A compulsive baker, food stylist and photographer, Deeba Rajpal showcases her creativity and love for food on her blog Passionate About Baking. The blog is truly a sweet lover’s paradise and there is a rustic charm to her food styling that is simply unique. In fact, her Instagram page would literally have you drooling!
But her cooking, food styling and baking ventures much beyond her blog. Having associated with leading chefs, numerous brands and as a host to TV shows, Deeba has definitely carved a space for herself in the food blogging industry.
In this interview, Deeba Rajpal talks about her passion for baking, food styling and her journey so far. So dig in!
What inspired you to start Passionate About Baking?
Back in 2007, I had time on hand and an internet connection. The sudden discovery of a few food blogs in the US and the idea of creating my own free site online came together nicely. A couple of initial appreciative comments gave me a boost of confidence to delve in further. This became my happy space.
I discovered food blogs over a decade ago. They had me absolutely smitten. To think someone in some corner of the world could create food and then shoot it beautifully and share it with the world was inspiring. So, I too started a food blog, and thus began my little journey into this world of food, food styling and food photography. That was 2007. Time flew by, my images on the blog, Twitter and Pinterest were noticed and appreciated. I found motivation that I was hitting a right chord somewhere, then eventually began investing all my energy in this direction. I would style and shoot in all my free time, after grocery, laundry, kids, and school runs.
What are your cooking inspirations?
I am constantly inspired by the sea of creativity I wake up to every morning. On the net, in old cities, the local bazaar, artisans, people, chefs, nature, seasons, vintage things, fabric, glass, wood, metal, old books … everything inspires me!
Food styling is comparatively a newer career option that has flourished in the Instagram age. Are the skills self-taught or is there any apprenticeship or courses for it?
I am self-taught. I follow my aesthetics, shoot every single day, am obsessive about it. It’s a matter of following your heart and enjoying what you do. I think that itself is a great connect, self-motivation that works.
My lucky break in food styling came when late one night in 2014 the phone rang. It was Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna, asking me if I would cook, style and shoot his next cookbook. Very unsure of my capabilities and equipment, quite nervously I agreed (even though in the back of my head I thought it was a spam call).
My journey had begun. That book, My First Kitchen, got published 4 years later, but more importantly it made me grow as a food stylist and photographer. Unknown to me, I had been developing a style that people were noticing and pointing out. It was rustic, earthy and in many ways, my own kind of art. It dawned on me that I had an interest in all things vintage, natural and rustic, in elements that culturally spoke of India. I was easily weaving these into my frames, and the aesthetics appealed to a wide audience.
Plenty of styling assignments & collaborations followed. The tea subscription company, Teabox, was being given a new identity by a design consultancy Pentagram, in New York. They saw my work and figured my aesthetics were a match for the brand story. This was followed by work with Borosil, Chumbak, Hyatt, California Walnuts, Foodhall, Google, Dubai Tourism, Canon, The Oberoi Gurgaon, Soultree, PepsiCo to name a few.
There are no shortcuts to quality content. I usually only style on a commercial basis, and rarely do both styling and photography commercially. Also, it’s important to build a style and be known for it; styling and photography go hand in hand and must be able to build a story in continuity. You can emulate a style that isn’t yours, but that doesn’t help you grow or develop. The challenge is to develop a personal style and a body of work that comes to you naturally. I shoot only in natural light and believe in minimal post processing.
What was the best and worst dish you ever cooked baked?
Best? Not sure, but possibly this salted caramel tart.
Worse – A lemon meringue pie that I tried almost 8 years ago. The meringue wept and the pie smelt of eggs. I never went back to making it again!
Which is your favorite travel destination?
I think Banaras for all the character it offers. I thrive in places that offer colour, chaos, energy, delectable cuisine, street food and natural beauty etc. I also love old architecture.
What are some of your professional achievements that you are proud of?
There are numerous projects that I have been happy and honored to be a part of. The styling project for a part cookbook re-shoot for a UK based publisher, Dorling Kindersley in November 2014 is something to begin with. The book ‘Curry’ is now in print.
As mentioned earlier, I did the full cookbook styling and shoot for My First Kitchen, a cookbook by Michelin Star Chef Vikas Khanna, with Penguin India. The book is available on Amazon and in shops now.
I have also styled & shot ‘Uparwali Chai’ for Scotland based Pamela Timms which is published this year.
I have also collaborated with numerous brands including KitchenAid India, Borosil, Tefal India, Del Monte, Mother Dairy, Big Banyan Wines, Olive Tree Trading, Teabox, ITC Ashirvaad, Pure Maple Syrup of Canada, Dubai Tourism, California Walnut Commission, Chumbak, Honor, Google Pixel, Havells, Canon, Jiwa, Foodhall, Google, Pepsico, Dhara, Amazon, Dabur, Danone, Kellogg’s, Burpp, Forest Essentials, Swiggy, Hersheys, Magnum, Switzerland Tourism, Tourism Malaysia among others.
I am also a member of the Culinary Council at Kitchen Aid India for 3 years.
The shot with NDTV Good Times for a ten-day travel show in Switzerland, and for a food show with Rocky & Mayur was also a wonderful experience.
I also host Food Styling & Photography workshops with Darter in the NCR. Our last few were at Olive Qutab, Lavaash by Saby, The Lodi, SBOW Gurgaon, The Piano Man Cafe, Delhi, Ibis Aerocity, Delhi, Novotel Juhu, Mumbai, Italiano, CyberHub, Gurgaon. Our last one was at Taj Krishna, Hyderabad.
Finally, how would you describe your blog to a new reader?
Every blog should have a niche, and so has mine. Passionate About Baking offers simple, easy to follow recipes centred mostly around baking. There’s something for everyone – recipes of course, also a bit of travel, product & ingredient reviews etc. I love to experiment with fresh produce in season, spices, local and non-refined ingredients. Oh and there’s loads of chocolate too!