The story of a man obsessed with food
Kalyan Karmakar is a former market researcher who is now considered to be India’s leading food blogger. He is a popular food columnist and a published author too.
He blogs at www.FinelyChopped.net. His debut book is a food travelogue called The Travelling Belly which went into a reprint within a year of it being published. He is the curator of the Times Kitchen Tales, a pan Indian initiative to celebrate regional Indian food from the Times of India. He is a popular food columnist and his words can be found at NDTV Food, Times of India Blogs, DailyO, Femina, The Indian Express and Scoopwhoop. He is a part of the jury for the Living Foodz Epicurean Awards and the Conde Nast Best Restaurant Awards.
He has spoken on food and food culture at prestigious forums such as the Times Lit Fest, the Tasting India Symposium, FBAI Dialgoues, the Kalaghoda Festival, the National Police Academy and Jagriti Yatra in India and Casa Asia in Barcelona. He won the Best Indian Food Blogger Award in the BH&G and Social Samosa Influencer Awards 2017, the FBAI Best General Food Blogger Award multiple times and the Godrej Protect Power Blogger Award in 2017. As a market researcher & consultant, he has earlier worked in agencies such as The Nielsen Company, TNS India, IMRB International and Draft FCB Ulka has presented award winning papers at the Esomar World Congress & Asia Pacific meets. He is currently working on a semiotic analysis of Indian regional food cultures.
He is on Twitter as @finelychopped
Kalyan loves food and loves talking about it too, and that’s what made him start writing his food blog, Finely Chopped, ten years back. His blog is packed with stories about the dishes that he has cooked and through which he has tried to demystify the world of cooking to those who find it daunting. He has written about the places he has been to and the food that he has had there during his travels. He has showcased the stories behind chefs and hoteliers that he has met, as well as those of the restaurants that he has been to, and which cover a wide expanse ranging from street side stalls to family run heritage eateries to Michelin starred fine dining restaurants across the world, though he is most happy when sharing a meal with those who open their kitchens to him and invite him over.
In order to completely understand Kalyan’s passion for food, one would have to rewind and go back to the days of his childhood. He fondly remembers the story about the first time his grandmother made ‘pantuas’ (the Bengali version of the gulab jamun) for him. He liked them so much that he finished everyone’s share! In fact, his grandmother had to rush and make a second batch. During his school years when pocket money was tight, he would save up his humble allowance and later spend it on a mutton roll. When he was old enough to handle the stove and the flame, he would make chicken curry on Sundays for his family. The bug to eat well always resided within him.
In the mid-nineties, Kalyan took up market research as a profession because it seemed like the sensible thing to do at the time. But the spark to eat well burned brightly within him. Whenever his work took him to a new place, he never returned without a new food experience. On completing his day’s work, he would wander off to the local eateries of any city that he found himself in. He would chat with the locals, share tables with them and take pictures with them. He firmly believes in respecting and enjoying the food of any region that he visits.
For many years he held a day job and would blog late into the night. On personal holidays, he would use the hotel business centres to update his blog and share his food inventory for the day. As days passed by his deep love for food changed the nature of his travels. From writing about the food of the places he visited, he started visiting places to write about the food there. His wife, fondly called ‘K’ on his blog, says that sightseeing is something that Kalyan would do in between eating, if he had the time.
It was the year 2013 when Kalyan made up his mind to stop being a part-time man of food. He left his job to become a full-time writer, much to the shock of his mother. Of course, she came around and is now terribly proud of him and has started blogging herself.
Kalyan took his first steps towards converting his passion for food into his livelihood by starting the Finely Chopped Food Walks, where he showcased his favourite food haunts in the city of Mumbai to food lovers from across the world. He continues to do bespoke food walks showing the Mumbai that he loves. He then began writing as a food and travel columnist for leading publications in both mass and social media.
In the initial stages of his innings as an independent writer Kalyan would head out each morning with his MacBook to his favourite cafe, Candies, which doubled up as his office. He ordered his ‘usual’ (two chicken sandwiches and a double shot cappuccino) and sat down to write. The service staff at the cafe knows him and adores him. On days when he was not looking as happy as he should, they would quietly slip him an extra petite four. It was sitting on his favourite bench at this cafe, that Kalyan wrote his debut book, The Travelling Belly. It was published by Hachette Publishing in 2017.
This book is a food travelogue filled with anecdotes from his travels as a market researcher across India and has a tribute to his adopted home town of Mumbai and to the home he left behind twenty years back, Kolkata. It went into a reprint within a year of being published.
Equally comfortable in plush luxury hotel rooms as well as tiny two-table eateries, all you need to do to find Kalyan is follow the aroma of something delicious. Even his MacBook smells of chicken sandwiches.
Kalyan has now settled down into his new life as a ‘working from home’ freelancer. He wakes up and heads to the kitchen each morning and then makes his breakfast, one that would make both him and his doctor happy. He calls these #LittleJackHornerMeals
He then goes to the espresso machine that his wife gifted him and cranks up an espresso for himself to savour what he calls #MyEspressoMornings
He then heads to his desk in his house in Mumbai’s suburb of Bandra and starts to write, with the birds on the trees outside chirping on to give him company.