The foodie who crafts brands
By Ravi V Chhabra
It was four years back at a food review session in one of Delhi’s luxury hotels that I had met the over six-foot stout epicurean. He approached me with a permeating smile: “Hi, I am Sid”, before I could ask him his profession, he proposed: “Would you care for a smoke”, offering me an ultra-slim Korean cigarette that I greedily accepted.
We puffed away over our pre-lunch chat as I learnt that Sid, apart from being a compulsive food blogger and editor at chefatlarge.in was not only imbrued into cooking with an insight about Delhi’s myriad eateries but he also had great concepts for online brand building in the F&B arena.
Indeed, since then, he has been blending his knowledge in IT and passion for food effectively and has come a long way in promoting food brands /gluttony! Sid is the primary contributor to and editor of his online venture Chef at Large. Having spent 17 years in varying functions of technology, leaving the field after a stint heading software research & development for electrophysiological medical diagnostics, he now applies himself to learning more about food and building food and beverage brands online for his brand-building outfit, Brands at Large and he blogs at: www.chefatlarge.in
Excerpts from my recent interaction with Sid Khullar:
fnbworld: When, why and how this change of profession from IT to F&B writing-marketing? p>
Sid: Though I’ve been fooling around in the kitchen since childhood, the first serious change happened in 2001 when I became quite interested in food and its avatars. The second in 2007 when I started blogging at Chef at Large and the third in 2009 when I found technology just didn’t interest me any longer, having been around the block multiple times. I quit my IT career and thought of a business that involved food, people and technology... which turned out to be brand marketing for food, beverage and hospitality; a mixture of every element that motivates me.
fnbworld: Any family influences in cooking and photography?
Sid: My mother Vinny Khullar, is a good cook and quite the foodie - my nature is probably inherited from her. Other than that, food and photography were incidental I’d say.
fnbworld: How and when did you conceive Chef at Large?
Sid: Chef at Large started in 2007 primarily because I’d started cooking like it was going out of fashion and wanted to share my experiences. The blog rapidly evolved into one that is better known today for food reviews than cooking per se. Having said that, the Chef at Large community on Facebook is one of the few out there that’s composed of people who are truly serious about their food with a high percentage of cooks, excellent ones at that!
fnbworld: What’s your favourite cuisine (Indian & continental) and why?
Sid: Rather than a particular cuisine, I’d say my favourite type of food is the home-cooked variety from any culture, community or country. Where else can we experience honest, traditional and delicious food that’s untouched by the taint of commercial desire?
fnbworld: How often do you cook at home and how do your wife and children/friends rate you?
Sid: I’ve been away from cooking for the last year or so and used to cook fairly regularly before then. Increased activities on both Brands at Large and Chef at Large have successfully kept me away from the kitchen. My wife, children and friends enjoy my cooking though they’re kind enough to underplay my bloopers. Since I rarely cook ‘tried and tested’ dishes when people are over and choose to experiment instead, the experience can be quite random.
fnbworld: Can you tell us a bit about your company Brands at Large and who can hire you at what cost?
Sid: Brands at Large is a company that creates, executes, monitors and evaluates brand propagation campaigns, mostly for brands in the food, beverage and hospitality space. Apart from this space, we also have interests in social activism and political propagation. Anyone in the F&B and hospitality space can choose to work with us. However, we must believe in the brand and be fans ourselves, without which our engagement becomes an exercise in prevarication; not a path we’d like to embark on. Apart from brand campaigns, we also train companies in being social from the inside out.
fnbworld: If you were to name your most favourite Indian city that’s completely into cuisines, which would it be, reasons?
Sid: I’m going to be mauled for this, but I’d say Delhi. Having been to most Metros, I find Delhi to be the one with the best mix of legal infrastructure (closing times for instance), variety of cuisines and foodies to support further growth as opposed to many others I’ve seen. It’s fun to dislike Delhi, but this is one strong reason for me to like this city.
fnbworld: How is your company different from other marketing outfits...what’s the USP?
Sid: We’re different because (a) we’re uniquely positioned to work with one vertical – F&B, Hospitality and (b) we will not work with brands who we aren’t convinced about.
fnbworld: Does IT and food writing/food business blend. How?
Sid: I don’t think it does. Do you?
fnbworld: Any pre-requisites for a company that wants to hire Brands at Large for marketing?< /p>
Sid: Yes, a good, solid product or service offering and a tangible USP of sorts.
fnbworld: Your favourite food joints in Delhi?
Sid: I like Olive Beach and Blooms for their Sunday Brunches, Gung for fun with Korean food, Nagaland Kitchen and Yeti for north-east Indian food, Chor Bizarre for Kashmiri, Indian Accent for Indian food with a difference, Roadhouse Bar & Grill for steaks and tex-mex and Diva Piccola for Italian among other establishments.
fnbworld: What parameters do you look at while reviewing a restro?
Sid: We follow a list of 60+ points of observation from the quality of the ice to the maintenance chart in the washrooms; too numerous to list here as I’m sure you’ll agree. We are, however, planning to release our review infrastructure to the public so everyone can use them to review food establishments on their own, in possibly a more thorough manner.