How did you become a food-sector influencer in China?
Get your pens ready! My recipe: a passion for cooking since I was born, many years of media experience, an understanding of Chinese culture and what the local market needs, as well as a style and an image. I arrived in China in 2012 and broke into the Top 100 Chinese influencers in 2016. Enjoy it while it’s hot!
In your view, what are the 3 essential characteristics of a good influencer?
Passion, perseverance and dialogue.
Is being a French influencer in China an advantage?
A huge advantage, as the Chinese love France, our heritage, our brands and more. Being French is my signature! Apparently, we are romantics…
What kind of relationships do brands and influencers have in China?
Chinese companies very quickly understood the power of influencers and work with us a lot. Alibaba and JD saw that influencers and their content are perfect for driving e-commerce. It’s a very hot market.
Any anecdotes or fond memories of working with Sopexa?
A very fond memory of emceeing a gala for Sopexa at the French Embassy in Beijing. Sopexa had brought together the key players on the market and asked me to host the show!
What types of content work best in China? What do the Chinese want to find out?
Let’s remember that China is huge. There is not one single magic formula in China, but rather several formats that you use to put together a full menu. Long formats for live broadcasts, 3-minute videos online, and now ultra-short 15-second clips. Then you have to innovate, have fun and teach too! China is hungry and eager to discover new things in fashion, culture, music and, of course, gastronomy!
Is lifestyle a lucrative sector in China?
Very lucrative. The Chinese love to consume and adore the lifestyle image. With innovation and the strong entrepreneurial culture here, they are rising and outdoing the West in more and more areas. There are some very big, lucrative sectors, such as fashion, fitness and luxury.
Your favourite dish?
A fascinating question, which takes me back to Une Gourmandise by Muriel Barbery. My favourite Chinese dish is one of the most common, a bowl of fresh noodles in a soup with pieces of beef ragout.
Seen from China, are foods made in France a sign of high quality?
China has seen several food scandals, and is wary of its own products. France has an incredible image of know-how, high standards and quality, and brands need to use this even more. It’s really a pity to see that big fashion and food groups don’t talk to one another more about this know-how and these countrysides that are France’s key strength. I want to go back to France to create more video content to share with the Chinese.
Anyone who really inspired you in your profession?
I’ve never really had a mentor. I am self-taught. The only really driving force in my life is my mother. She taught me the basics of cooking, gave me the passion and the discipline for work. My father taught me how to be creative and opened my eyes to Chinese culture through readings on Buddhism. I owe it all to my parents!
What food trends are you seeing on the Chinese market these days?
China is complex and sometimes at opposite ends of the spectrum: we can see the emergence of the fitness market, with nutrition and organic food, and at the same time, the expansion of fast food and rising obesity. Their appetite for Western cooking is growing, namely for desserts. Many young people want to learn, and we can see Cédric Grolet growing more popular in China. I’m working with Président a lot to produce educational content on cooking. There is so much to be done!
If you could keep only one of your videos, which one would you choose? Why?
After being on TV hundreds of times and so many good memories with stars, and the challenge of speaking good Chinese on live broadcasts, I would say I wish to keep my next video. I still have so much to do, I’m only at the beginning of what I hope will be a long career between the West and the East, sharing passion and know-how and promoting a lifestyle.
Why is Chinese social media so hard for international brands to grasp?
It’s so different and innovative that you have to be here in person. That’s also why brands have to work and communicate with influencers: we’re the ones who are in the thick of it all!
How do you tailor a product’s communication to the country’s culture and specific features?
You must indeed understand the culture and the market. I make a lot of mixed cultural references to explain things like PDOs, MOFs and the Michelin Guide, to explain dishes and ingredients, etc. For example, I convinced Lactalis to not only show butter as a key ingredient for pastry making, which is still a limited activity for the average consumer, but to let me show the Chinese how to cook their traditional dishes using butter. That’s a big market! With aspects of the “French Touch”, health and romance. I also love working with Chinese ingredients: I’ve created a white chocolate mousse using tofu!
You opened a restaurant in Beijing in homage to your parents. Is this a logical outcome for a foodie?
I opened Jomi in homage to my parents Josiane and Michel Bunel. The grand opening was filmed for Chinese television, and I managed to make my mother cry in front of the cameras! A wonderful experience, and a real joy to see people relishing my dishes. Then there were big challenges as well, and we ended up closing, which was a relief for me. I am neither a chef nor a restaurateur; I am a media personality who is crazy about food, culture, education and humour!
Your next challenges?
Producing my own online video shows, namely coming to France to film the countrysides, working with chefs, farmers and others, showing our beautiful country and its different regions, as well as other parts of Europe! I am also hopeful I can help westerners to better understand China, a fascinating country with friendly people and an abundant, marvellous food culture!
We all help to showcase France, working together to promote culture, commerce, the environment and education! I invite everyone who is interested to connect with me on LinkedIn: Antoine Bunel.