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When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
I really did not have a singular 'aha' moment. In my case, I think it was more a series of nudges from life. I have always been a voracious and curious eater thanks to growing up in a vibrant kitchen (that I rarely entered) at home in India and then my own experiences eating all over the world.
Although I was always able to cook to sustain myself even while I was working, I really found the time to invest and experiment with food in 2008, when I was laid off from Wall Street. Being unemployed was not in my plan and food literally was the savior of my tormented soul. When I found it very difficult to get back into the market, I threw myself into food, playing with it and chronicling my growth on my blog, Fork Spoon Knife. Thus, began a reverence and deep passion for food.
In 2012, I decided to tentatively foray into the industry. My initial plan was to monetize my blog and convert the social audience I had built into something life sustaining. I started writing for some great media outlets, got a fair bit of coverage and love, but little in the form of green.
I realized that the reason, aside from an over saturated blogging space, was my lack of unique value proposition. I was doing what many others had already done or were doing and it brought me limited joy. So the fact that I was simply another blogger attempting to monetize my passion through the blog was not convincing me at all - but I kept at it for want of inspiration.
It was only in the fading days of 2013 when I was pondering my life in the serene greens of Ireland that I figured out what my role in this industry would be.
I wanted to make a change in the way people approach food today. I wanted to bring back the joy, understanding, and love that food brought to so many generations before, that somehow got lost in the distracted pursuits of today. I wanted to elevate food from being more than fuel and a commodity to being something to be respected and taken pleasure from. And, I felt the best way I could achieve that was to educate, empower, and enable busy professionals to get up close and personal with food and inspire them to cook at home more. I launched FOODLY to address that need.
How did you get your current good food job?
I spoke to several people in my target market and realized that there was latent need for a service like FOODLY but there was no consolidated service that catered to that need that was very personal, yet widely sought after.
Food is a very personal choice and while you can always google something if you know what you are looking for, you need a clear idea or you waste a lot of time in the search. Often times you find something that is good, but not great, because there is something in the recipe that doesn't quite fit you and you don't have the time to experiment and tweak it to your desire. So, people simply give up and order in. Also, there are many who are intimidated to cook simply because they have not done it before. Addressing both these sectors required more customization and the personal touch that FOODLY offers.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
I realized that I was in a unique position of having been in the shoes of my clients, and therefore have a distinct understanding of their constraints. I am also a self-taught cook, something that resonates with those who are looking to eat better because it empowers them to reach a goal for improvement. All my years of 'investment' into building my own portfolio of food experiences, as well as being a food writer and photographer, play into my current role of advocating and guiding people to their own food happiness.
Additionally, it also helps that I have an analytical research background because I am able to approach and present sensitive and controversial subjects from a logical and unbiased perspective.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
The greatest obstacle for me is fear of not being able to sustain myself monetarily. Until I had the distinct notion of FOODLY, I was constantly considering going back into banking for its lucrative benefits. Now, I still have pangs of anxiety about cash inflows. Yet, I have a mission and it has become more than just my dream. It has become a cause and I want to do everything I can to see it through.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
There are several in my opinion.
1. Building awareness in minds of consumers and the public. Without the basic understanding of what goes onto your plate, it is hard to be able to change consumption habits. Most people are so removed from the realities of where and how food comes that it is impossible to drive a connection between what they are eating and how they feel today or will feel 10 years from now.
2. Simplification of the food supply chain: The food industry is a complicated behemoth now. It wasn't always this way and I sincerely believe that it needn't be. It is scary and ridiculous that the food industry is now so closely married to pharmaceutical, chemical and energy industries. Being local has advantages and disadvantages. It simply needs to be a conscious choice.
3. Policy change: This idea that there needs to be a governing body telling us what and how much we should eat seems like such an oxymoron. It is a mark of the divergence from how food was approached from the perspective of passed down traditions and culture. Yet, the reality is today the USDA regulates and determines what is and isn't food. Unfortunately, a lot of what they say is the former is really the latter. There needs to be a wake up call in Congress and that can only come from the voices of the people.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
A recognition or award for my contributions in the area. I don't ask for much, just the Nobel! ?