Interview: Mark Wiens on his new HBO show

POV: you’re watching the lovable food vlogger eat his way through Singapore’s finest

You might have heard of a contagious smile. Or a contagious laugh. How about a contagious facial expression? If you know Mark Wiens, you know what we mean. The beloved food YouTuber has racked up over 9 million subscribers, all tuning in for Mark’s food reviews, adventures, and the signature satisfied smile that follows his favourite big bites. Now, we get to see Mark do what he does best on his upcoming HBO show: Food Affair with Mark Wiens. Exploring everything from haute cuisine to hawker centres, the show profiles Singaporean culture through its cuisine, and spotlights the culinary legends behind the dishes.

What should we expect from Food Affairs with Mark Wiens?

Mark: It’s a whole storyline, so it really focuses on the food diversity available in Singapore and, as the main formula of the show, we first begin by talking to someone who is knowledgeable about the type of cuisine that the episode is about. So we learn about the history of the food and that culture. Then we progress onto more of a fine dining, chef-driven restaurant and from there, along with that chef, we then continue to a hawker stall or local food/hole in the wall kind of restaurant. That's the way the story flows. So it’s a mixture of different levels of food that all fit together in a seamless story and show the diversity of the food in Singapore.

And it’s unscripted?

Mark: We have a little background information, so we’ll be able to talk to each other and I could be able to ask more knowledgeable questions. So a little research in that way, but it was non-scripted in that we could really just carry on the conversation naturally and taste the food naturally as well.

Do you have a preference between street food and fine dining?

Mark: Overall, I prefer street food and hawker food in Singapore. Mainly because it’s usually so visual, and you can see the ingredients that go into your food. And I think hawker food is available to everyone. It’s something we can all appreciate and we can all enjoy. That being said, with Food Affair, one of the things I really like is that we were able to sit down with the chefs from fine dining restaurants. To me, fine dining is like artwork—you may not fully understand it until you can talk with the chef and know a little bit about their personality and what’s in their head when they created that dish. And so it’s really valuable to be able to sit down with the chef, learn about the fine dining dish that they created, and learn where they got the inspiration from. So I can really appreciate both. But I do have a passion for hawker or street food.

Was there a favourite moment while filming the show?

Mark: When we were eating this fish head curry. I was eating with chef Rishi who’s a Sri Lankan chef here in Singapore with a restaurant called Cloudstreet. But the fish head curry was more at a local, hole in the wall restaurant, Siamese Curry. When they served the fish head curry, both of us started eating and sort of totally forgot they were filming. The team decided not to cut or anything and we just kept on eating, almost forgetting that the camera was rolling. It was so good and we were just enjoying the moment. So that was a lot of fun.

Does being a YouTuber help with the transition into a TV host?

Mark: For me, I think it helped a lot. There are very different situations and very different filming styles, but I think the things I’ve learned about vlogging and making self-produced videos is to tune out of the world and just focus on filming the food and what’s going on, rather than being distracted by the things surrounding you. So that translates now into Food Affair. And filming with a bigger production, it helped to remember that it's almost the same as making a video by yourself, you just have more people doing things. But still, it’s the same idea of focusing on the food, focusing on the discussion with the co-hosts, and I think that was really helpful.

Will there be a second season?

Mark: I think one of the things about Food Affair with Mark Wiens is the storyline is a good story. It could work in so many different places. I’m not sure about the future. We are excited about the first series in Singapore, but I think the storyline is incredible.


Food Affair with Mark Wiens is available to stream on HBO GO and HBO Max, this November 18