shirley walks me through the entire process. “First we come up with a concrete menu and then after brainstorming for several hours, we begin the work on the actual item. If needed, we sometimes improvise on the ingredients and sometimes modify the design to meet both – taste and presentation midway.” I am inspired and blown away by this woman’s unique skills and dedication to her endeavors.