Paving the way for other kids to say “Yes” to fine dining, nine-year-old DB food blogger Catrin Price is busy eating her way ‘around the world in 80 bites.’ She takes Elizabeth Kerr on a culinary adventure
“It is like a fresh food market. Two Japanese guys sit in the middle and barbeque meat and fish on coal and pass them on a paddle to you. I like the wagyu beef skewers best.”
That’s how nine-year-old food blogger Catrin Price describes the scene at Robataya, a trendy robatayaki eatery in Tokyo known for its daily menu and almost interactive dining experience. Catrin’s succinct, no-fuss review is the perfect reflection of the restaurant – and of Catrin herself.
Sitting at Fuel in ifc early in Hong Kong’s re-emergence from its self-imposed COVID-19 exile, Catrin’s decked out in fuzzy Ugg sandals (yes, those are a thing) and a light summer dress. She fidgets like a preteen. Her eyes wander to two boys noisily playing at Avengers in the middle of the mall; she seems vaguely focused on an upcoming online round of Roblox with friends. But she’s just as succinct when describing why she started a food blog.
“I like food. We need to eat and some foods are just really good.”
That’s an understatement, as is Catrin’s introduction to her blog, mini-miche.com.
“I noticed that there are not many kids on the internet blogging about food. Which seemed to be a shame!”
A shame, perhaps, but not surprising if the hordes of parents trying to get picky kids to eat spinach is anything to go by. Catrin is firmly outside the norm on that front, something mum, Austrian native Nina (who works for a candy company), is as pleased with as she is proud of Catrin’s cultural hobby.
The culture vulture
Born in the UK, the only child of Nina and Welsh insurance pro Matt (who’s vegetarian), Catrin has lived in Discovery Bay for seven of her nine years, and considers it home.
“Every summer we go to Austria, and my grandparents from Wales come here every October,” she says. “We normally go to Vienna but I like Hong Kong more. I like Chinese culture. It’s interesting.”
A true culture vulture, Catrin also likes languages. “I like learning them and understanding what people are saying. I don’t know yet if it helps me understand the place,” she comments, after being forced to admit she already speaks varying degrees of English, Cantonese, German and Mandarin.
Indeed, Catrin does the ordering in Chinese restaurants when out with her parents – much to the delight of the wait staff. (She attended S.K.H. Wei Lun Primary School in DB – hence her Cantonese – before starting at Malvern College in Tai Po last year.) A fan of dumplings, egg tarts and custard buns, one of the local restaurants Catrin rates is Yum Cha in Central.
“It’s a really fun Cantonese restaurant,” she says on her blog. “All the dumplings have fun special designs and cute faces. I really love the design, but they also taste really good. My all-time favourite are the dumplings with egg custard – yummy! You can even book a cooking class and make your own dumplings.”
Like many people who blog about food – and review restaurants – Catrin is also a keen cook, and, with Malvern College closed since Chinese New Year, she’s had plenty of time to experiment in the kitchen… and blog about it: “Kaiserschmarren is a fluffy pancake pulled into pieces. It is an Austrian dish. It was the Emperor’s favourite dessert. You eat it with
roasted plum or apple or berries and it tastes scrumptious. You can also just eat it with some jam. It is soft and sweet, mmmmm… it is sooo good. This time I tried to cook it all by myself and it turned out delicious!”
Hearing a primary school kid talk about getting excited over any kind of food that doesn’t involve McDonald’s is music to the ears. But Catrin is entirely nine years old in plenty of other ways. She’s got two cats, Fluffy and Bubbles. For fun she reads, swims, plays field hockey and goes kayaking. Of course there’s Roblox with friends, and selected television.
“I like [Netflix cooking competition series] The Final Table, but I prefer Supergirl and The Flash. Superhero stuff,” she says.
Blogging around the world
Catrin’s blog, subtitled ‘Around the world in 80 bites’ (and created with a bit of help from former Around DB designer Andrew Spires), is a work in progress. She’s challenged herself to eat in the world’s best restaurants and review the experience. She doesn’t read other food blogs, nor does she have a Michelin Guide, the dining bible her blog’s name was inspired by (she’s the ‘mini’ part). But she is nonetheless well on her way, with nine countries, including Hong Kong, Shanghai, Cape Town, Salzburg and Auckland, already represented on the site.
Catrin’s capsule reviews are broken down by date entry or city, and a quick scroll reveals a pattern, chiefly a preference for restaurants that lean to the engaging and adventurous, or are simply indulgences. She likes to watch the chef prepare the food. And, she’s got highly developed taste buds for a kid her age.
“I like oysters. I eat as many as I can. They’re so tasty, and the texture is great when they’re soft and creamy. I prefer them raw,” she says, laughing when faced with an, “Eww, gross,” from this writer. On top of personal favourites – steak and seafood – that make choosing a family dinner tricky for Matt, Catrin likes caviar. And dark chocolate. And blue cheese. “I like to try new things,” she says.
Funnily enough, Catrin’s not crazy about tomatoes (she’s nine years old remember). “There are some vegetables – peas, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower – that I like, but I don’t like tomatoes,” she states. Unless they’re puréed on a Margherita pizza of course.
So what makes a restaurant reviewworthy? It comes down to whether it was a memorable experience; Catrin has no time for slam reviews. “I try to write about the special ones. For example, I wouldn’t write a review for Pizza Express. But if it’s something like Aqua [in Tsim Sha Tsui] that’s another story… A really memorable one is [Cape Town’s] La Colombe. We had a tasting menu which starts when you enter; they take you to a small tree with little eggs that are sour but also sweet. Then you get chocolate twigs. It’s amazing.”
So far, Catrin has also taken a particular liking to the Michelin-starred Amber (yes, the one at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental you haven’t been to), The Chinese Library in Tai Kwun, The Twins in Shanghai (for the oysters, natch), and the aforementioned Robataya in Tokyo, where she got a chance to pound mochi.
Adults paying the bills may need a bit more detail from a restaurant review, but Catrin speaks to her audience, and in an ocean of grandiloquent food writing her approach is hugely refreshing. Here’s one last example: “If you are ever in Sydney and visit Bondi Beach, I recommend breakfast at Trio. They have lots of dishes some with a Middle Eastern twist like
Shashouka. Tomato sauce with eggs and spices. Australia has just the most amazing breakfasts!!! The portions at Trio are gigantic and the food tastes delicious. My favourite is French Toast with Nutella – it is just to die for!”
At nine Catrin is hardly ready to set a career path, but right now she thinks she’d like to do something with food for a job. “I like travelling and I like to cook. I think I’m pretty good at it,” she finishes. “But I like eating better.”