Crave Cook Click Women’s Month Celebration- Meet Prerna Singh of Indian Simmer-Food Blogger & Photographer
We are celebrating Women’s Month on Crave Cook Click as it was International Women’s Day on 8th March. As a part of this celebration I am interviewing my favorite Women Photographers and Food Bloggers. The idea is to appreciate, motivate and get inspired ☺
Today I will be interviewing Prerna Singh of Indian Simmer. She leads the editorial, content and community growth at Indian Simmer, based out of San Francisco bay area. Her simple yet evocative writing coupled with mouthwatering photography and easy to follow recipes put Indian Simmer in the spotlight early on. She started her career with an advertising firm in India and holds an MBA from Devi Ahilya University with specializations in advertising and public relations.
Indian Simmer has since been featured in a multitude of publications and received numerous recognitions, most notably as a winner of Saveur Best Food Blog awards in 2014. In 2015, expanding on the idea of creating a space for Indian food lovers around the world, Indian Simmer had a rebirth as a social platform for Indian recipes.
Hi Prerna. Thank you so much for taking out time to inspire us with your inputs. Please tell us more about your journey from being an Advertising Professional to leading Indian Simmer. How did it all get started?
Back in India I worked as a creative writer in advertising. I don’t do very well when it comes to expressing myself vocally in front of an audience but writing has always been therapeutic. Probably that’s what drew me to advertising although I never got beyond writing classifieds on newspapers and monotonous literature on brochures. Not too glamorous as the word “advertising” sounds, isn’t it. There were a few glorious moments too though before I decided its marry this charming guy who I now call my husband and moved miles away from all of that back home. After moving here to new-to-me foreign land and after a few crazy years in advertising, suddenly I had a lot of time in hand. Writing still kept me company. This was when I realized there was something else I loved and that was spending time in my kitchen. I was always fascinated by the aromas, the flavors and the game of senses you get to play with in the kitchen but I never had the time before. Now I did. So I did more of trying and testings. After writing, cooking became another outlet. Indian Simmer was purely accidental and impulsive. A frustrating confession and discussion with my husband within the secure walls of my living room led me to start this food blog. In my own small way I wanted to share with the world that Indian cuisine is way more than just deep red and brown curries and carb rich naan you find at your local Indian restaurant.
Apart from Indian recipes sharing platform, what was the ideology behind Indian Simmer?
Indian Simmer started after a simple conversation with a stranger at a supermarket. I was in Charlotte, NC at the time. A place which was not as culturally diverse at the time as other parts of the country/world. Specially people’s knowledge of Indian cuisine was limited to the “greasy and spicy” food they got at Indian restaurants. Such conversations had happened before and I realized there was quite a bit of “educational” work people in the Indian food industry need to do. Instead of pointing at others, I thought I should just start small. Create a place where Indian food lovers can come learn, share and spread their love for the cuisine. Our main mission behind Indian Simmer is to make Indian food approachable to a global audience. The recipe discovery platform that we launched a few months back is another step we thought we should take to provide a global platform to the cuisine and also the people who are doing some amazing work in the field.
What/Who is your inspiration behind such innovative recipes?
I always say that little that I know about ever so vast Indian cuisine is because of the two mums in my life. Mummy, my mother and Mumma, my MIL, two amazingly talented women. They teach me dedication and selflessness every single day in their own simple ways. And passion for food I think comes from Papa, my dad. He has taught me how to stir in love into every single plate of food that gets out of your kitchen.
Do you have a workflow for your blog posts?
I wouldn’t say its a strict rule but yes, I do follow a process. I start with an idea for a recipe. It can come from anywhere, a beautiful looking produce, a recipe I bump into or a chat with someone. Then I play around with the recipe in my kitchen. If its a traditional recipe I go to my moms. If its something new that I testing then I test the recipe at least a few times before it makes way to the website. Photography or story come after. They keep changing places, sometimes I shoot first and other times a story just comes in head and I weave it with the recipe and photos. I know I should be looking for SEO keywords etc but I just do not go that route. It kills my creative process. But I advice you do it if you can.
You obviously have excellent photography skills — was it something you’d studied before, or something you picked up as you started blogging?
Oh, no I do not consider myself skilled at all when it comes to photography. All I know is from trial and error. Started with me picking the camera after my older daughter was born and then slowly food photography took over.
What’s your process when you take a photo? How do you decide where to shoot, how to set up the background, and how to style your dish?
While testing the recipe I keep an eye on the textures and colors involved in the ingredients and the final dish. With practice you slowly get an understanding of what colors might go well as a background, props etc depending on the type pf food. I sometimes use the app. Adobe Kuler to understand the color scheme that might go well with my food. I personally love shabby chic look. I have two kids who keep me very busy so I have to plan things in advance, specially the shoot. On shoot days, I normally cook first thing in the morning so that I can catch the 10am light sifting through this glass door in my family room. For moody shots I try to catch the evening light in my garage. So essentially I have two set ups, one in my garage and one in my family room. Once I have my winner shot I move to post processing.
Other than your camera, what are the tools of the trade that you use the most to make the photographs work? Do you do any digital altering?
I know it sounds good on paper but I barely use a tripod. Another thing you should completely ignore I said. Use your tripod people! It gives you more stability. I just like moving around the food with my camera and I personally find a tripod restricting. I never fail to use my white balance grey card though. I know with your advanced DSLR you can adjust white balance in your camera but using a grey card is a habit that I like. Helps me color correct my images the way I want during post processing. To post process my images I use Adobe Lightroom. Previously I used photoshop which is amazing too but for blog level photos Lightroom does the job. Now I use photoshop only when doing commercial work or the client asks for something specific.
Which part of blogging excites you most: the recipe development, the post writing, or the photography?
I think its all of the above. I love the whole process. Its all calming to me. On a different day a different thing puts a smile on my face. Sometimes a beautiful piece of food, or a lovely memory penned down, brings tears to the eyes other days that “gold shot” makes you go, “damn I’m good!”.
Who is your foodie hero and how do they inspire you?
With time they’ve become friends but there are a few ladies who always amaze and inspire me. Aarti Sequeria, I love for just the person she is. I have never seen a more down to earth and “real” celebrity! And so are Mallika Basu and Maunika Gowardhan, gorgeous people inside out. Kulsum Kunwa, Shayma, Meeta, have such a way with words, their writing brings tear to my eyes.
How important is SEO, Social Media Marketing and Website development for food bloggers?
I think its equally important as is creating good content. In todays day and age when there’s intimidating amount of content on the world wide web, and good content, its very difficult to make your work visible and noticed.
What advice would you give our readers who want to get into food photography?
Practice, practice, practice! Just pick up that camera and keep playing with it. You can read all you want about the tricks and techniques but you will really learn only when you make that camera work. Read your light, learn and find the extent to which you can use your device. I always say, start with the basic camera and lens and then move your way up depending on how you like to shoot. I love macro shots and I go to know that after shooting for 4 years with my 50mm lens. Then I graduated to a 100mm. So what works for someone else might not work for you. So know what’s your style and find your place.
You are a homemaker, mother of two and also lead Indian Simmer. How do you manage everything so efficiently? Any tips for our readers
I have no clue! And I’m not being modest here, I really do not know. There are days when I feel like a complete failure as a mother and other days I feel I’m failing as a business person. Its always a work in progress and that’s a struggle every working parent goes through but they also find their own process. For me waking up early in the morning and putting the kids early to bed works as it gives me some time to myself. My days fall apart when the baby refuses to nap in the afternoon but its all part of life. I just cry a little and send out emails to people apologizing for the delay. Oh, a glass (or two) of wine also helps. So make it a point to never run out of my reds!
I’m only going to make one dish from your blog, which one should it be? Please share the link of the same with us.
Please make my Papa’s Chicken Curry. Its a fool proof recipe and it’ll make me very happy if you do!
Thank you so much Prerna for sharing your vision, passion and such great inputs with our readers. We wish you all the best for your future endeavors.
Guys you can follow Prerna’s work on below links
Earlier we had interviewed Avni Bid (Fashion & Portrait Photographer). You can read the interview here
Dolphia Nandi Arnstein (Food Blogger & Photographer). You can read the interview here