11 Oct 2013

People - OS Hotshot

Aun Koh, Food and Travel Blogger,

The Straits Times, the International Herald Tribune and Newsweek. These are just some of the publications that blogger Aun Koh has worked for and that does not even include the ones that he has launched.

Clement Wan

The Straits Times, the International Herald Tribune and Newsweek. These are just some of the publications that blogger Aun Koh has worked for and that does not even include the ones that he has launched. Founder of the popular food and travel blog chubbyhubby, Aun’s experience in journalism is certainly both impressive and extensive. And that is why for Singaporeans in the U.S. East Coast, the Overseas Singaporean Unit is glad to provide the opportunity for you to meet and network with Aun Koh and fellow Singaporeans during our SG Buzz event in November.

Aun is no stranger to the U.S. too, having schooled there and graduated from Columbia University. Back in his younger days, he attended the UN International School in New York, where his peers were children from families who worked at the United Nations and other international organisations. This provided an early opportunity for Aun to be exposed to a range of cultural backgrounds. “It was a phenomenal school to be in because it’s the most multi-cultural experience that you can get as a child. There was a great sense of internationalism so it doesn’t matter if you’re there temporarily or as a foreigner. In fact that was actually embraced,” he says.

As he edged closer to his National Service obligations, Aun made it a point to get internships in Singapore before completing High School and in one of the summers, got the chance to intern at The Straits Times. Following his NS days, his hard work and passion for journalism led him overseas once more to an internship opportunity at the International Herald Tribune in Paris. Though he loved being part of a great organisation at that time, ultimately it was his stint with Newsweek that provided him one of his most memorable experiences overseas.

“The great thing about the internship program at Newsweek was that you’re actually replacing a full-timer because they are off doing other assignments and projects in the summers,” explains Aun. “And there, I had a chance to work on a story that became a cover story on the international edition. It was a story on child-soldiers in Africa. Back in 1994, there wasn’t much talk about it so we had an amazing cover story that focused on child-soldiers in Africa and the psychological development of children in the process of turning them into child-soldiers in relation to those in other countries.”

Following Newsweek, Aun found himself working in the media and publishing line for almost ten years before returning to Singapore where he took up a position with the National Arts Council. It was there that the famous chubbyhubby blog was born. “I was in charge of the Singapore Writer’s Festival then and had appointed a Chairman who had a varied background in old-school publishing and new media,” says Aun. “Because we wanted to embrace bloggers at the festival as well, we were encouraged to start our own blog to find out what it was like, and I was really excited with what I saw, especially with the food blogs.”

What Aun found was that there was a pool of incredibly passionate people writing about food at a level of any food magazine in publication and doing it purely out of passion. “So I started the blog as an experiment and thought it would be just something I would do for friends and family to look at.” Fortunately for him, the thing about having friends within the media is that something this eye-catchingly good isn’t going to stay ‘looked at’ for long. Word quickly got around and chubbyhubby soon found itself featured in the ‘Hot Blog Weekly’ column of The Straits Times, and that, wasn’t its high point. “The peak was when Prime Minister was giving his National Day Rally speech and one of the things he talked about was Singaporeans on the web and my blog was one of the examples he used,” says Aun. From then on, local visitorship simply skyrocketed.

Aun has since gone on to start up a communications agency Ate Group and is now the Director of Marketing, Advocacy and Development for the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC). However, he and his wife still uphold the same high standards and strict guidelines for chubbyhubby. “We decided that the blog was meant to be a service and put a lot of serious effort and thought into it. And I think that kept people coming back for more because they saw that there was a continual effort to have great stories.”

If you’d like to hear more, Aun will be sharing his experiences in greater detail during the upcoming SG Buzz event in early November. So if you’re living in the East Coast of the U.S., why not join him and fellow Singaporeans for an evening of sharing, networking and food. Spaces are limited, so remember to register for your place here!

By Clement Wan