That’s how it all began
When Kalyan Karmakar tried his hand at food blogging close to a decade ago, it was simply to serve as an outlet for his creative juices and indulge in some light writing to unwind from the demanding hours of his job as a market researcher. But he took to blogging like a fish to water, and what started as a hobby evolved into a passion, something he did consistently and eventually fell in love with.
In early 2014, when his book, The Travelling Belly, was commissioned, he decided to dive deep into the waters of food writing. A 9-to-5 job, if nothing else, gives one the much-needed financial security. The immediate obstacles Kalyan faced were to figure out how to acquire sufficient work in order to sustain financially and how to stay constructively occupied through the day. The time he had to invest in researching for and writing the book struck off the second obstacle. His perseverance at blogging, which helped him build a strong portfolio and consequently brought some great work opportunities his way, helped knock off the first.
A Stroll Down Memory Lane
Born in the UK, Kalyan spent some years as a toddler in Iran before his parents finally settled in India. Thus, even before tasting food from his own home country, his taste buds had been treated to delicacies such as spaghetti with meatballs, fish and chips, fried rice and noodles, Iranian Chelo kebab, pulao with tahdig (rice crust), and Spanish omelettes that his mother would make. He also fondly remembers the pan-seared mutton his father would make and call it the ‘Turkish delight’. Only much later did he realise the trick his dad had played on him, since ‘Turkish delight’ is a dessert and has no connection with mutton!
Hanging on to this nostalgia, Kalyan time travels to his eight-year-old self, which is when he had decided to pen a book. All of eight, he wanted to write a science fiction novel. When he moved to Mumbai, he wanted to pen his autobiography, sewing in his love for this magnificent city. But inspiration came from unexpected corners and enthused by books and TV shows, such as No Reservations and A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain and Simon Majumdar’s Eat My Globe, he began with food blogging. However, he says the final tug at his heart to pursue this love came with Vir Sanghvi-authored Rude Food, and that is when Kalyan decided to write a book, a food travelogue at that.
What it takes to be a food blogger
According to Kalyan, a decade ago no one could have predicted the food blogging revolution. It wasn’t even a lull-before-the-storm kind of situation. He says the storm just arrived and flung open doors to a new kind of food world. Since then, food blogging has evolved massively and is on an exciting ride. But Kalyan feels there are no specific barriers to this space for new entrants, “Yes, it’s challenging to venture into a crowded space where readers and bloggers have a low attention span. And, it can be a struggle to carve an identity and strike a chord with a large audience, but perseverance and passion for your job are key factors for everything to fall in place.”
As for parting advice to an aspiring food blogger, Kalyan says, “Love blogging and don’t look at it as a task; be consistent and be unique. And it’s fine to make mistakes; learn from them and move on.”
Exciting times for a foodie
There is a lot happening in the world of food and Kalyan is happy to chat about what’s caught his eye (and taste buds). He mentions Bombay Canteen and SodaBottleOpenerWala while discussing restaurants that are enjoying appreciation and repeat footfalls.
He is also quite intrigued by how restaurants are presenting traditional food with a twist that suits today’s fast-paced lives, e.g., a light but flavoursome chicken dish like the Goila Butter Chicken. The other trend that he’s seen coming to the fore is restaurants, such as Masque and Kitchen Garden, whose menus centre around good quality local produce.
From interesting food trends to interesting work, Kalyan says, “Some of the blogs that I enjoy reading these days are Zenia Irani’s Branded Bawi, Vernika Awal’s Delectable Reveries, Rukshana Kapadia’s The Culinary Commentator, Anindya S Basu’s Picturenama and Saher Khanzada’s Bombay Glutton for their endearing food stories.”
Kalyan also lovingly talks about his mother, 69-year-old Rekha Karmakar, who regularly shares endearing and interesting stories on her blog, Tabulous Mom, some of which deal with food too. He also likes veteran food journalist Sourish Bhattacharya’s blog, Indian Restaurant Spy, which he believes is a great learning source.
Then, now and later
Kalyan has come a long way since his days as a novice food blogger, and he is emphatic that all this would have been impossible without his wife Kainaz’s unstinting support. And there is a lot currently on his plate as well. Kalyan has a weekly slot every Wednesday at 1 pm on the radio show ‘Mumbai on Demand’ with RJ Annie Arakkal on Radio One 94.3 FM. He shares his travel stories from around the world or discusses the food he’s enjoyed at different places.
Kalyan’s Quick Bytes
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