Who is Faa Papon?
Faa Papon is a Melbourne food influencer. She is the founder of Sense Of Food (SOF), a food photography platform she initially started as an Instagram page while in high school. SOF today comprises a website as well as an Instagram page with more than 9,000 followers. Faa has a bachelors degree in food science. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.
Born in Thailand and now a permanent resident of Australia, Faa was drawn to Melbourne by the restaurant scene.
“My brother’s been here for a long time and I’d been here four times visiting. I really loved Melbourne food. The pretty food and all the cafes here. So when I had to decide where to go for university, I decided to come to Australia because I really like the food. I did like Melbourne weather but I chose Melbourne over other places just because of the cafés.”
Sense Of Food
A recent food science graduate, she started Sense Of Food (SOF) in 2017 while in high school in Thailand after her friends complained about her posting too many food photos on social media.
“I’m actually really passionate about food in general. Not like the science side. This is the fifth year but I only did it seriously when I moved to Melbourne three years ago. Before that I was using really ugly phone photos back in Thailand. But once I moved to Melbourne, I got a camera and then it became more professional I would say. I got mentored by other bloggers here as well. One of them is a really good photographer. She taught me and I’ve been trying to improve since then.”
It was her own experience as someone new to Melbourne that prompted her to help other people find great restaurants and cafes in the city.
“When I first moved here, I actually wanted to know where to go. I looked for a lot of Instagram accounts as well as online guides of the best cafes. But then every website gives the same list of restaurants or cafes. It’s boring and sometimes overrated. I wanted to see actual photos of the food there and see different places that are not the same top five on every website.”
The Instagram account bigmelbappetite has been a major inspiration.
“This is one of the accounts I have followed since when I first moved here. Even before my account grew and when I didn’t know her yet, I always looked at her page to see where to go. And then when I started taking more photos and posting, she approached me one day. She wanted me to help out with her account because she didn’t have time to go out and eat. I became her helper for a few months. I learned so much from her. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have felt I had the potential to grow.”
Faa prefers Instagram to other platforms such as YouTube, Snapchat and the rapidly growing Tik Tok.
“Tik ToK is good. You can see videos that are really organic content. But I like looking at photos because I really love the aesthetic. I like seeing still photos. So Instagram.”
Whereas restaurants and brands do approach her directly, she discovers new places to cover on SOF as she walks the streets, learns of newly opened locations or gets suggestions on social media.
“There’s always new restaurants. Also, when new cafés open, I don’t say that just because of the coffee. I’m not a big coffee drinker. I drink coffee but I’m really bad at tasting different coffees. And then I find new places through Instagram too when they pop up on the explore page and I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m saving to visit’.”
Faa has partnered with a number of restaurants and brands by featuring them on her page. Her work with Thai Tide has been her most memorable partnership.
“It’s a Thai restaurant but in a different style. This one is even nicer than restaurants in Thailand. It’s in the city. When they first approached me and I visited the restaurant, the interiors were fancy with a lot of wine and alcohol bottles as well as wine glasses. You see your culture presented in a very nice and fancy style. I really liked the place and the food is really good as well. I didn’t pay for the meal so it’s sponsored. Sometimes when I have those, I feel like I’m obligated to say the place is good. But here, I’m more than happy to say everything is good.”
Experiences as an Influencer
She has found that having a bad experience at a restaurant she has gone to is one of the most challenging aspects of being a food influencer.
“I will not touch that topic. I wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, the food’s good’. I will just talk about something else. Yes, it’s bad but I won’t mention it specifically on Instagram; it will only go on Google Review. Because people don’t check my Google Review. The owners will see it on Google Review and they will usually reply ‘Oh, sorry about that’. And I’m like ‘It’s alright’. I just wanted them to know but not be exposed.”
One of her weirdest experiences has been receiving emails, invites or call-ups to go to places or promote products that aren’t consistent with her area of influence.
“I’ve been getting a lot of random products. Like facial cleanser and bug repellent. I don’t know why they want me to showcase bug repellant. I never say yes.”
Faa finds it hard to single any one Melbourne restaurant as her favorite but is particularly fond of Asia Unique, a Thai restaurant.
“It’s in a food court under a car park building. Not a lot of people know about it but Thai people who are local in Melbourne know this place. It looks very dodgy but the food is really authentic. And you can hear everyone sitting there speaking Thai. It’s really good. There’s no fancy decorations, fancy marketing. There’s no marketing even. You know about the place by word of mouth.”
As far as her favorite neighborhoods to eat in Melbourne go, she has two.
“One is the CBD of course because there’s so many options. They’re open late at night. Sometimes I go out at 2:00 AM and I still find good food. And also in the morning, there are really very nice Japanese cafés which I really like. Another is the Carnegie suburb. There’s a lot of Middle Eastern bakeries. I really love those but it’s really hard to find them in the city.”
Tips for Those New to Melbourne
Besides her SOF page, Faa recommends bigmelbappetite as the account anyone new to Melbourne should follow to learn what’s happening in the city whether food or non-food related.
“She’s the one who taught me how to take good photos. She gave me advice since I had 2,000 followers. She’s a really good friend. She does more Tik Tok now but then she posts the Tik Tok videos as Instagram Reels. So it’s mostly her taking videos of the places she visits. Her content is very organic. She does not post that often but only the stuff she really likes.”
She mentions Lune Croissant as the one place anyone visiting Melbourne must make a point of going to.
“If you haven’t heard of or gone to Lune Croissant, it’s kind of like you haven’t reached Melbourne. That was one of my first trips to Melbourne. I went there and the line was very long. I think they were on the news for the best croissant in the world. They’re quite pricey if you think about it but it’s worth a try since it’s so famous.”
For influencers looking for Instagram-worthy photography sites in the city, Faa suggests North Melbourne.
“I take Instagram photos anywhere I see that looks nice but I would say the houses and the buildings in North Melbourne look very cute. Some brick buildings and cute old houses.”
Faa is pleased with the progress she’s made and is looking forward to staying the course.
“I’m really grateful. I know a lot of influencers have grown tired of posting but I still post every day because I really, really enjoy doing this. I really love sharing the food that I love. And if I like it, I would want to share. So that’s all. I want to keep it consistent. I don’t feel tired of posting.”