Foodie Justice: Tim Cheung & Taco Diplomacy

Tim Cheung, Food Photographer

If you are a foodie on Instagram — hello! — you probably already know the delicious account that brings all the foodies to the Bay Area. The name @bayarea.foodies is just descriptive, but the person behind it is extremely creative! Meet Tim Cheung who has turned his curious appetite and a keen eye for detail into a viral campaign to support local minority-owned businesses during and beyond the pandemic. Historically, the Bay Area has some of the widest variety of cuisines in the United States. It is a seriously challenging mission to experience and highlight them all. Pioneering spirit of the region never backed down from a fight for progress, so Tim took his passion seriously.

Tina Thi Nguyen of Chick N’ Bros featuring Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich

What turns a place into a post on your account?

There isn’t really a “magic ingredient” that is required. I decide my next spots based on curiosity. Ideally, the food needs to not only be delicious, but have a rich cultural backstory that I think is important to tell through each dish.

What has been your relationship with food cultures growing up?

My parents didn’t really like cooking. Since we would eat out a lot, I got to explore the different cuisines quite early. It also pushed me to learn how to make some delicious home cooked meals for myself. It is now part of the content I offer that is easy to follow along.

Daniel Ortega of Consabor A Mexico featuring Birria Tacos

What is your earliest food justice memory?

In high school, I used to frequent this taqueria with my friends. I always wondered why they didn’t have a lot of customers, because they were delicious. Then one day they shut down and I realized that there were a lot of hidden gems that people just didn’t realize ever existed. I didn’t want other small places to get overlooked.

Outside of the Bay Area what is your next foodie justice destination?

In Los Angeles, the Bopomofo Cafe stands up for the representation of Asian people in the media and I really respect their hustle. Another spot would be Leo’s Taco Truck. They are known for their Al Pastor. I just love how it shows that good food can bring people from all different backgrounds and cultures together to enjoy a good taco. On the other side of the country, it would be Xi’an Famous Foods in New York for their noodle dishes. The owners are the immigrants, and their success is the embodiment of ‘The American Dream’.

James Woodard of Smokin Woods BBQ featuring Beef Short Rib

What was the most engaging story for your audience in 2020?

Definitely, the Cloud Bread video. It has amassed over 9.2 million views, 338K likes, and 1800 comments. Other people who created content about the ‘Cloud Bread’ never really spoke on how it tasted. I was one of the first to talk about how it was only for aesthetic purposes and not really a tasty dish. People really liked my honesty. It also inspired me to hone my video craft!

What is your ideal Bay Area Foodie Brunch menu?

My best-of brunch would start with Nashville hot chicken nuggets from Hot Bird, followed by a bowl of Pho (a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup) from Pho Ha Noi in San Jose, then a matcha crepe cake by U:Dessert Story, and ending with boba milk tea from Tea Hut. That is San Francisco on one table!

I’ve worked as a journalist, in digital and print publishing, public relations and marketing for over a decade.