You know you are in for a treat when you hear, 'What’s up guys, Sanjyot Keer here, welcome to YFL'
Read along as chef Sanjyot talks about his approach towards content creation and spills some tea on his latest stint with Wagh Bakri
Chef Sanjyot Keer’s name is synonymous to a culinary genius. Taking the Indian food scenario by storm with his impressive culinary skills and easy-to-follow recipe videos, he has made restaurant-like food a possibility all in the comfort of your own home. His journey began in his own kitchen after completing his Masters in Hotel Management from Queen University, Edinburgh and working with renowned chefs in the industry. Despite starting small, his consistent efforts helped him build one of India's most aesthetically pleasing kitchen studios, where he creates magic for his viewers through his YouTube channel, Your Food Lab.
Over the years, chef Sanjyot has made a sleek transition in his journey as a content creator. Not only are his recipes appetising, but his videos are visually stunning as well. To know the many secrets to content creation, we got chatting with chef Keer to know all about the technique to capture these beautiful videos and his recent partnership with Wagh Bakhri, where he has been roped in as a brand ambassador. All from the beginning to the present, we tried to unearth every possible detail of his exciting journey.
Get ready to be transported into a world of food that looks and tastes absolutely divine!
Edited excerpts from the interview.
The Indian food content space was pretty old school, when I joined the field. The focus of these videos was mostly centred on the chef and I wanted to change that by giving food the importance it deserves in the digital food content space. And that’s how I started my journey, with table-top videos. Not to mention I also didn't have a studio at that time. I would shoot videos in my living room or on my dining table while simultaneously building a community and reinvesting the revenue earned from content creation into buying equipment like cameras, lights and building a team.
As for introducing myself in front of the camera, it was something I was already planning to do in the year 2020. The studio was almost ready, but before I could reveal myself, the lockdown hit. So, the timing worked out perfectly for me to finally step out from behind the table and introduce myself to my audience.
I've shot content for multiple platforms in the past, starting with short-form, table-top videos on Facebook back in 2016. Then, we moved on to Instagram and YouTube, where we started making longer, vertical videos for Instagram and now we're doing short, vertical videos for Instagram reels. The process is pretty much the same, except for some technical differences. For example, we shoot horizontally or vertically, and we use different lighting setups for YouTube and Instagram.
To make our studio look like it's fit for reels, we make some structural and technical changes. But, here's the crazy part, making a 20-minute YouTube video and making a one-minute reel takes the same amount of time for me. So, it may come as a surprise for the viewers, but the fact remains that making a short reel isn't any easier or faster than making a long YouTube video.
As we go around India, I can't help but notice how street food tends to blend together. However, Mumbai has stolen my heart with its pav bhaji, vada pav, and Mumbai-style bhel puri. Let's not forget about the chaats and sandwiches either. Like, have you ever noticed how the baida rotis in Mumbai are almost identical to Kolkata's Mughlai parathas?
And the differences between the sukhi bhel versus jhal muri? No matter where I am in the world, street food will always hold a special place in my heart.I recently travelled to Mexico and indulged in various kinds of tacos. The street tacos blew my mind and allowed me to experience the culture and identity of the place in a unique way. It's fascinating how street food can connect us to a community and its people. I believe that one of the best things about street food is how accessible it is, and this is something that I adore and value about it.
Coming to the topic of exploring street food of a particular locale, I've had the pleasure of tasting Lucknow cuisine from various sources, but am yet to visit the city itself. I'm itching to explore the street food scene and get a firsthand experience of the cuisine.
There is no set formula or technique that my team and I follow when creating content for our channel. Instead, we rely on a content calendar that outlines weeks, months, festivals, holidays and seasonal produce. This helps us plan our content accordingly. For example, as we planned for April, we considered the start of summer, the availability of seasonal fruits like mangoes, and the need for refreshing beverages and pickles. We brainstorm recipe ideas, do trial runs, and then shoot the final product.
We also pay close attention to the visual aspect of our videos, tailoring the atmosphere to match the dish. For instance, if we're filming a breakfast recipe like poha, we'll create a morning ambiance. Conversely, a soup recipe might require a more relaxed, evening vibe.
To maintain our creativity, I often experiment with cooking in my free time, even when the cameras aren't rolling. This allows me to reset my creative juices and explore new ideas that can be incorporated into our channel. Ultimately, the perfect Your Food Lab video is a culmination of recipe value, visual appeal, and creativity.
My mother's kheer is unbeatable and I have attempted to recreate it using her simple pressure cooker recipe, but it's never quite as amazing as hers. On the other hand, my wife is a dedicated chartered accountant and doesn't cook frequently, but when she does, her desserts are irresistible. Her cheesecake is particularly noteworthy, and even her maggi is better than mine. My sister is also a dessert enthusiast, and she excels in baking, something I don't do very often. So when it comes to baking, both my wife and sister are better than me.
In my opinion, Indian families and Indian cuisine prioritises nutrition at its core. A typical Indian thali served at home includes daal, sabji or bhakri made with jowar, bajra, nachni or a combination, as well as some pickle and salad on the side, and dahi (curd) or raita. This combination of dishes provides a mix of protein, fibre, and nutrients from the millets.
Usually, for my meals at home, I prefer to have kadhi or khichdi along with some salad or bhakri. I love baingan ka bharta, torai, or my mom's vadis, which are made out of sun-dried daal and provide good protein. I generally like to eat simple home-cooked food, except when I am travelling or exploring where my diet goes a little haywire.
Starting from June 2022, I made a conscious effort to eat better and exercise regularly to get back in shape. I believe that even if you indulge in food, you should maintain healthy eating habits on a daily basis.
Personally, I strongly believe that millets are gaining more popularity among people these days. Whenever I travel to rural areas in India, I notice that people still prefer consuming millets over wheat. During my recent visit to Jaipur, I had laal maas with tandoori bajre ki roti and I asked the locals if they usually eat bajre ki roti. They told me that it was the only thing they would eat with laal maas. Similarly, whenever I visit villages in Maharashtra, I see jowari ki bhakri being served everywhere. It's the metropolitan cities that always get highlighted in the media, but more and more people are incorporating millets and other Indian superfoods into their diets.
As a chef, I believe it's our responsibility to promote the use of millets in our cooking. I think it's crucial to promote the consumption of millets even further, and I try to do so through my channels and platforms.
For me, the announcement of my restaurant plans will be made when I am ready to do so. The main aspect of my restaurant will be to evoke a sense of nostalgia. Every time you eat something, it reminds you of a particular memory or moment, whether it's a person, a place, or even a specific aroma. Therefore, creating memories is an essential element for me. I have no plans to offer cuisines other than Indian food. I have a document prepared, which I call "Restaurant SK Project," where I note down any ideas or experiences that inspire me. There are many aspects of the restaurant that I am not revealing at this time, but I can say that Indian food and nostalgia will be the primary focus.
The Facebook campaign was truly amazing, as I was the first Indian creator to be featured in a Facebook outdoor campaign for the 'More Together' campaign in Asia. It was an incredible experience to see my face on hoardings all over the country. Recently, I was selected as the face of Wagh Bakri Tea's spiced range, which has been an amazing experience. The TV commercial turned out really well, and the audience too reacted well to it. I saw many people sharing pictures of newspaper clippings, videos of the TVC, and even the advertisement playing on their television screens with me in it. It's truly amazing to see people celebrate these things along with me, as it's all part of building a community. People often think that endorsing brands is only about earning money, but that's not true for me. For me, it's about sharing my love for cooking and connecting with my audience through various media, be it digital or print media.
Tea has a special place in my heart because it is linked to some of my cherished memories. Just like food, tea also evokes nostalgia in me. One of my unforgettable memories is when I went to Hemkund Sahib and had tea at langar after trekking in extremely cold temperatures with less oxygen. The tea served in a large steel glass was so refreshing and energising, it’s just one of those moments I won't forget.
As a child, I used to watch my dad and grandmother enjoy their tea. My grandmother made her tea with full-fat milk and never added water to it. Although I didn't drink tea back then, I loved to dip rusk biscuits in their tea and savour the flavour. These memories are very dear to me. Being associated with a brand and serving as a brand ambassador for a brand such as Wagh Bakri, that has a legacy of its own, is an accomplishment that makes me proud. I felt this was the right direction to take