A lot can happen over a cup of coffee. In some cases, even over a serving of Pav Bhaji Bruschetta. Mumbai-based Chef Sanjyot Keer never imagined that a short video on this fusion recipe would launch his career in food and beverage. Today, as the food producer of Master Chef Season 4, he has stolen hearts with experiments such as Tandoori Momos, Peri Peri Dosa, and Khakra Sandwich. He also has his guns blazing to create cutting-edge content for three upcoming series of Your Food Lab (YFL), his venture, which showcases Indian comfort food, but with a difference.
Each series targets a different audience. While the first focuses on kitchen gadgets and tech, the second is on recipes for bachelors, and the third is kids’ recipes, which will show how popular junk food can be given a healthy spin, and will be the second season of Your Food Lab Junior. It’s first season was hosted by Keer’s nephew Iyan when he was just four years old. “Iyan is now nine and we plan to have an amazing time with him at the YFL Studio. He used to play in the living room, while I shot in the kitchen. He would play with clay and make burgers like I did, which led me to the idea of us cooking together,” says Keer, whose shows could soon find their way on to a leading OTT platform.
He is a lover of fusion food and most of his recipes revolve around it, which also led to the creation of YFL in early 2016. “Sticking to the essence of culture—whichever you chose to work with—is important, while attempting a fusion recipe. I love this kind of food more than anything else, especially fusion of anything with Pav Bhaji,” says the chef.
Keer was fresh out of college in 2014 when he heard that the MasterChef India team was looking for a food producer for the extra class show of Season 4. “During the interview, I had all the answers, and they gave me the job,” he says. Keer got the opportunity to rub shoulders with chefs such as Vikas Khanna and Sanjeev Kapoor for the cult series that aired on Star Plus in 2015.
It wasn’t all hunky-dory though. Keer had to leave the hospitality industry due to personal issues—a phase in which he had to tend to his father’s factory to support him. But he missed cooking immensely, and after seeing a few online videos, got the idea of creating content with his fusion recipes.
It all began when he decided to take weekends off to do so, and the promising response to a video he made on Pav Bhaji Bruschetta made him realise the power of short-form video content on social media. But with no dearth in content creators, the brands took their time to approach him. It wasn’t before he had reached five lakh followers on Facebook that he was approached by a leading oil brand for a collaboration for which, he created four videos. The deal was mutually beneficial and post that, they did 70 videos in eight months. “Initially, I created about 100 recipe videos, gave it about three months before uploading them. I used to shoot late nights and start really early in the morning,” he says.
Virality is a hot topic of discussion, especially among the newbies, but for Keer it doesn’t matter much. He believes a video will go viral only if it connects with audiences. “There is no fixed formula for a video to go viral. Also, one viral video is not going to make you a successful creator. Only consistency can do that in addition to authenticity and good production quality will,” he says.
With all his upcoming projects, his day starts off with the team curating a list of recipes that they want to assemble and shoot. This generally takes about eight hours, with the narration, beauty shots, and thumbnails designed as part of the same process. What helps create a conducive atmosphere backstage is that Keer’s parents and his extended family are all a bunch of foodies. With that, the eating never ends nor does the joy of cooking.
Smoked paneer corn and spinach sandwich
✥ Sweet corn kernels - 1 cup
✥ Spinach - 1 big bunch
✥ Paneer - ½ cup diced
✥ Green chillies - 2/3
✥ Fresh mint leaves - 1 tbsp.
✥ Fresh coriander leaves - 1 tbsp.
✥ Red chilli flakes - 1 tbsp.
✥ Hung curd - ½ cup
✥ Whole wheat sandwich bread
✥ Butter for toasting
✥ Boil water and sweet corn kernels for three minutes. Take it out of the boiling water and keep aside.
✥ In same water, blanch the spinach by dipping spinach leaves for 20 seconds. Take it out from the water and transfer into cold water. Strain out the water and keep the spinach aside.
✥ Take a mixing bowl, add the boiled corn, blanched spinach, paneer, green chillies, chopped coriander, mint leaves, hung curd, salt and pepper, red chilli flakes, and mix well.
✥ Place the bowl of mixture over hot charcoal. Pour ghee over it and smoke for three minutes.
✥ Take a whole wheat sandwich bread slice. Take a spoonful of the mixture filling, and put evenly over it. Close it with another bread slice.
✥ Set a tawa on medium heat, spread butter on the sandwich slice, and toast both sides.