Shifa Sheriff – The Culinary Cat

Shifa Sheriff is the inspiring professional behind The Culinary Cat – she’s an architect-turned-cake-artist based in Bangalore.

This venture of mine was officially born around the end of 2015 after having had an epiphany on my way home after working a very depressing shift in my first full time job and realizing that what I was really looking forward to was getting home and popping something in the oven and washing away the architect-ness of my day!

As a conversation starter, I asked Shifa Sheriff about changing career lanes to follow her dream. I have always wondered how young people these days gather courage and conviction, to follow through on inspiration from inner voices.

I’m an architect-turned-cake-artist based in Bangalore – and have been baking since early 2006. However, The Culinary Cat was officially born around the end of 2015 after having had an epiphany on my way home after working a very depressing shift in my first full time job and realizing that what I was really looking forward to was getting home and popping something in the oven and washing away the architect-ness of my day!

And here’s how the rest of the interview went with this passionate young professional who has already become a role model for young people at the crossroads of a difficult career decision.

Do young people these days have more “passion career” options to choose from, when you compare with the previous generation?
To some extent yes, there are a lot more options and creative fields out there today than there were, say, 20 years ago, thanks to the boom in technology and social media; but more than the emergence of new opportunities, I would say the awareness of such opportunities is more accessible today, which is why so many people are choosing to walk off the beaten track. Moreover, the average middle class Indian is exponentially less bound by the responsibility of finances and family commitments as compared to the average middle class Indian of the previous generation, and we’ve been granted a lot more luxury to choose such paths for ourselves today because of that.

How difficult is it for a young person to start a venture like yours? Did you work as an understudy with someone before starting venture on your own?
Well, it depends on which aspect of the business you’re talking about. In terms of technical skills required, it’s really not all that difficult to set up once you have your basics in order. For starters, today there are a dime a dozen institutes that you can get trained at without having to go to full-fledged culinary school. My learning, however, has been entirely self-reliant with a frightening number of trials and even more deadly number of errors, countless hours of sifting through the internet and more than anything, good old fashioned passion towards the industry. As for training under someone before starting out, the thought never even occurred to me to do so because I started the business pretty much on a whim that was based on frustration with my current major at the time! I did do a brief stint at a commercial kitchen in Chennai as the production manager and cake designer in early 2019 which showed me a lot of gaping holes in my knowledge of what would be considered very basic skills, having neither attended culinary school nor worked at a professional kitchen before. Funnily enough, none of these things impacted my business too much!

More on this interview with Shifa Sheriff
on my Linkedin feed

Saif Omar and Faiza Khan – Travel Podcasts

The Musafir Stories (TMS) is hosted by Bangalore-based couple Saif Omar and Faiza Khan. Saif has worked in the software services and financial services industry most of his professional life, and was based in the USA. He quit about three years ago, moving back to India and joining the family business. Saif’s wife Faiza is the co-host on TMS and currently works as a Team Lead with a software MNC in Bangalore. Faiza is also an avid baker and inspired crafter of hand-made organic soaps.

Talk to us about your personal journeys, how did the podcast happen?
When we moved back to India, I was looking to consume local podcasts but the options were limited. That’s when we wondered about giving podcasting a shot – even though neither of us has any background in media/journalism, or even full-time travel for that matter.

As kids, most of us have grown up on the culture of listening to stories from grandparents and elders. We can fondly recall sharing first-hand experiences about travel and life in general, with classmates and friends. The culture of story-telling and listening is deep-wired in us.

Looking at TMS at an idea stage, we thought that there might be an audience for casual and informal conversations about travel experiences, especially when pro-travelers can add tips, tricks and hacks to their conversations. That’s how The Musafir Stories was born – it began as a passion project and continues to be so.

What do you think makes The Musafir Stories different?
Our podcast is fair game for anyone who has some interest in travel or otherwise. Since it’s not niche genre as such, listeners don’t necessarily need a lot of background or context to tune into these conversations, thus making it perfect content to consume passively. Anyone, from a youngster who is looking to explore India, to a working professional who is looking at winding down and being away from work, is a potential listener.

To make things different, we try to cover various facets of travel, right from popular destinations, city guides, weekend itineraries, experiences that cover mountains, wildlife and beaches, to activities like trekking, adventure and road trips. We also have other features of interest on our platform for our Indian audiences – like volunteering, slow travel and offbeat travel.

We started this as a passion project primarily to make more people aware about India and what it has to offer through conversations with some very interesting people – conversations that are both informative and easy on the ear. If this does inspire someone to get off the couch and look at new horizons, then we’ve done some good. (Maybe even over-achieved!)

This interview was done for the All India Resort Development Association
You can read the rest of the interview on the AIRDA website>
Saif Omar and Faiza Khan – The Musafir Stories

Sukumaran Menon – Art Perspective Photography

B Based in Bangalore, Sukumaran is a seasoned travel enthusiast and a hobby-photographer. He started off using a point & shoot camera and moved up the value chain to professional gear. As his work involves travel – both within and outside the country, he manages to find the time to give his passion for photography newer and more exciting frames of reference.

Sukumaran refers to the black & white medium as a distinctly unique form of expression, and often takes this visual route in his explorations of period architecture, and the great outdoors. He is particularly fascinated with “trees” as a subject, and how he can capture nature’s works of art from a whole new viewpoint.

What does travel mean to you? Vacations? Seeing new places? Discovering the world? Could mean all of this, but let’s have your version of it?
Travel is about the path you will take that will ultimately define your journey – whether it’s going somewhere that is only two-hours away, or a destination halfway across the world. Travel is also about trying something new – especially if you can manage to escape from the predictable routines of everyday life. Traveling therefore gives you something different to experience, and can be like a breath of fresh air.

To me, travel also means spending the day in a new city and exploring all of its history, its museums and parks. It brings in the magic of spontaneous adventure and participation in activities that you normally would not have the time for.

Does work enable travel? Do you add on a travel segment when you travel within the country, or on visits abroad?
As an engineering consultant my work entails a fair bit of travel – both within the country and outside. On work, my travel schedule is invariably packed to the gills – not allowing time for any kind of detour. The only other option would be a planned photography excursion to a place I always wanted to visit – one example here is my week long trip to Kenya, to capture the annual migration of animals in the Maasai Mara.

Having said that, work related travel sometimes presented opportunities to explore cities and places of interest that I had only heard of before – this was indeed a big blessing. I am thankful that I have got to see some amazing places both in India and overseas. Being able to take pictures “in transit” is the proverbial icing on the cake!

This interview was done for the All India Resort Development Association
You can read the rest of the interview on the AIRDA website>
Sukumaran Menon – on Art perspective photography

Surya Ramachandran – Naturalist

What’s an electrical engineer doing, deep inside a tiger reserve? Well, Surya Ramachandran is training young aspirants to be successful guides and tour leaders. Surya says that he was interested in wildlife right from childhood – his first trip to the zoo with his art teacher sparked off a whole new interest in him. He has been visiting various national parks ever since, both as amateur and professional. Surya currently works at the Singinawa Jungle Lodge in Kanha. He was earlier with the Forsythe Lodge near the Satpura National Park – one of the finest tiger reserves in the country.

Surya’s interests include birding, butterfly watching, herping and frogging. These are terms used by naturalists to describe their research areas of interest. Smaller mammals and other hard-to-spot species form the basis of his treks into areas that are still nature’s preserve. His interest in photography and video help him capture and document all his work, which he shares freely on social media.

We now chat with Surya about developing new interests, trips to forest reserves and protecting wild life in our forest lands.

Q: As a naturalist, are you concerned about the intrusion of tourists into natural habitats?
To answer your question, when a large number of people enter a national park on a daily basis, there is always a case of intrusion into a very private world. I too take groups of people inside the park – twice-a-day, through most of the year. But I always manage to keep forest etiquette in mind, and the need to be non-intrusive during these visits.

The role of a naturalist is all important – and has a lot to do with exploring, understanding and interpreting the magic of the wilderness. We also need to explain our findings using simple, easy-to-understand terminology. In addition to guiding tourists in and around the park, a naturalist also helps people build meaningful relationships within these spaces – the objective here is relate to your surroundings in a constructive manner.

At another level, any amount of good or neutral presence in national parks is useful, and necessary – because we also need the kind of awareness that goes with it – to protect our parks from poaching, and infuse support measures such as manpower and funds.

This interview was done for the All India Resort Development Association
You can read the rest of the interview on the AIRDA website >
Surya Ramachandran – on the role of a Naturalist

Pratap J – Landscape and Travel Photographer

Pratap J is a landscape and travel photographer from Bangalore, India. He loves shooting in the great outdoors of India – a country so vast that he thinks one lifetime is not sufficient to cover the length and breadth of the country. An engineer by education and profession, Pratap J works hard to balance his hobby and day job. His weekends are almost always dedicated to photography and travel. When he is not living off a backpack, he is mentoring other photography enthusiasts in a classroom or in the field.

Pratap loves to write about the places he visits in detail. He has been blogging at since 2006. His articles are a documentation of his experiences and also offer readers information about popular travel destinations. Combined with his stunning photography, the website is source of high quality content for travel enthusiasts.

Q: How did you take to photography? How did you get into the frame?
My love for photography is an extension of my love for nature and the outdoors. From when I can remember, everything about forests, mountains, streams, animals and birds fascinated me. I grew up in a big metropolitan city, so I couldn’t spend enough time venturing out into the wild.

When I could afford a digital camera, I realized that it gave me a good reason to connect with nature. After I exhausted options to photograph in and around my hometown, I began to travel. I soon discovered that travel combined with photography was a great combo! Those were the days when blogging was just picking up. I jumped onto the bandwagon and started my website, in 2006. I intended it to be a photo-blog and a documentation of my travels. In no time I had three deep interests – travel, photography and blogging. I still continue all three to this day.

Q: Is this your primary line of work? Or something you do as a special interest?
Photography and travel are purely out of passion. My middle class parents toiled hard all their life to see me through good education, so I prefer not to let that go futile. In spite of the internet hype around quitting your job to follow your passion, I believe in being practical.

That said, I treat photography as something sacred. It is easy to get bogged down by the mundane. Finding inspiration when you have bills to pay, deadlines to meet, and when you are stuck for long hours in traffic jams is a challenge. I have learnt that things don’t happen in life unless you make them happen. While money is a great motivation to do things in life, passion is the fuel for life.

This interview was done for the All India Resort Development Association
You can read the rest of the interview on the AIRDA website>
Pratap J – on Landscape & Travel Photography

Shobana Rao – Food Blogger & Recipe Curator

Shobana Rao describes herself as the quintessential home maker, but she’s a lot more than that, as you will see on her blog, Cooking with Shobana. A blog that features in the Top 100 Indian Food Blogs and Websites – sharing space with legends such as Tarla Dalal, Sanjeev Kapoor, Nisha Madhulika, and other tall hats in world of cookery and frontline cuisines.

Cooking With Shobana was also on the list of The Top 74 Food Blogs with Delicious Recipes You Should Follow Today – written by Tiana Matson on her website, Yum of China.

Wait, there’s more.

Shobana also made it to the Top 35 Indian Cooking Blogs- 2018 by Easy Recipes Depot. And here’s a quotation from ERD – “A visit to Cooking with Shobana might remind you of a comforting visit to your mother’s kitchen! Shobana offers delicious recipes with lovely photos, plus she provides a wealth of useful tips for making Indian food at home. Step-by-step instructions are easy to follow, ingredients lists are carefully outlined, and delicious results are virtually guaranteed!”

So, what is Shobana like, to people who follow her on facebook and her blog? She is Shobana, Shobana Aunty, Shobanaji, Shobana Di, Shobana Garu, Shobana Chechi, Shobana Akka, Shobana Pachi, Shobana Mayi, and yes, even Shobana-San . (“I feel in some way I am part of their lives and I couldn’t have asked for more,” she says.)

Shobana and her husband, Prem Rao, live in Bangalore and are at that enviable “empty nester” stage. They have two children and are now happy grandparents.

So here we go, to find out more about those wonderful aromas coming out of her kitchen.

When it comes to cooking, are you influenced by early exposure at home?

Most certainly – during my childhood I was exposed primarily to our vegetarian Gowda Saraswat Brahmin(GSB) cooking. That was what we cooked and ate at home. While that does indicate a preference, I usually cook vegetarian food at home with an emphasis on health. By this, I mean trying not to use too much oil and avoiding deep frying as much as possible. (At our age we have to be more concerned about health than most!)

My blog though, is wider in scope and perspective – you will find at present, over 600 recipes from varied cuisines, and from different parts of India.

When did you take to cooking in a serious and inspired way?

I became interested in cooking after I got married – aged 21, and had to run a house on my own. Come to think of it, there was no choice in any case (laughs). My husband and I lived alone and since he knew less about cooking than I did, guess who had to manage the kitchen?

Those days there was no internet, and Google wasn’t even thought of, I guess. Newly married girls like me eagerly looked out for recipes from magazines such as Femina, and Woman’s Era – popular in those days. We used to cut out recipes and file them (sometimes, painstakingly copy them out to notebooks for future reference.) As the years went by, it was common to see our recipe scrap books with additional embellishments – friendly stains from spice powders, and later, doodles by our infant kids!

In my early years of being married, I frequently remembered what I had seen my mother do and say. These were fond memories and gave me a lot of inspiration and encouragement. My mother was an accomplished cook, but sadly, I didn’t get to see her at her cooking best – though she had a reputation for being expert in traditional cuisine. (She was not in good health during the latter part of my childhood, and her role became one of managing the cook rather than cooking herself.)

Do you like to experiment with new cuisines, cooking styles, methods?

That’s a multi-part question, but let me start by saying that I prefer to stay with the tried and tested. Within the broad gambit of Indian vegetarian cooking, I like to try out dishes from different parts of our vast country with its diverse cultures – but I haven’t really experimented going beyond this. In that sense, I am more conventional. For example, I am not likely to try out dishes way beyond my horizon such as Middle Eastern cuisines, or traditional European fare.

When it comes to cooking methods, so much has changed over the years. Over time, gadgets have come to ease the manual element in our cooking – making it that much easier. For example, the microwave oven has become the popular idiot box of the kitchen – making things quicker and more efficient. Like many others, I too have started using the microwave to cook traditional Indian food with amazing results.

When I first began cooking, we did not have many of the modern-day conveniences one takes for granted. We had to grind the batter for idli and dosa manually, using our time tested grinding stone. Likewise, spice powders needed to be pounded and powdered fresh – virtually from scratch, each time you started a cooking session.

When did you start your blog, Cooking with Shobana?

I took to blogging in March, 2013 – at a stage in my life when I had a little free time on hand. My husband had retired by then, and my children had gone to pursue their own careers My blog is my passion and since it is about cooking, the two are closely intertwined. The more I cook, the more I blog, so to speak.

As far as I can recall, it started off as an album in my personal Facebook page called “I Love Cooking.” I began to share pictures of dishes that I had made and these were just images without any recipes. Friends who liked the album suggested I share recipes along with the pictures.

As the name suggests, Cooking With Shobana is about sharing a collection of recipes, some cooking tips, and useful hints. The recipes largely cover Indian vegetarian cuisine, and I love to share whatever I know or have learnt over the years.

Looking at site visitors, I have logged 2.2 million page views or hits as of now. I hope it will cross the milestone of 25,00,000 or 2.5 million in the days to come!

Who is your support system for the blog, in keeping it updated?

My husband has always been a major source of inspiration and support. An author and blogger himself, Prem thought it would be useful to set up a blog for sharing, interactions and being visible in the big wide world. He took me through the entire setting up process, and got me up and running.

He continues to be my partner in the blog and is my biggest supporter. I do all the cooking while he does the photography. I suggest the plating and presentation and we sort of do this and the content generation and uploading together. It is a team effort we are proud of.

Are your recipe formats easy to cook with? Especially for young enthusiasts / couples trying their hand at cooking for the first time.

I like to keep things simple. The objective is to help even a novice with a set of easy to understand instructions and guidelines. We don’t use fancy expressions preferring simple, basic kitchen terminology. I recognize that readers from all over the world may not be familiar with many of our terms, so I do take pains to add helpful comments wherever possible.

I also think people (men and women, these days) would find my blog working like a companion guide. That’s why it is useful to see things from the reader’s point of view – in order to make the recipes easy to follow, right down to the final stage of serving the dish.

One of the things about experienced cooks is the effortless / instinctive measuring of cooking ingredients, or estimation of cooking time – how does this happen?

Like most people of my profile, I too started cooking using approximations. It was only when I started my blog that I began to measure out quantities for each ingredient – which is essential when you are documenting a step-by-step method. That was when I appreciated the value of precise measurements and their outcomes.

Over time, it’s usually rule of thumb – and more often than not, these approximates come close to the recommended weights and measures. I guess a lot of this comes from experience. For example, seldom did my mother dwell on the quantities she used on each ingredient. Yet, by observing her, I got a good feel for portions and consistency – which I refined over time.

What plans do you have for the future? Where do you go from here?

I have no specific goals as such. I would like to continue the way I have been doing for the past few years. At this stage of my life, there is not much that I expect. I hope the blog has helped and will continue to help others.

Many young ladies (including Indians settled in different parts of the world) have told me that they are reminded of their mom’s kitchens when they go through my blog and I find this very gratifying.

I feel particularly pleased when young people these days (in India and abroad) mention that they use recipes from my blog very often – or that they consult my blog when they have some doubts. Some have gone so far as to say that they couldn’t have cooked without my blog.

I guess they are being far too kind, but encouraging enough to sustain my interest in something I am really passionate about – cooking.

Paneer Amritsari

Paneer Amritsari by Shobana Rao
(Right click on image for recipe on her blog)
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Primary Links

Features, interviews and blog rankings

Top 100 Indian Food Blogs & Websites With Best Indian Recipes in 2020

The Top 74 Food Blogs with Delicious Recipes You Should Follow Today

My husband, Prem Rao’s website

Adam Scott Carroll – Illustrator / Artist


I’ve been interacting with young designers over the last few years, on methods of working and preferred tools of the trade. There is a clear weighted shift towards digital software and tools – easy to use, easy to correct, and easy to share.

But Adam Scott Carroll likes to do things the hard way. He is probably the youngest artist I know who is really passionate about working with traditional rendering methods – using pencil on paper, brush on canvas. In other words, media that can be clipped on to his drawing board, or easel.

Rare these days, and ever rarer among young talent of his generation. After completing his tenth at Frank Anthony Public School Adam did a foundation course in visual art at the Kalamandir School of Art – a school that allows young artists to explore individual lines of expression. What Adam plans to do next is a degree in fine arts at the Chitrakala Parishat – a logical next step, he says.

Adam has participated in several art competitions and talent shows – one that he came first in was a televised award ceremony at Bal Bhavan in Bangalore. Even in the group exhibitions at college, what set him apart, was his choice of theme and medium of expression. According to him, there is a hard-to-match tactile appeal here that is an experience in itself.

Q – How do you describe your current focus area in art /illustration? (What do you like, or don’t like.)

Right now I would say literal realism in traditional mediums is my current focus area. And although I am interested in all the movements of art, I am attracted to the work of classical painters. Personally, I dislike photorealism and hyperrealism because in the attempt to achieve realism you merely reconstruct every minute detail – with a brief to resemble the original, as closely as possible. Well I might want to say that this can be limiting in a sense, because you can only make a comparison with the original – nothing more.

Q – What is the individual/unique technique that you bring into your work? (Style, treatment, rendering.)

Whether it’s in-depth knowledge of anatomy for arrangement of tones or good composition, one must understand that these fundamental concepts are paramount – skill or technique is secondary. It’s really hard to develop an individual technique without a thorough understanding of the aforementioned concepts. Having said that, I have been told that my style resembles the chiaroscuro technique of oil painting.

Painting as a subject of discovery, or study is something I haven’t explored adequately – there’s a whole lot I need to do, learn and discover in terms of style and technique. I’m still early in that curve, and currently happy in the world of acrylic, poster and watercolor painting – with adventures in clay sculpture, collage, woodcut prints, pen and ink.

Q – Instinctively, what materials would you like to reach out for? (Considering digital is not your go-to option.)

I prefer paper or canvas as it was also the preferred medium of the masters who attained levels of perfection that no degree of technology has achieved. What I reach out for eventually turns out to mixed media in some way or the other. Almost always, pencil lays the foundation that may be built upon with paint –shaded, or simply left as a line drawing. I love the magic of charcoal where the size and shape of each stroke follows the applied skills of individual expression. Deft variations in pressure can turn the most mellow greys into intense blacks.

As you can gather, there is no digital here. And looking at both historical and contemporary art from that perspective, you will find many people who share my view. There are artists who never did digital and have found success in today’s highly evolved and competitive world.

Q – Where do you usually draw your inspiration from? (Favorite artists, painters, illustrators?)

Yes, I have been lucky enough to have both my parents as artists. So the inspiration starts there, and competing with my sister who is brilliant at watercolor, makes me work harder. My dad is an avid collector of art books and images which have added to the learning experience and inspired me to a great extent.

Favorites include Francisco De Goya, Caravaggio, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, MF Husain and of course Michael Angelo and Leonardo da Vinci. But Mother Nature is undoubtedly my biggest influence and inspiration. I am constantly trying to improve upon my work to meet her unrealistically high standards.

Q – Is there a wider choice for art students these days? (What can you do after college?)

In terms of a career, the scope is wider than most people realize these days – even with a simple Bachelor of Fine Arts. It opens doors in fashion houses, advertising agencies, and maybe in the film industry as well. With an ever increasing demand for good visual content, the possibilities are almost infinite.

I think that the concept of a starving artist is finally fading away.

Q – What do you see yourself doing after graduation? (Have you made any plans?)

Working with a boutique art studio would be nice, but I’m sure, very hectic. I think a publishing house is nice too, and freelancing being the way to go. I guess I will need to evaluate all opportunities that come my way.

To answer your question, I might pursue painting and drawing over the weekends on work that is assigned to me. And during the week, you’ll find me working in my tattoo studio.

You can’t sign off on a tattoo, but hopefully I will make a name for myself.

Adam’s charcoal impression of Ah Keah Boat / Two Hatchet – a Comanche Warrior, and member of the The Kiowas. The Kiowas are a tribe of Native Americans.
















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Adam on Instagram
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Archana Baikadi – Revival Artist of Traditional Cuisines


For this interview, we go Down Under to chat with Archana Baikadi, who runs the food portal Hebbar’s Kitchen with her husband, Sudarshan and her friend Shreeprada. Hebbar’s Kitchen is all about cuisine elements from South India and Udupi – we’re talking about authentic, traditional, vegetarian fare.

Archana tells me that she’s from a small rustic town in Udupi District in Karnataka. Hometown to her brings back memories of a tiny population of friendly people, charming temples, and an unlimited repertory of food ideas.

Udupi is known the world over for its distinct and unique flavours, also made popular by restaurants going under the “Udupi Hotel” banner.

“The whole idea behind our portal is to share a little tradition and history through recipes handed down generations,” says Archana. “We have translated cooking methods to a simple, step-by-step format. Believe me, if you have the right ingredients you could be cooking something special in minutes.”

Q – Before we get to the other questions, how do you really explain the huge following on your facebook page and website?

There’s probably a very simple explanation. Our blog is a lifesaver for Indian expats abroad, and a good destination for tried and tested vegetarian recipes. Especially for the younger generation of housewives, and motivated young husbands.

Hebbar’s Kitchen now has a wide global appeal and we seem to be on a high when it comes to authentic Indian recipes. At this point, we have 3,555,457 followers on Facebook, around 150,000 on our YouTube channel, and over 80,000 on Instagram.

Last year a report was published by analytics and video intelligence company Vidooly, relating to Indian channels and videos on Facebook. Vidooly ranked us Number 5 overall and Number 1 in the Health & Lifestyle category. For us, this is not just a numeric high, but a growing indication of following and support from our readers and viewers – and we owe a lot to them for this achievement.

Taking this forward, we decided to launch a mobile app version for both iOS and Android, to keep our readers connected with updates posted regularly.

Q – Now, getting back to the question I wanted to start with, how early did you start cooking?

Most people find it hard to believe that I actually got around to serious cooking after I got married. And all those years before I got married, my cooking skills did not go beyond rice, rasam and dal – all because my mother would spoil me pretty with her wonderful cooking. And dad would always be supportive, “If you can make authentic udupirasam, I’m sure you can make anything.”

Like most young girls from my part of the world like to say, my mother was my first teacher – and dad was the other keen team player in the kitchen. He was patient, understanding and helpful. As a small child, I sat on the kitchen counter and watched them cook with a unique chemistry that was magical when it came to the senses – aroma, taste, colour and appetite appeal. My mother brought in the art of cooking, and dad brought in the science. Looking back, I think it was an amazing partnership.

Q – Was it plain survival at first in Australia? Did you like cooking 24/7?

When we initially moved to Australia, my husband Sudarshan would look longingly at images on facebook – of recipes and food from Udupi. And that got me thinking – how could I recreate that for him eight thousand miles away?

I’m a Software Tester, which is light-years away from traditional cooking. I also have a tough and hectic work day and am constantly looking for ways to de-stress after working hours.

And then I discovered my comfort zone – my kitchen. I soon found that one good way to unwind was change roles, and wear an apron. I also found I began to enjoy hearing the sizzle as it happened on my gas hobs. Cooking the kind of food we enjoy has a calming effect on me – and even though it seems like an extension of my work day, I really enjoy every single moment.

Q – How much do you identify with “Udupi” in terms of cooking styles?

To answer your question, we work hard at translating traditional Udupi vegetarian recipes and cooking methods – in a manner that the new generation will like and relish. While I do experiment with other regional cuisines, I always come back to Udupi food, because it’s so familiar and comforting when you’re thousands of miles away from home.

Luckily, we manage to get all the ingredients you need at local supermarkets, or at one of the Indian kirana stores. But a lot of our utensils came from India – there are some things in the kitchen that you just cannot replace, or swap.

Q – Do any of your relatives own or run a Udupi restaurant in India or abroad?
Do you think you will start one sometime – in the years to come?

My grandfather used to run a popular Udupi restaurant in Guntoor, in Andhra Pradesh for more than three decades. His restaurant, called Sri Rama Vilas was a family-run business, and in the heart of the city. And later in Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh) my uncle continued the tradition for another decade with his hotel Sri Rama Lunch Home. Though these ventures were managed by the family, the prime movers behind these businesses chose to head back and settle down in Udupi.

And the answer to will I start an Udupi restaurant in India? I have always been asked this question when people follow my blog for a while. My eyes twinkle at that prospect, because this is in my blood if you can see what I mean. Sometime in the future – can’t tell you when – Sudarshan and I might just start an Udupi restaurant in India. And if that happens, you know what we might call it: Hebbar’s Kitchen.

Q – You and Sudarshan seem to be a great team on the project

Well, the good thing about the way Sudarshan looks at food and the way I have learnt to cook, is that there is a comfortable meeting point. We’re always speaking the same language when it comes to food, or most things that we want to do in life. What has probably helped here is that we have a lot in common in terms of traditions and background.

There’s also a thin line between us when it comes to the way we approach each day, the way we plan things for the week, and the way we have been looking at the future. Strangely (and easy to see) food is a key ingredient in all of this.

Q – Your visual representation of food is really slick – how did do you guys tackle food styling and photography?

We are not professionals in food styling or photography. My husband and I spend a lot of time reading articles online to implement newer ways of doing things. My allocated department is recipe development, while my husband works on technical aspects such as web design and all the back-end work that keeps the electrons buzzing on our blog. Completing our team is Shreeprada, who handles content and manages our facebook page – she writes key articles, cooking tips, and all the health capsules you see on Hebbar’s Kitchen.

At the end of the day, it’s a lot of work – we’re often short of time but not short of ideas as you can see.

Q – Have you found instances of people ripping off content and images from your site?

Along with success and popularity, I guess you’re bound to face other challenges. I find people reproducing our effort – recipes, images and videos – on their own blogs, and claiming it as their content. While this is not unheard of on the Internet, it needs to be addressed and tackled.

We are making some very concerted efforts to tackle this menace, with legal opinion and robust online measures that will take these offenders to task. This will be on our priority list, and we are committed to getting to the root of the problem.

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Blog & Social Media Links
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Hebbar’s Kitchen ranked # 5 in Vidooly’s Top 10
(Based on number of video views on facebook)
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Vivek Mathew – Fine Art Photographer

Ask Vivek about his mantra as a photographer, and he will sum it up in one phrase – capturing the brilliance of a moment. Considered as one of today’s “Young and Unusual” photographers by India Today Magazine, Vivek has been featured in The Times Journal of Photography, Time Out, Design Today, Better Interiors, National Geographic Traveller India, Forbes India, Smart Photography, Bangalore Mag, The Times of India, Femina, and Women’s Wear Daily -New York.

His exhibitions in the city’s art circuits have also given art lovers an opportunity to see and admire his work. I.Opener in October 2005 at the Renaissance Gallerie focused on subjects ranging from still life & portraits, to exteriors. Waterborne in November 2007, at Industree, presented a whole new perspective, with an interesting showcasing of ripples, reflections and patterns from everyday life. Vivek’s third exhibition was at Sublime at UB City in February 2011 – his theme, Canvas Wall, was inspired by rustic elements in the world around us. His fourth and most recent exhibition, Perfect Imperfections in February 2015, was at the ‘Art of Delight’ – taking you through a picture-book treatment of nature and man-made patterns.

Vivek’s work has also been part of two popular coffee table books – by The Laidlaw Memorial High School, Ketti, Nilgris, during their centenary year, and the Best of Bangalore Innovation Edition – Volume II.

Q – How did all this begin? How did you get interested in photography?

As a kid, I was fascinated with the concept of being able to capture pictures in a magic box. In junior school I always played around using my pencil box as a camera to take make-believe pictures of friends. My fascination and interest in “taking pictures” became serious in my growing years. At the age of 12, my uncle, Avijit Dutt gifted me something I will always cherish – my first real camera, and a dream come true.

As a child I also found photo-albums fascinating – flip through the pages and you could go back in time. Take for instance the pictures from your parents’ wedding album, your third birthday party, a vacation you went on with your folks, pictures with your friends from high school – these are moments that can never be recreated.As the years rolled by, deep down, I wanted to pursue photography as a career – didn’t want to do anything else.

Q – What formal training do you have in photography? Did this help you learn skills and specialize?

Well, here’s what I did straight out of school – I joined the Light & Life Academy in Ooty in 2002. This was my first serious career-defining step. In the year I joined, I was the youngest student at the academy. Many of my batch mates were graduates – some even had work experience. Ooty gives you just the natural backdrop for landscape and street photography – it is truly an amazing place to learn the craft and get inspired to take beautiful pictures

I remember we had Pallon Daruwala on our faculty for architecture and interior photography. And he introduced us to an unusually interesting approach to visualizing a frame – a perception of architecture from a documentary point of view. I found this very inspiring – and an eye-opener to different viewpoints and perspectives. Light & Life also gave us the opportunity to interact with other big names in the field – including Paul Liebhardt, Jonathan Kingston and Rudy Loupias – names that conjure up magic when it comes to talent and expertise. There’s something about exposure to really professional talent – just being around them during a session is a learning exercise.

Q – Is there something you are always drawn to, as a photographer?

Life in itself is inspiring. The beauty in this world and the things around us inspire me to capture life’s special moments – water, reflections, walls, patterns, people, emotions. In a sense, it’s a wonderful canvas showcasing what a wonderful world we live in.

Like they say, one picture speaks a thousand words – and depending on when you took that picture, it can take you back in time, or transport you to the future. At the end of the day, a picture does last a lifetime.

Having said that, there’s one thing that I always like to stress upon when I am discussing photography – the picture has to speak for itself, without you having to explain, or describe it. It’s got to communicate, without a caption – and that makes a good picture for me.

Q – You do seem to have a symbiotic relationship with architectural elements – especially when it comes to photography?

I find architectural dimensions interesting, and modern buildings are works of art in themselves – especially in terms of building profiles, detailing and overall perspective. I usually approach a building project from the architect’s perspective with an approach that is original, straight forward, simple and documentary in nature. I concentrate on lines, shapes, patterns and also on how lighting can alter and enhance perspective. I also work hard at making the image clutter free, to do justice to the architect’s vision and design emphasis.

While modern design is appealing I also like to work with old monuments, churches and temples – this is entirely for my personal folio. Old colonial architecture for instance is a great source of inspiration for me – especially if it has withstood the test of time. And this is where I experiment with newer view points and techniques and this effort includes shooting abstract and careful detailing.

While I do love taking pictures of buildings, I’ve done travel, nature, people and interiors. I guess would also like to be known as a fine art photographer.

Q – How would you then describe fine art photography?

Even to the common eye, fine art photography is visibly different from conventional portrait or landscape photography – it presents a different canvas. Art photography calls for an artist’s eye – a unique visual sense that needs to come from the person inside you. It’s about the way you see life and the world around you. It’s also about a thought process influenced by careful observation, assimilation of art forms and the work of artists.

With fine art photography your mind’s eye outlines focus points, framing and emphasis – unlike commercial photography where you are largely working within a brief from a client or art director. I enjoy fine art photography because it brings out the best in me – almost revealing my inner thoughts and reflections.


Vivek’s website and portfolio links
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Prasanna Hede – Food Blogger & Recipe Curator

Meet Prasanna Hede – dedicated food blogger, and multi-cuisine home chef. Coming from a small town in Goa and migrating to career-routed locations, she is now is re-discovering her roots. A qualified software engineer, Prasanna is currently a dedicated home-maker and a full-time mom.

There’s something about Goa that drifts you into a world of gastronomy, she says – the city presents a confluence of some of the most exotic cuisines in the world.

Growing up as a child in Goa, Prasanna learnt something new every day from her mother’s repertoire of traditional and across-the-border recipes. She also loved making notes about the way her mother cooked – notes that eventually became the starting point of her food blog.

Q – What is your cuisine of preference? Is going back to your roots important?

Sometimes, where your family originates from can influence what you like to cook, or the way you work in the kitchen. Right from traditional cooking styles, the availability of local ingredients, and preferences that grow on you.

My interests in cooking are a melting pot of what I have assimilated over the years – as we moved from city to city, across time zones. And coming home was always special because it brought us back to the familiar sights and aromas of India.

At my mother’s home, we were exposed to Mangalorean and Maharashtrian cooking, in addition to our staple Goan diet – which was rice, fish curry, sol-kadi and fried fish. Our stay in Bangalore brought me closer to the flavors of Karnataka – thatte idli, puliogare, benne dose, chitranna, ghee roast, chako and dalitoy. Enough to make your day.

Q – Can you describe your journey down memory lane? Who pointed you in the right directions?

Over the years, I have managed to learn about traditional cuisines from elders in the family, who have been only happy to share ideas, methods and recipes. Add to this my own research along the way to create a growing body of work.

My mother has had a big role to play in this journey. She’s been my mentor, idol and master chef – bringing a rare passion into the kitchen every single day. An important part of her cooking lesson was a narrative spiced with history, geography and grandmother stories. So the learning had a fun element to it, as well.

I am keen that my daughter too, is familiar with her grandmother’s art of cooking – Aarvi is four years old and has a mind of her own. But I guess she can add miles and smiles to this journey.

Q – What kind of support do you get from your husband ? More than an extra pair of hands?

My husband, Abhijeet, is my QC head in the kitchen – in other words he is an honest and unbiased food critic. He is the first to taste my food, and usually has the last word. I take his feedback seriously because it’s constructive – not just stray comments on salt, for instance.

And I must say he’s also a great support system – helps with the kids, helps with the shopping and also helps me choose the right kind of cooking accessories and props. At the end of each cooking session, he lends a hand in the clearing and cleaning up process. That’s a relief because it’s nice to see a spotless kitchen first thing in the morning.

Q – Do you like cooking up something special for festivals? For Ugadi & Ganesha Habba?

The food menu during festivals was always carefully planned in our home in Goa. For Ugadi we would make a bitter-sweet drink with neem, and a host of specials the family looked forward to – including Sakharbhat, Sweet Rice Pongal and Puran Poli. This year I tried out a new version of Puran Poli and it came out really nice.

Ganesh Chaturthi is another big highlight on our festive calendar and I usually try out some traditional Goan recipes during the festival. Khatkhatem is a delicious mixed vegetable curry, Moonga Gathi is sprouted moong curry. Manganem is a sweet dish with split gram, jaggery and cashew. Our Chathurthi menu also includes Rice, Sol Kadhi, Mixed Vegetable Pakoras, Nevryo and Modak. Enough to make Ganesha happy, and the family ecstatic over the wide choice of festive food.

Q – What plans do you have for the future? Do you see new directions?

While going back to my roots has been interesting, I have also been in touch with the current culinary landscape. I admire and follow the cooking styles of Hubert Keller, Rick Moonen and Vikas Khanna. These are legends in their own special way and can inspire you to look at things from a whole new perspective

I also plan to take my food blog to the next level – with organized streams of content that include both traditional and experimental cuisines that I wish to explore – currently looking at French and Italian cuisines as windows of learning and delight.

Oh yes, a cook book is on the cards, but I need to work on it as a long-term project – need to explore the publishing cycle and ways to make the book pay for itself.


Apple Mawa Kheer
Usually made by us during Holi. I start with finely grated apple, fried lightly with ghee. This is then ground to a paste and cooked in a sauce pan that has milk, sugar and mawa till you get a kheer-like consistency.







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Prasanna’s blog & social media links
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