Making food and marketing it the Shirazine way…. Parul Pratap Shirazi has a love for food. Her profession has followed this passion.
What’s your story?
I finished Culinary School at WGSHA (ITC), Manipal back in 1998, at a time when women in the kitchen wasn’t the trend, forget the norm! Personal circumstances didn’t allow me to pursue my masters at the time and I chose to train wherever I got placement. A couple of years down the line, I was disheartened by a scenario vis a vis women chefs but I wasn’t disheartened from cooking. I started dabbling in food writing and food styling. Digital was coming into the country and food and beverage brands were building websites left right and centre. It kept me in the scene if not cooking in a pro kitchen and for me that was enough. I developed a small test kitchen and had the opportunity to sample many products before they hit the market. This was around the time blogging was catching on and it was a natural progression for me to start food blogging at www.theshirazine.com. Coming from regionally mixed parents and being married into an even more mixed family, our home cuisine started to be called The Shirazine. Today I blog when I can, I’m the events editor for India’s largest food network, Chef at Large and I have my own digital media and food consultancy that caters only to the food and beverage sector. From a disheartened cook to a cook who moonlights at a cafe and a bar as a chef, The Shirazine has come a long way!
What excites you most about your industry?
The way it is shaping up, the Indian palate is opening up. Indians now travel for pleasure and their indulgences include food as much as sights and shopping. Chefs are upping the ante with forgotten recipes and nouvelle cuisines. There is an opportunity to eat far east cuisines in your neighbourhood when just 15 years ago there was only a few Thai restaurants. The food and beverage industry is becoming more organized. Food is at the forefront, in tandem with fashion and it is a big conversation point, which brands and establishments have taken note of. It is a very exciting time to be in this space.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Though I trained in European food, being Indian, my heart is Asian. I studied food in the south of India where the flavours have influenced many Asian cuisines. So my connection comes from that food memory and even though I work a lot with French and Italian food, at the end of the day my heart craves a bowl of good Pho.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I would say Singapore. I don’t get to travel much anymore but I love a sense of familiarity wherever I go. It’s not in the true spirit of the traveller but for me it is a matter of comfort. That way Singapore is a melting pot and technologically so advanced too.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Do your own thing”! I thought to myself, that is much easier said than done. It’s tough, it’s super tough but if you have a vision and a plan with the patience to go with the flow (of your industry), there is nothing like having your own set-up and operating at your own pace.
Who inspires you?
Anthony Bourdain! He is the essence of a chef, the attitude, the intellect, the expertise and most of all the oratory powers. When he talks, people listen. His journey as a chef is not inspiring because he’s a TV star now, it’s inspiring because he maximized his experience of this fabulously overwhelming profession. He raved, ranted, snorted and lived to tell the tale. As they say, “God made food, the devil and the chefs.”
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve learnt the value of simplicity. Everyone knows it at some level but it takes a bunch of instances or one heck of an experience to realize. It’s the simple things that are being forgotten. My most simple recipes have been received the best, because they’re honest and not construed to impress but to satisfy!
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
At this age I can safely say, nothing. Well maybe a few things but the broader sense, they don’t matter. When you have a frenzied pace of life, you realize that you have reached where you are because of carefully placed circumstances and events and changing one thing could throw it all off. So for me, to be here, cooking for the city, eating new foods, experiencing new food trends, it all had to happen this way.
How do you unwind?
I cook. It all started that way. I was a highly strung teenager, my mother was a small home caterer and her only way of keeping me safe and grounded was to involve me in the kitchen. Whether it was peeling garlic or squeezing lemons for summer sherbets. It became my most peaceful time. Today even after a heavy dinner service at the cafe, with 12 hours in the kitchen, I can come home, get comfortable, bake a chocolate tart and eat it by myself, me and my thoughts!
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Colombo and it has to be because of the people, the food and the foliage. Again familiarity helps build these bonds with travel destinations that are tourist heavy.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Fountainhead – Ayn Rand.
Shameless plug for your business:
A social voice for a food product or service can never be driven by a person who’s not passionate about food and knowledgeable about it too. Which is why our content solutions for food products and services resounds with a true expertise of food.
How can people connect with you?
Email me at [email protected]
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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