Malaysia-born filmmaker Andrew Gooi put his soul into creating stories for Food Talkies, a website he set up for culinary films. It paid off when he won this year’s James Beard Foundation Award in the Visual & Technical Excellence category.

Known as the Oscars of the food world, the awards cover all aspects of the industry, and are the highest honour for food and beverage professionals in the United States.

“It was the sweetest thing to hear my name being called,” said Gooi of the ceremony at Chelsea Piers in New York, April 27. “I thought of my wife who was beside me, my kids, my family and friends, and all the individuals who have been a part of our journey, especially with Food Talkies.”

This is the second time he has been nominated in the same category. With this win, Gooi and Food Talkies have joined the esteemed company of such productions as Netflix’s Chef’s Table.

“I wasn’t as nervous this time. Last year I was very anxious as it was my first time and I had really high hopes. Walking away without any award was difficult for sure. It’s easy to get carried away thinking about what I didn’t win instead of what I had accomplished,” he said in an e-mail interview.

“It took a lot of hard work, soul searching, and beautiful collaborations to create the stories on Food Talkies, and I was just grateful to be able to represent these stories,” he added.

Gooi, 32, has lived in the US for 13 years and is based in Seattle. He set up Food Talkies in 2016 as a way to share human stories around food and growing relationships with the individuals he films.

In an interview with Star2 last year, Gooi spoke about how he keeps his filming set-up simple, as it allows him ease of movement and nimbleness. He likes to begin each project by first talking with his subjects – about utensils and inspiration, ingredients and meaning.

“This could mean going into the forest at dawn to source mushrooms, or cooking with other chefs. Either way, it’s a means to capture the essence of a subject,” he said.

In the past year, Gooi has done some of his proudest work. “The Gift of Mochi (watch below), The Heart of Soba and Return to Sake are three films that are near and dear to me. The friendships that grew from these films I will treasure deeply. That’s the best part about what I do,” he said.

This year, more Food Talkies short films are in the offing. “I’ll also be joining the fantastic Emmy-winning documentary TV series, Migrant Kitchen, as one of the episode directors this 2018 season.”