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Rohit Haryani: I have a very healthy relationship with food

Rohit Haryani spills the beans on his blog The Hungry Mumbaikar, his equation with food and dinning, the drastic change in food culture and gives us an insight on the blogging customs

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While most kids wanted to grow up to be doctors or pilots or cricketers, Rohit Haryani had altogether different plans for himself. He simply wanted to start his own restaurant chain across the world! “I know that sounds naïve today, but such was my love for food growing up! This passion for food has led me to always going out and trying new places with my friends, family and colleagues,” informed an honest Rohit. As The Hungry Mumbaikar turns three this month, blogger Rohit Haryani talks about food, the blog and more…

Food for thought
Though starting a blog was not ideally in the plan, Rohit’s close friend suggested him to start one as anyway he was sharing his food journey on his personal social media profiles. Being a tech savvy person and with the constant itch of sharing his food experiences on social media platforms, Rohit finally gave birth to The Hungry Mumbaikar on April 4, 2015.

Juggling between his two favourite words- food and Mumbai, the 26-year-old wanted his handle to sound simple and something which any Mumbaikar can relate to. And boom! The Hungry Mumbaikar was born. “Even the current logo of The Hungry Mumbaikar is my attempt to encapsulate the same intent. It has the symbol of Mumbai’s local trains- the beating lifeline of the city- on a square plate with a knife and fork on either side. I want it to depict The Hungry Mumbaikar as everyone’s daily food destination,” he added.

The hundred ‘food’ journey
Unlike a lot of Instagram blogs who employ a repost model –post images clicked by other users and give them picture credits, The Hungry Mumbaikar has always believed in curating his own content. Speaking on the challenges he faced in the initial period, he said, “One of the biggest challenges I faced in the beginning and something I still face even today, is generating new and relevant quality content on a regular basis. Further, each social media platform is different from the other. And since not a lot of people know that you exist in the early days, you always want your posts to reach out to as many people as possible. Hence, one of the major challenges was to understand each platform’s parameters in order to maximize the activity and engagement on my social media pages.”

Just a couple of weeks back, The Hungry Mumbaikar has managed to pull a whopping 76k followers on its Instagram page. On asked how he has managed to pull that number to which he said, “There’s been a lot of hard work and dedication involved to reach this level. I try my best to post on a regular basis, maintain the highest level of quality content, have relevant content around the latest happenings of Mumbai’s food and drink scene, come up with interesting captions that people relate to and interact with my followers on a daily basis. I also hold contests from time to time to thank my followers for their love and support.”

Man v/s Food
Rohit feels that a decade earlier, the dining options in Mumbai were limited and most of them seemed very expensive. Also that there were mainly three predominant cuisines – Indian, Italian and Chinese and beyond that, people were not inclined to experimentation. Elaborating on the same, he said, “Most of us had our set of favourite places which we would visit frequently on special occasions. However, over the years, consumer trends have changed drastically due to increased awareness. Some of the influencing factors, in my opinion, are TV shows like MasterChef Australia, social media apps like Zomato and the general increased spending power of the middle class. Even the advent of aggregators like Scootsy, Swiggy, FoodPanda, etc. has played an important part. Now, food from high-end restaurants is available right at your doorstep and a lot of delivery kitchens have sprung up too.”

With a cultural shift of catching up over meals and drinks over the weekends or post work, Rohit believes that the young generation has not only been open to experimentation but also the restaurants have been paying more attention to aesthetics of food with a progression towards modern Indian cuisine, molecular gastronomy and fusion food.

Food: fact or fiction?
When it comes to food, nothing is forbidden for Rohit. Defining his relationship with food, he said, “I have a very healthy relationship with food. I eat whatever I want and whenever I want! Nothing is forbidden! Though I have a pretty decent appetite, I try to eat in smaller portions in such a way that I don’t overstuff myself. This way, I feel hungry every couple of hours and I keep eating something delicious and different.”

Finding sheer comfort in Butter Chicken, Kheema Pav, Rajma Chaval, Pav Bhaji, Chole Bathure, Misal Pav and of course, Pizza, North Indian food is Rohit’s favourite. Sharing his philosophy on food and dinning, Rohit added, “There’s nothing like some hot and flavourful comfort food for the soul! In recent years, there has been major innovation in modern Indian cuisine and molecular gastronomy. As a result, there have been many interesting fusions of Indian food with western cuisines. However, things have gone too far, in my opinion. In many instances, innovation is being done for the sake of innovation. There’s way too much emphasis on the aesthetics and somewhere down the line, the taste is compromised. The theatricality needs to be curbed. We need to let food be the hero by delivering clean flavours on the plate.”

The adventures of food boy
Though there are quite a few awards held to recognize the best travel, lifestyle and fashion bloggers, there are limited awards for food bloggers. Rohit was told that 2016 was the first edition of the Cosmopolitan India Blogger Awards where food bloggers were recognized. Without second thoughts, he submitted his blog details on the website. After a few rounds for short listing the nominees, The Hungry Mumbaikar won the Best Food Blog at Cosmopolitan India Blogger Awards 2016. Also, he was a runner up for the Best Micro Food Blog – Facebook at the Indian Food Blogger Awards 2016. Reminiscing that moment, an elated Rohit said, “Winning this award was a huge achievement and perhaps one of my proudest moments as The Hungry Mumbaikar! I was very happy that all the hard work and effort had paid off. While I was happy, I didn’t become a blogger for the awards or fame, it is simple message of appreciation which I get from my followers.”

The future of food
Sharing a few ticks and tips for budding bloggers, Rohit said, “For starters, avoid food wastage as much as you can. More importantly, your readers trust your opinion and seek your insights. While most of us are regular people – passionate foodies that have no formal culinary training, it is important to demonstrate a level of expertise before publishing any content. The most important thing is to strive to achieve high quality content. Further, one should be at par with current trends and cover new food and drinks places in the city or something which are crowd favourites. Also, it’s important to work on your photography and writing skills and learn how to leverage each social network to its fullest.”

Rohit, who is also a PR and Social Media Consultant for a few restaurants in the city, always manages his time for food and blogging. “In the coming week, The Hungry Mumbaikar completes two years! I will be holding a series of contests of contests on my Instagram page in association with 10 different restaurants which will let my followers win vouchers for food, drinks, brunch, ice cream, desserts, sheesha, and more! Also, I conducted a food walk in December focussing on Mumbai’s local food joints in the CST area. The food walk was a major success. I plan on conducting a few more food walks this 2017,” he concluded.

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