Aparna Balasubramanian is a talented vegetarian food photographer based in Kochi, India. She is the founder of “My Diverse Kitchen,” an ovo-lacto vegetarian food blog that features recipes, food stories, and photography. Aparna has been blogging since 2007 and believes that the kitchen, and the dining table, are truly the heart of a home.
Aparna’s passion for food photography stems from her love of cooking, and her fascination with the way food can bring people together. She believes that food not only nourishes our bodies, but also our souls, and her photography reflects this belief. Her work is known for its vibrant colors, textures, and attention to detail, and she has become a sought-after food photographer in the region.
In this exclusive interview, Aparna shares insights into her journey as a vegetarian food photographer, her creative process, and her favorite vegetarian dishes to shoot. Join us as we explore the world of food photography through Aparna’s lens.
What follows is an interesting interview with the Cooking influencer.
Questions We Asked Aparna Balasubramanian
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started with food blogging?
I’m Aparna Balasubramanian, a vegetarian food and photographer living in Kochi, India. I started cooking only after I got married and my daughter was behind my starting a food blog. So I started writing a food blog in 2007 mostly to collect and share recipes from my native Palakkad Iyer community as well as other recipes I cooked at home.
2. What are your favorite types of recipes to create and share, and why?
Cook and mostly share the kind of food we like to eat at home. I mostly cook Indian food, but also vegetarian food from across the world. I have a special love for baking bread. I don’t know that I have particular recipes that I like to cook, but I would pick food that uses easily available fresh and preferably local ingredients, is wholesome, healthy and cooked easily.
3. What is your favorite ingredient to work with and why?
That’s a really tough question! Probably vegetables as a whole simply because of the variety of dishes one can cook them.
However, if it’s just one ingredient I’d probably pick rice. I come from a traditional rice growing and eating community and it is unbelievable how many different things one can make with it, and it can be cooked and eaten.
4. How do you come up with new recipe ideas, and what is your creative process like?
I don’t really come up with new recipe ideas all that often. Many of my recipes are tried and tested traditional recipes which need no further improvement, in my opinion. There is no one fits all creative process as such.
Some new recipes happen by accident or when adapting existing recipes to personal taste preferences and include locally available ingredients. Other recipes are born when a certain product or ingredient is required to be used in a new way.
5. What do you hope people take away from your blog, and how do you want to inspire them in the kitchen?
I hope people explore my native Palakkad Iyer cuisine and see how traditional Indian vegetarian food can be simple, nutritious and well balanced, full of flavour and easy to cook. I also want people to be adventurous with cooking and discover that cooking good food isn’t rocket science. All it needs is the desire, a little effort and some practice.
6. Can you share any success stories or meaningful experiences that have come from your food blogging journey?
Blogging about food has opened up the world of food to me of course. A few fellow food bloggers and I were able to organize an Indian food bloggers meet, the first of its kind, in 2014 at Bangalore.
I have discovered world vegetarian food beyond what I might have if I had not started blogging food. I have also been able to connect with like-minded people across the world. Many of them have become very close friends and our friendships go beyond food.
7. Can you share any cooking mistakes you’ve made and how you learned from them?
I’ve made too many to mention. Making mistakes is always the best way to learn cooking! The one mistake I do remember was my first attempt at making filter coffee. I’m a tea drinker even though I come from a South Indian Tamil family. Soon after I got married, my father came to visit.
I decided to make filter coffee for the first time for my father and husband, two bona fide coffee drinkers. The new husband and father-in-law both suffered my coffee with painful expressions, unwilling to let me down by complaining about the rather sad quality of my coffee!
8. How do you balance nutrition and flavor in your recipes?
I don’t very consciously balance flavour and nutrition in my cooking. I believe any one who likes good food can create good flavour profiles. Cooking and eating my native cuisine has given me a good understanding of creating nutritionally balanced meals.
The use of fresh ingredients and a combination of minimal spicing helps create good flavour profiles. Experience in cooking, as with everything else, also helps.
9. What equipment do you use for your food photography, and do you have any tips for taking great food photos?
I use natural daylight, a Canon 80D DSLR camera and 50mm f/1.8 and 100mm lenses for my food photography. The most basic tips for good food photography is to understand the equipment you’re using and the food you’re photographing.
When I say understand your food, I mean think about which way the food will best and what part of the food you want to focus on. Based on that, think about your angle of photographs, the depth field (what f-stop to use), what the background should look like, how to plate the food, what colours will showcase the food best, what props to accessorize with, what composition you would like for your photograph. These are some of the things to think about.
10. How do you balance traditional cooking methods with modern twists in your recipes?
I try not to alter traditional recipes themselves too much because I honestly feel many of them have gone through enough change to become what they are. Like most of us, I do use modern appliances like my pressure cooker, mixer/ grinder, fridge/ freezer, oven, etc to make cooking easier and less time-consuming,
11. Can you talk about your approach to cooking and how you infuse your personality into your recipes?
Though I enjoy cooking and good food, I’m not a fan of spending hours in a hot kitchen. So my general approach to cooking involves spending the least time and effort but creating a nutritious, well-balanced and tasty meal.
On most days this means spending about 45 minutes to an hour prepping and cook a meal. For some reason it will take longer, I would break down prep and cook into parts that can be done ahead.
12. How do you stay organized in the kitchen when preparing multiple dishes at once?
I almost always plan my meals/ cooking based on what vegetables and staples I have. By bedtime I have a pretty good idea of what I’m cooking for breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day. So I do my prep work before cooking based on that.
13. What advice would you give to someone who wants to improve their cooking skills?
You need a genuine love for cooking and a willingness to learn and keep trying till you get it right. Watch all those chefs and cooking shows on television and streaming platforms. There’s also so much information beyond recipes available on the net these days. Ask other cooks for help with your doubts. You will get here eventually.
14. Can you talk about any future plans or projects for My Diverse Kitchen by Aparna, and where you see your blog going in the future?
I have been food blogging for over 15 years now and seen all the changes from a time when very few people knew what a food blog was to now when just about everyone photographs food and posts on social media. As of now, I’ll continue blogging about food that excites me.
Aparna Balasubramanian’s journey as a vegetarian food photographer has been a fascinating one. Her passion for food and photography has led her to become one of the most sought-after food photographers in the region. Her unique approach to food photography, which emphasizes the beauty and diversity of vegetarian cuisine, has won her many fans around the world.
Through this interview, we learned about Aparna’s creative process, her inspiration for starting her blog “My Diverse Kitchen,” and her favorite vegetarian dishes to shoot. Aparna’s love for food and her dedication to her craft is truly inspiring, and we are grateful for the opportunity to learn from her.
Thank you, Aparna Balasubramanian, for sharing your insights and expertise with us.
If you enjoyed this interview and want to explore more of Aparna’s delicious vegetarian recipes, be sure to visit her website, My Diverse Kitchen. You can also follow her on social media using the links provided below.