Meet Mai Pham, Social Media's "Femme Foodie"
Mai Pham is Luxury Travel's Houston-based writer, whose food coverage has played a big part in the local dining boom.
Mai is a tippy-top social influencer in the worlds of travel and dining. •Mai's enviable KLOUT score averages between 69 and 71. This rare number puts her among the top 0.1 percent (one in a thousand) of influencers. Good chance you already know Mai from Twitter and Instagram, as @femme_foodie on both.
Mai's Travel Perspective: Good Vacations Mean Good Food
If you follow Mai, you know she's always on the lookout for the fork (and spoon) in the road: the destinations with the best food. "What's the vacation value of a place where, after a day of touring, dinner is boring or bad?" she muses. "That's no fun. In my book, great chow is non-negotiable."
The best food Is honest local food, Mai believes. “Take it from a barbecue-loving Texan: food doesn't have to be haute or expensive to be great," says Mai. "Dining is memorable when the ingredients are local, the dishes are authentic, and the kitchen cooks with love." So you might find Mai happily eating and Tweeting from a Bangkok or Taipei "night market," or doing an exclusive video interview with the celebrity chef of a Michelin-honored restaurant.
Mai's Top Meals on the Road
"For me," says Mai, "unforgettable travel is inseparable from good food and wine." Her most memorable meals, in her words:
"On our honeymoon, my husband and I chartered a private boat on Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in my homeland, Vietnam. Fisherman would paddle up to our boat to sell us their catch, which our boat's crew would grill or wok for us right in the galley. The most amazingly fresh-from-the-sea octopus, sweet shrimp, clams, fish. Plus, the romance factor was off the charts. Over in Thailand, the street snack that has stayed in my mind is mango with sugared rice from a street vendor."
"As a Texan, I am passionate about south-of-the-border food. In Argentina, asado (barbecue) was a revelation. The cooks at a winery, Vines of Mendoza, showed us how asado is done: huge cuts of meat, beautifully grilled, served with endless local Malbec wine. In Buenos Aires' La Boca district, choripan, an Argentinian hot dog, from a street vendor rewrote the book on between-the-bread snacks. In Huamantla, designated by Mexico a Magical Village, we had mind-bending grass-fed lamb barbacoa, roasted in a pit at the wedding of my friend, chef Eduardo Garcia.
"And...Europe! I have family in Paris, so I cross the pond as often as I can. I crave buttery croque monsieur ham-and-cheese sandwiches in Paris cafés, made with Gallic kitchen pride. And in Italy, simple spaghetti with tomato sauce was spellbindingly delicious at a tiny trattoria off Venice's St. Mark’s Square. In Barcelona, I look for lusty Catalan dishes like fideuas seafood paella, made with noodles instead of rice, and sweet, freshly steamed gambas (shrimp) straight from the ocean. Up in Spain's Basque country, in San Sebastian, Spain, I love their pinxtos (tapas), and there's something timeless and perfect about the meat and fish traditionally grilled over coals."
How Mai Became a Writer and Photographer
The travel bug bit Mai young. As a teen, she traveled all summer long: to New York City or Paris with her extended family, and to London as an exchange student. Mai has seen a lot more of the world since: western Europe, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Canada, Mexico, and Latin America.
For all her stories, Mai takes her own photos and videos. She's regularly seen on the other side of the camera, too, as a correspondent for “This City” restaurant segments on Houston's Fox TV station, KRIV 26. Mai is also a video blogger for Tastemade.com, and was ranked among its Top 10 Tastemakers worldwide.
Mai's Surprising Insider Travel Tip
Mai's #1 travel tip is related to her language ability. She's fluent in Vietnamese and can converse in French and Spanish, which she picked up on her travels. "But there's one phrase I can say in dozens of languages," she says. "You always read that you should know how to say hello, goodbye, please, thank you, and excuse me. I can't argue with that."
"But believe me, when you say "I love you," people laugh and help you out."