Chef Sanjyot Keer, who started as the food producer for the popular TV Show 'MasterChef India', is now a well-known digital content creator with millions of followers. The founder of 'Your Food Lab' has also featured in the list of Forbes India's Tycoons of Tomorrow 2018.
Known for giving a twist to Indian comfort food, Sanjyot's successful venture 'Your Food Lab' features a diverse collection of recipes that are not just lip-smacking but also healthy. Keer's channel now has 5 million subscribers and 2 billion views across digital platforms.
From dreaming about being a chef to getting featured on Forbes India's Tycoons of Tomorrow list, other than your love for food, what has kept you going?
The journey of making food and content, along with my love for food, has been amazing. But the one thing, which has kept me going, is the sense of responsibility I have towards my channel.
There are millions of followers and billions of viewers who watch my content. I feel it's my responsibility that every day I enter my kitchen, I need to prepare some delicious food, think about new ideas and experiment with my food, along with creating great content. There are a lot of people out there waiting to watch this content. If I skip a day without posting anything, I receive messages from followers who are concerned with my health and stuff. So, this is the kind of responsibility I have. It helps me to get going and create better content every day and post it for my viewers.
Other than this, I feel responsible because I started this journey as a kid and thought that I can make people smile through my cooking.
What role do you think social media has played in the journey of YFL?
Back in 2016, when I started my channel called 'Your Food Lab', social media was just a tool that I used to connect with my friends and family or upload my personal celebratory pictures.
When I uploaded my first video on Facebook in April 2016, it got around 10,000 views and my 3rd video went absolutely viral with 1.7 million views in just a week. This made me realize that just from my home, cooking up a meal, recording it through a camera lens and putting it out there on social media can make you reach millions of people. I started getting texts and comments from all around the world, along with the viewers' stories on how my recipes were touching their lives. It made me feel responsible towards them in a way.
Through social media, I now have reached billions of people around the globe... It has become one of the most important parts of my career today, and I think that is amazing.
Secondly, after almost 5 years now, I feel we have been creating great food content, we have changed how Indian cuisine is looked at through our videos and we have set a benchmark, a standard for producing Indian food videos here and across the globe, which we are very proud of.
Going forward, the future of 'YFL' will be creating new IP's, new content with travelling and also with our 'Your Food Lab Junior' series.
We are also looking towards new concepts like unboxing of kitchen tech and gadgets or a little bit of behind the scenes. We're also planning to launch our full-fledged website and mobile app for 'YFL,' which will cater to a very different audience online. We're also looking at venturing out for YFL Academy or University, where we would be educating youngsters on how to cook, how to be a creator and build a community. This is our goal to get into education, in a very different format, virtually and maybe offline as well.
Amid the pandemic-induced lockdown several netizens tuned in to your channel for new recipes. Some even shared pictures of their version of the same. Did you come across a fan's recreation that left you touched?
2020 was like one crazy rollercoaster for all and I did a lot of lockdown content and recipes.
One such story was when a mother texted us regarding her daughter's birthday. She wanted to bake her a cake without an oven and less ingredients. On that, I made a simple cake recipe, which could help her make a cake in a few minutes and celebrate with her daughter. Post that, a lot of my viewers watched the video and created their own version of the 'Lockdown Birthday Cake' as they celebrated their birthdays and anniversaries. What touched me deeply was that one small recipe could bring in this whole wave of people together.
Another one was, there were two hostel girls and one of them tested positive for COVID-19 and had to be quarantined. The other roommate didn't know how to cook, so she started watching our videos and helped her friend get better by making her comfort food. It was overwhelming when she told us how our videos helped her and her friend get through the difficult time. Every day there are so many touching stories like these and it feels amazing reading them.
From Pav Bhaji fondue to Pav Bhaji Bruschetta, while there are several fusions of the most-loved street food of Mumbai, which one do you think beats the taste of the authentic Pav Bhaji.
Pav Bhaji is very close to my heart. I've always loved doing fusion recipes and I'm also known for it. When I do fusion recipes, I never leave out the essence of the original or base of what it is. I keep experimenting and bettering my own Pav Bhaji and will also be posting them on the channel as well.
Your love for street food is no secret and we would love to know which city do you feel has the best street food?
I can't compare cities. But, there is a lot which happens locally in different areas and I feel one should discover every city and state they can, not only in India but also around the world. However, I've always been a Mumbai boy. Born and brought up here, Mumbai street food has always been close to my heart and I'll always select Mumbai, which doesn't mean that any other states aren't good. I won't pick a particular city cause I love it all but I definitely have a soft corner for Mumbai.
Is there a quick and easy recipe you would suggest our readers for a perfect Sunday brunch?
- One of the quick and easy recipes I did very recently is Spinach rice with vegetables and paprika sauce.
For sautéed veggies, set a wok on medium heat, add oil, garlic and red chilli flakes, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add baby corn & carrot and cook for 2-3 minutes on high flame, further add the remaining veggies, salt & pepper to taste, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes, sautéed veggies are ready; keep aside to be added later in the paprika sauce.
For paprika sauce, set a sauce pan or wok on low heat, add butter and flour, mix and cook for 3-4 minutes, now add milk in 3-4 batches, make sure to whisk well while adding milk to avoid lump formation. Cook the sauce until it's thick and creamy. Add paprika powder, salt to taste, black pepper powder, a pinch and nutmeg powder, mix well and cook for 1-2 minutes, further add the sautéed veggies and cook for 1-2 minutes, now add the paneer and mix gently.
Paprika sauce with sautéed veggies and paneer is ready, serve with hot spinach rice.