When Samantha Lee made her very first bento, she never thought that it would one day lead to a flourishing career in food artistry. “I’ve always been a bit of a daydreamer,” says the Malaysian food artist, who is also a mother of two. “To be honest, I wasn’t the ambitious sort when I was growing up. I wanted to be a housewife – you know, to stay at home and be there for my kids. And I’m glad I’ve achieved that.”
Samantha’s Grease-inspired creation. She used organic noodles for the curly hair, and seaweed for the clothes and comb.
Samantha first dabbled in food art when she was pregnant with her second daughter. She thought that making meals interesting would be a good way to get her first daughter to eat independently, so she created a cute bento for her. Today, Samantha commands more more than 600,000 followers on Instagram, and has worked with clients like National Geographic, Turkish Airlines and most recently, Ben & Jerry’s.
Samantha working on a creation for Ben & Jerry’s.
“I never imagined I would be a food artist. Growing up, I’ve always been interested in both food and art, but I didn’t really study art in school,” says Samantha with wide-eyed sincerity. “My daughters always tell me that they want to be food artists too, but I say that they have to study really hard first!”
When asked about how she usually comes up with ideas for her creations, she tells us that she looks at what’s trending – like Cinderella, Grease and even Psy (our personal favourite). To prevent food wastage, she sketches a rough drawing beforehand then plans out what ingredients to use for the day’s creation.
Samantha’s Cinderella-inspired creation
“When I first started, I bought a lot of tools and moulds to use but I soon realised that they weren’t very practical. There was too much food wastage, so I decided to stick to basic tools instead,” Samantha says. “When you first start out, it’s better not to invest in expensive tools. Kids are not fussy, so your creation doesn’t have to look perfect.”
Samantha’s signature character – The British Soldier
For food art beginners, Samantha recommends sticking to basic animals like tigers, bears and pandas. The trick, she says, is to use simple shapes like circles and triangles because they are easier to work with. Simplified shapes also make characters look cuter.
“When I make creations with celebrity figures, I try to simplify the drawing by catching just the essence of their features,” says Samantha. “For instance, Psy has a broad jawline and his trademark sunglasses.”
For her latest collaboration with Ben & Jerry’s, Samantha created the ‘Peace, Love and Comoonity’ Sundae to celebrate the opening of the ice cream brand’s new store at 313@Somerset Discovery Walk.
The Ben & Jerry’s ‘Peace, Love and Comoonity’ Sundae
“Working with ice cream in this weather was definitely one of my more challenging tasks,” Samantha says with a laugh. “The ice cream kept melting, and a lot of the ingredients didn’t hold properly.”
For more of Samantha’s adorable creations, follow her on Instagram (@leesamantha). Don’t forget to drop by the new Ben & Jerry’s store at 313@Somerset Discovery Walk – especially since they will be giving out free ice cream for Free Cone Day on 14 March (Tuesday) from 12 to 8pm. For more details, check out the Ben & Jerry’s Facebook page.
Images courtesy of Samantha Lee and Ben & Jerry’s Singapore.