If there was one thing on earth that Mumbai-based food blogger Parth Bajaj swore never to try again four years ago, it was the quintessential Australian vegemite. That opinion changed recently in Brisbane, when he came as a guest of the Australian Tourism Exchange, a business-to-business tourism travel trade event, delivered by Tourism Australia.
“I had it in the right way this time on toasted bread with lots of butter and a small hint of vegemite, so my perspective changed. The first time it was directly from the bottle with a spoon and I nearly threw up,” he says with a laugh.
Bajaj, 25, has had a vocational ascent in terms of food and one where despite studying industrial engineering, he found a career in food instead. He was 19 and in the second year of college in Nagpur generally whiling time roaming around with friends when he wanted to do something productive. So, he started something niche—posting about his food experiences on Snapchat.
“The concept of food blogging or covering places was not active then. I started posting about places, what I had and what I did over there. Suddenly I got a lot of direct messages (DMs), people asking me about the place, cost, etc.,” he says.
Bajaj started gaining an audience in Snapchat and Instagram within one-two years and by the time he was about to graduate, he also started to work as social media manager for a lot of brands. That gave him not only monetary incentives but also made him reflect on what he should be doing full time. That was when he decided not to pursue a Master’s in engineering in the US.
He is happy he made that decision. Today at over 215,000 followers on Instagram (he had 350,000 followers on TikTok before it was banned in India) and over 30,000 and growing followers on YouTube, Bajaj is clearly an influencer doing new things to shore up his presence on social media.
When he started, Bajaj used to post about restaurants but he graduated to cooking and blogging the past two years. “I have been just posting recipes. I conduct workshops and teach twice every month,” he says, admitting that he is self-taught mostly through books and online with his mother as his constant source of inspiration.
Boys and cooking are a vestige of the past, believes Bajaj. He was in the 12th standard when he had a leg operation and was on bed rest for six months. Trapped indoors, he started cooking and learning 35 types of musical instruments. With both his parents being working doctors, he would cook what he wanted to eat.
“I would look up on YouTube how to make brownies or macarons. It made me fall more and more in love with baking at first and after that I also tried other forms of cooking,” he says.
Fortunately for Bajaj, he was not raised conservatively by his parents. They did not force him to become a doctor but wanted him to follow his passion and one that was rewarding. They would have a sense of his calling from his part -time hustle as content creator while still studying engineering. “So, they knew I was not jumping into something totally weird and that, yes, that I can do this for a living.”
Now, as an influencer, thanks to a large following, the connotations of being one means that people are understanding the importance of his work. His reputation is not hard to understand if you look at his videos and post. “But it is not very easy, it is very competitive as well because anybody can do it,” says Bajaj.
Recently, Bajaj was on a 15-day tour of Australia on invitation from Tourism Australia as part of a global delegation. “I am a content creator so I had been invited to promote Australia as a tourism destination,” he says.
On his food experiment gambit in Australia, Bajaj was impressed by the wide influence of cuisines and the winery experiences. Prior to coming here, he had made a list of the things he would try such as the barramundi, steaks, tim tams, sea food, sausage rolls, kangaroo and crocodile meat, among others—the experience of which was good.
As a rule, whenever he visits a new country, Bajaj says he loves walking around the city and visiting the supermarkets. “It helps me understand the city in a different kind of way,” he says, adding, “But the size of the vegetables are big and so are the prices compared to Nagpur or India in general. I was not surprised because people say Australia is one of the costliest places to live.”
Food being his genre, he regrets not having been able to attend a cooking class but has soaked up the experience here as one that is memorable. For instance, learning to make a surf board which will be posted to him in India.
Given his line of work, it was important to ask Bajaj whether there is any difference in explaining a technique and explaining a recipe. He believes there is a big difference. “For people like myself who don’t remember recipes, technique is very useful because you always know how to whip out a meringue make a pastry bake or how to get produce something decent even if you don’t remember the recipe. If two people follow the same recipe, it doesn’t mean they will get the same dish at the end. It’s all about the technique. Also, in a recipe, ratios are definitely important but, personally, technique is more important.”
Bajaj shows how with hard work and passion one can can switch off from one’s peers and charge into the foreground of social media. Successfully.
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