“Find something you love and do it better than everyone else.”
Hey friends, in our Blogger’s Interview Series today we have Sia Krishna from MonsoonSpice.com. She is one of the top Indian food bloggers, who shares some drool-worthy recipes in her blog. Sia has started this blog with the sole intention of cataloguing all the recipes online. However, over the period of time, it has become her creative outlet.
Sia had quit her day job as a full-time IT professional to enjoy the small things in life and enjoying it to the fullest. And this month, she is completing her 10 years of blogging. She considers food styling and food photography therapeutic and believes in enjoying the whole process. Every recipe in her blog is tried and tested at least 3-5 times before it makes an appearance.
In this interview with WPB360, she has discussed about the elements of creating gorgeous food images, the joy of food blogging and the non-monetary benefits one can get from blogging. She has also discussed about how does she plan a recipe and the whole process until it goes live. We are very much thankful to Sia for taking time to answer the questions. So without much ado, let’s jump into the discussion now.
Manidipa: Hi Sia, welcome to WPB360. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Sia: Thank you, Manidipa. My name is Sia Krishna and I am a food stylist, photographer, recipe developer and writer at Monsoon Spice. I was born and brought up in a charming small town Puttur, close to the coastal city of Mangalore in South India, which is famous for its virgin beaches, red tiled houses and gentle backwaters.
I currently reside in a seaside town in Cornwall, UK with my husband and a 6 year old son. I hold degrees in Computer Science Engineering and MBA, but literature, writing and photography is my true love and passion. After working full-time as an IT professional in a very exciting organisation for over 8 years, I quit my day job to enjoy small things in my life and enjoying it to fullest.
Manidipa: When did you thought to start your own food blog and why you decided to name it Monsoon Spice?
Sia: Monsoon, just the word is enough to bring back a flood of fresh and drenched memories of magical monsoon rain; the sound, sights and smell of home. For a girl born and brought up in southern India, the magical word Monsoon evokes feeling of happiness in me. So when it came to naming my blog I couldn’t think of any better name than Monsoon Spice.
Monsoon Spice was born on the day when I couldn’t find the recipe scribbled in hurry on a piece of paper/ back of the bills while making zillions of SOS calls at ungodly hours to my Amma and Atte. When it was needed the most, I found myself running around the house like some headless chicken, checking all the drawers and every nook and corner, while our smoke alarm made enough noise to wake half the neighbourhood!
That was when I decided to catalogue all the recipes online and the rest, as we say, is history! Monsoon Spice has been up and running since September 2006 and this month my journey as a food blogger completes a decade of food adventure that connects me to my roots.
Manidipa: Sia, you click some stunning images for your recipes. What are the elements of creating gorgeous food images?
Sia: My approach to food photography is quite casual, relaxed and ad hoc. As much as I would like to follow the food photography ethos, I don’t plan the photo shoot well in advance or work on food styling, composition, props, lighting, colour palette etc.
Everything comes to my mind when I cook and I begin to see how I want to compose and photograph the particular dish. I go through my shelf full of props (backgrounds, napkins, cutleries, pans/bowls/crockery etc) as I cook and everything starts to come together in my mind as how I want to plate and photograph the cooked dish.
For me, food styling and food photography is therapeutic, just like cooking, and I believe in enjoying the whole process and not get flustered by overthinking. I prefer to shoot in natural light, sometimes in bright and almost perfect sunny day and other times in dull and cloudy British weather. I am happy as long as the food looks edible and inspires my blog readers to try the recipes. I am not at all fancy! 🙂
Sia: Unlike my approach to food photography, I plan the recipe for the blog well in advance. Every single recipe post takes at least 6-8 hours or sometimes, days of work starting from the recipe idea to finally publishing it on blog.
If it’s a new recipe or a new recipe idea that popped in my mind in the middle of the night (I even dream of recipes sometimes and note it down before snoozing off :)), it is tried and tested at least 3-5 times before it makes an appearance in the blog. Even the most tried and tested recipes goes through the final recipe testing if I am going to publish it in my blog with exact measurement, prep time, resting and cooking time, serving size, notes on any ingredient substitutes or replacement.
Once the dish is ready, I style and photograph the freshly cooked dish. I start to work on a recipe post which may take couple of hours or couple of days based on the complexity of the dish as well as the background story that preambles the recipe. I am a story teller and for me every recipe post I publish on my blog has a little story or two woven around the dish which I like to share with my readers.
I publish the recipes posts when they get thumbs up from everyone who have tasted it, even if they are not picture perfect but never the other way round. Most times some recipes never get featured on the blog, even if they look great in the photographs, when someone in the family or guests make any negative remarks.
Sharing something that looks great but tastes mediocre is not something I believe in and that’s what I think makes my readers cook the recipes from my blog for the very first time even for a special occasions or huge gatherings. The trust they have on me and the recipes I share is something I take seriously and also as a best compliment. 🙂
Manidipa: Food blogging is a combination of many tasks like recipe development, preparing the images, creating the content etc. How do you plan a post and around how much time goes into that?
Sia: Food blogging is 24/7 job, and mostly it is unpaid/ low paid job. I put hours and sometimes, days of work into creating every single blog post; recipe idea, back ground food/ recipe research, recipe creation, recipe testing, re-testing 3-5 times to perfect the dish, taking accurate measurement of the ingredients, jotting down tips/ little useful notes, food styling, food photographing, editing the photographs, writing the blog post, crediting/mentioning the original source when the recipe is recreated by following cookbooks/ magazines/ cooking shows/ other blogs etc., editing and finally posting/ publishing it.
The post will be promoted on social networking sites like Facebook food groups, Facebook page, Instagram, twitter etc. once the post goes live. The work doesn’t end there! I also read patiently and reply to every single queries.
Apart from labelled as food bloggers, most of us are the sole photographers, content creators, editors, cooks, cleaners, food stylists and also the dishwashers! So if one is not in love or has no passion for the food, be it cooking, photographing and writing about it, then food blogging can be one challenging job especially when the reward is the joy of creating a flavourful food and sharing it with others and no or very little monetary reward. 🙂
Manidipa: Being a fulltime mother is one of the most challenging job. What are your ways of managing everything with ease?
Sia: Ha ha… I wish I had some witty anecdote or wisdom to share, but unfortunately I don’t have any secret to reveal when it comes to managing everything with ease! After running in the corporate rat race for years, I have come to believe in living every moment and just having fun even when the days are normal, boring or mediocre.
Motherhood has changed my perspective about life and everything in general for better. Apart from the day to day workloads, I also spend major chunk of my day time working as a freelance food writer, food stylist and a food/product photographer. I also volunteer in local community centres where I connect with like-minded people who believe in giving back to the community.
A major chunk of my time is spent with my son walking in the woodlands and learning about and marvelling at the way Mother Nature works. I believe in slowing down and enjoying simple things in life.
Manidipa: Which one is the most memorable dish you have prepared for someone?
Sia: I struggled a lot to answer this question and finally settled down to this recipe of Cabbage Akki Rotti, I made and continue to make for my little boy. Apart from being tasty, nutritious, and wholesome, this is the recipe that changed my child from being a picky eater to someone who enjoys almost every food which I cook for my family.
Manidipa: Is your blog earning for you? What are the different ways of monetizing a food blog?
Sia: The blog does generate small revenue through ads which covers the cost of running my blog (hosting, maintenance etc.) and also the cost that goes behind the scene like purchasing the props, special cooking ingredients etc. The blog has opened up many opportunities and has helped me establish myself as a food writer, food stylist and food/product photographer with some monetary benefits. Personally, I consider my blog as my creative outlet and the virtual space to connect with like-minded people who share same love and passion for food than a space for monetisation.
Manidipa: Sia, what are the non-monetary benefits you get from blogging?
Sia: Every day I receive many emails, messages and comments on my blog from a complete stranger who says that they can relate to the stories I tell on my blog, feel the connection, encourage them to try the recipes as it reminded them of their childhood or someone special in their life, and then actually cooking and loving the food prepared following the recipes I have posted! This is what I consider as the biggest blessing and joy of blogging.
I blog not because of recognition, fame or monetary reasons! I blog because I enjoy sharing my stories, because I love to cook for my loved ones and also because it makes someone happy when the food they cooked from my blog strikes a chord with their food memories! I find it rewarding that I can make my blog readers happy with the food they can just see, and then encourage them to cook for themselves so that they can smell, touch, eat and enjoy! This alone is the most successful thing in food blogging.
Manidipa: What do you love to do when you get some time for yourself?
Sia: I work as a volunteer in my son’s school and in community centres by lending hands to people in need and this is my way of giving back to the community. I am also a keen reader, nature lover and enjoy spending time growing our own greens, fruits and vegetables in my tiny back garden. Every person needs a space/place of their own where they can let their creativity go wild and speak for themselves and my creative outlet is my blog Monsoon Spice. 🙂
Manidipa: So far, which is the most awesome moment in your blogging journey Sia?
Sia: I started my blog anonymously and continue to enjoy that anonymity even after 10 years of blogging. Only handful of my friends and family know about my blog and I like to keep it that way. For someone who is an introvert, the freedom to express my thoughts and emotions in this virtual world gives me tremendous joy and satisfaction.
I have learnt a lot from my fellow bloggers, readers, and friends that I have made over the years and this has helped me develop my knowledge, personality and also the way I live my life. Every person needs a space/place of their own where they can be creative and let the artist in them shine.
This decade of blogging has given me tremendous joy, satisfaction and friends who have become such positive part of my life. The joy I get when I receive positive feedbacks from my readers give, is something I find difficult to put into words!
Manidipa: What are your future blogging plans?
Sia: That’s an interesting question. Frankly I don’t have any major future blogging plans. I find it quite surprising that I have managed to blog for a decade and continue to blog with same enthusiasm as I did during first few years of blogging.
The initial years of my blogging life was spent learning different cuisines and blogging for my readers, but now I blog for the pure joy of sharing good things in life. So for now my only future blogging plan is to enjoy this journey and learn something new about the vast cuisines of the world as I go…
Manidipa: Would you like to share some tips for those who are planning to start a food blog?
Sia: Have a clear idea as why you want to start a food blog; for example, if it’s your creative outlet, to earn revenue, to share forgotten recipes, to learn and improve writing skills/photography skills etc. Every food blogger, novice or experienced, has equal opportunity if they want to grow. Be creative, work on creating your own niche, find your voice and spread joy with your recipes, photographs and stories.
Try to steer away from taking shortcuts to success by avoiding plagiarising others content and passing it as your own! Always give credit to original source. Life is just too short to not be challenging yourself to new experiences and food blogging is certainly a great experience. Have fun while you’re doing it and snapping some photos along the way to cherish forever. 🙂
Thanks again Sia for sharing your journey with the readers of WPB360. In case you want to know any other blogging tips from her, please feel free to ask in the comments below.