Master Baker and Food Blogger Deeba Rajpal’s Secrets to Success and Tips for Aspirants
Wholegrain Cinnamon Oat Waffles with Clove Ice cream, Savoury Granola and Mascarpone Lime Curd Walnut Oat Tart: these are just some of the mouthwatering treats you can get to see on Deeba Rajpal’s blog, Passionate About Baking (PAB). One of the most popular food blogs in India, PAB has gained quite a reputation for its delicious and healthy recipes as well as beautifully styled photographs. In a quick chat with Vikhroli Cucina, Deeba talks about PAB, baking and her top tips for aspiring bloggers
When did your tryst with baking begin?
As kids we used to bake the summer vacations through, on frugal purses, with limited ingredients, pouring through books borrowed from libraries. Belonging to the Armed Forces, baking was quite popular then, almost a culture.
Passionate About Baking (PAB) is one of the most popular food blogs in India. What made you venture into the world of blogging?
Back in 2007, I had time on hand and an internet connection. The sudden discovery of a few food blogs in the US and the idea of creating my own free site online came together pretty nicely. A couple of initial appreciative comments gave me a boost of confidence to delve in further. This became my happy space.
How would you describe your experience with PAB so far? Share some of the milestones of your journey.
The PAB journey never ends. Just like a hungry family, it waits to be fed regularly and needs good, wholesome content. The blog is a passion that has got me here today, the reason that I push boundaries. The experience has been an enriching one, it has found me some of my best friends and brought me great learning.
The milestones include the first 'blogger' award I ever got, an invite to develop recipes, my first commercial styling project, getting on board with Saffola Fit Foodie, a collaboration to teach styling with Darter, a 10-day trip to Switzerland sponsored by Swiss Tourism as a food blogger and an invite to talk at TEDx.
How do you think PAB is different from other blogs?
I think my passion reflects in the blog. I treat PAB as part of my existence, enjoy writing for it, and give it my 100 percent. I move with seasons, support a local producer community; and connect with like-minded folk across different platforms.
In my honest opinion, images have a lot to do with readership. I enjoy taking pictures a lot even though I am technically challenged as far as camera specifics go.
How do you develop recipes for PAB? Give us an insight into the process.
Most recipes work on a whim, some based on reader requests. Following my mantra of #makehalfyourgrainswhole, whole grains usually define the base. Seasonal produce is the inspiration and often the beginning of the experiment. The thoughts in my head — variety for the audience via my blog; great, easy content; how will I shoot the final product; ingredient shots if possible; should I do chocolate again; etc!
You are one of the most important culinary influencers in the nation. How is it working with various brands?
Working with brands has largely been an enriching experience, a huge learning curve and has helped me grow. Most brands contact you either on seeing your body of work on the blog, via social media platforms, or then via word of mouth or a reference. It is important to first understand what the brand is looking for and then build a strong connect.
Any collaboration is a two way job, yet importantly must offer value to the client. I like to give any association my 100 percent and am honest and straightforward. If I think I don't connect to the philosophy, product or method of working, I honestly say so. For me the creativity is primary and I must enjoy what I do. That brings out the best in me.
Teabox, Saffola, Dorling Kindersley and Darter were some brands that I loved engaging with. There were a few bad apples, some who treat creativity like a factory production unit. Thankfully I have the choice to say no.
What is the one thing you wished someone told you when you first started blogging about food?
I was quite OK when I began blogging since I had a niche, baking was my focus. At the time, my blog was only my way of recording recipes that I made. I began blogging when people here didn't even know that blogs existed. On a lighter note, I wish I had been told that maida or refined flour had a substitute!
How has food blogging evolved in the country? Is the scenario changing for the better?
Food blogs have exponentially increased over the past few years. Everyone now knows someone who writes a food blog even if they don't write one themselves.
There are positives and negatives. I love that people wholeheartedly share their knowledge and recipes, virtually break bread together, are connected by a common thread and are so appreciative and enthusiastic.
The downside is the lack of respect of copyright content at times, the failure to give credit where it's due, and sometimes, outright plagiarism. Then again, this is something that ails the digital world right across every sphere, not just in food.
Tell us about your life before you took up your culinary endeavours.
Before I got into this delicious space, I used to work with British Airways in Customer Services. Those were also some of the best years of my life, and so are these.
You are a baker, a food stylist, a food writer and a food photographer. Which role do you identify with the most?
Currently, I identify with being a food stylist the most, yet that's a tough choice to pick. The baker, food writer and photographer are an inherent part of me too, all very enjoyable. Styling food, then shooting it just offers instant gratification, thanks to digital cameras.
Whom do you consider your inspiration and why?
I am constantly inspired by the sea of creativity I wake up to every morning. On the net, in old cities, the local bazaar, artisans, people, chefs, nature, seasons, vintage things, fabric, glass, wood, metal, old books ...everything inspires me!
What do you enjoy most about baking?
I really enjoy that I can experiment with baking, and am getting better at it. Also I can continue to churn out so much variety because the blog affords me this luxury. I can't possibly share similar content time and again as I might bore the readers.
Deeba’s top 5 tips for aspiring bloggers
- Invest your time in quality content.
- Find your niche and build around it. Develop your own style of blogging.
- Be a responsible blogger. Build a community, contribute to it, give credit where due.
- Respect copyright. Say no to plagiarism.
- Most importantly, enjoy blogging. There is enough place for everyone in the world.