Certain things in life are unplanned, but with time one knows they happen for a good reason. Chef Meghna who was a banker, now tuned baker shares her journey with Your Chef Story. After spending 10 long years in banking between Ahmedabad & Mumbai, Chef Meghna realized that it was time she had to give up her banking career to pursue her motherhood dreams. From a person who knew very little about cooking to someone who has made a mark for herself in the culinary world is something truly commendable. According to Chef Meghna, motherhood has been her inspiration towards innovative cooking.
Here’s interviewing Chef Meghna and her journey towards building Meghna’s Food Magic.
What has inspired you to become a chef and how has your journey towards building Meghna’s Food Magic been so far?
As I look back, I didn’t enjoy working in hotel kitchens or having someone bossing me around for those long hours. After completing my culinary academics, in a few months, it became very clear to me that I was not going back to the daily routine of stressful long working shifts; I had to be my own boss. Coming from a business family, becoming an entrepreneur was a natural progression.
Having conducted bakery & designer cake classes for my students in Mumbai & handling catering for many of my high-end clients, I recognized that more than just making food all day, I am the chosen one to spread awareness about the importance of good food, the need to try new dishes & help people live a healthier life - something wherein we can certainly do a lot more.
While spending a lot of time outside India, two things caught my attention:
a) The level of fitness that we Indians don’t have - primarily because of the kind of food we eat & the lifestyles we have chosen, especially women who post pregnancy, have just accepted that their life will not be beyond kids.
b) We Indians have not been exposed to variety of quality ingredients, vegetables, fruits & bakery products. Thanks to the rise of social media & international travel, gradually, we are seeing a different world. I am not saying that don’t eat Chole Bhature or forget Pav Bhaji - rather I’m asking to introduce a variety of ingredients into what you already can cook. Just bring more variety in your home-made food. I am not saying don’t eat in restaurants - once in a while yes, but focus on trying variety of food items at home. There are a range of sweets & savory bakery products to try as well.
In the last 2 years, I’ve lost 20 kgs of weight through the right amount of exercise & cultivating right eating habits. And so, thanks to a friend of mine, the idea of Meghna’s Food Magic - a YouTube channel came about - to spread what I know, and my story. I live a blessed life, as in a span of 18 months, I’ve got half a million followers - and going strong -across all the platforms with highly engaged and intelligent viewers, challenging me, encouraging me and pushing me to work harder. I also found a digital partner who offered to produce my shows. You can find my work on all major social platforms:
Website : chefmeghna.com
How according to you has YouTube & TV cooking shows changed the way people look at consuming information?
I have been fortunate to have received opportunities to travel across several countries in Asia, and also have been seeing renowned international chefs, hosting cooking shows on TV channels. As I compare their Quality of programming v/s what I see on Indian TV Channels, I think there is an opportunity to improve. The other thing I observed is that most Indian channels have 50-60% old shows being rerun. I have shot 100 episodes so I know how difficult it is, and we have made a lot of progress. I think the Indian audiences are ready to see some changes, new ingredients & fresh faces. So, I hope channels are listening.
On the other hand, YouTube has dozens of cooking channels by established names & they are like an encyclopedia, with much better hits, watch time & engagement than the TV channels hosting their episodes on YouTube. So individuals are building loyal communities at much lower costs of production; and purely based on the quality of content.
After doing 50+ advance baking episodes, we are now focusing on beginners’ content. We realized that a lot of our viewers are young first timers in the kitchen. They want to cook, but they are not getting the help from TV channels. They simply rely on their mother or on YouTubers. I see young men trying to learn desserts to impress their love interests & young girls learning to bake a cake to surprise their parents on marriage anniversaries. I see a few celebrities trying their hand at cooking on YouTube; similar to Yoga & Fitness.
Can you share some insights on how TV cooking shows are making inroads into low income groups or Tier 3 or 4 Cities and what has the response been so far?
The issue goes back to availability and affordability of ingredients. A lot of talented chefs show wonderful creations on TV. Do people watch them? Of course! But, do people really take those recipes and make the same at home, I am not quite sure. I can showcase my expertise but what’s the point if no one is going to try or can’t afford to try at home. We on Meghna’s Food Magic, are always conscious of this fact and hence we have tried to give a twist to authentic recipes keeping lower/middle class income groups & ingredient availability in mind. Even some of the kitchen equipments that we use are very basic and we don't encourage people to spend on equipments.
The Regional TV Channels - Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali for now have better reach and loyal followers, than the national TV Channels, I feel.
Can you highlight a few trends in the digital cooking shows that will shape the future?
There are already a couple of established names who have a million+ subscribers, as they started 10 years ago. They don’t do anything fancy, just stick to basic. I think this is loved by viewers across the world. Secondly, the Indians abroad are always looking for Desi Chefs making Desi or Vegetarian food to learn from. Likewise Indians staying in India, are always looking for help to either get started in the kitchen or to learn advance baking. Since YouTube cuts across geographies & language barriers; similar to Indian movies, the future of digital cooking remains very bright. We have just started and like the YouTubers abroad who make living out of video content, the same trend will follow in India too. You have to just find your niche & evolve continuously.
What is that one thought that keeps you going every day?
The world is changing. Women are no longer going to sit at home and cook, men too should participate. With Taxes, obesity scare, income stability issues & many other reasons, not cooking at home is not an option. So there is just one thought- Cook Good - Look Good - Feel Good.
What is your favorite cuisine and why?
It’s no more about any particular cuisine. It’s about what is good for your body. For the last 3 years, I have moved to eating salads for dinner. And why not, there are variety of dressings you can choose from -except mayonnaise based. The leafy vegetables, fresh fruits & dry fruits - actually make it a wonderful experience. I am a vegetarian and am very happy to be on salads, I’m sure the non-vegetarians would be happier with the salad combinations they can create with meat.
Do you have a special signature recipe that you would want your fans to try out?
I know it’s not Christmas time, but this Christmas Cake episode that I have shot, is a beautiful recipe video. I won’t call it my signature dish because signatures are hard to imitate, whereas I’d like my viewers to create, everything that I make. Here’s the link. https://youtu.be/KlTCQ8jm1yw
What are your thoughts on yourchefstory.com as a platform for featuring chefs?
I can’t thank you enough for giving me a platform to allow people to peep into my life. I don’t think there is any other platform that exists like yours. And I am sure yourchefstory.com will do very well in the long run. I hope to engage with you again when I launch my cook book.