Ashu Saxena, the homemaker, turned chef finds her true calling revolving around food and culinary indulgences; she believes in the magic of taste and visuals that a nicely presented cuisine leaves on diners. In addition to being a homemaker and chef, she is also an influencer who runs an Instagram page with the name ‘yummrani.’ Becoming a contestant at Masterchef 2023 leveled her a step ahead toward her dream which she cherishes every moment of it.
Ashu Saxena was seen in Master Chef Season 7 of the Indian competitive reality TV series which premiered on Sony Entertainment Television on 2 January 2023. She was selected among the Top 100 contestants for her skills as a unique recipe creator and chef. Along with being a food blogger and influencer, she is also a restaurant reviewer and you can find interesting reviews on her Instagram page and suggestions for your next dine-out.
Icy Tales is in conversation with Ashu, who walks us through her journey from being a homemaker for 18 years to finding her true calling of being a chef and exploring anything and everything related to food.
Q. Has this career path been your first choice always?
Ashu Saxena: Yes, it has always been around food.
Q. What is your motivation behind this endeavor?
Ashu Saxena: We all at home are fond of good food – taste and presentation. leads me to embark on the journey of the satiating soul with good food.
Q. How do you connect with your audience?
Ashu Saxena: I connect with my audience and followers through hashtags and unique stories on Instagram, Instagram Live, YouTube videos, and through Facebook.
Q. Do you think food bloggers have an important role in trend-setting?
Ashu Saxena: Yes, they impact the thought process and consumption pattern.
Q. What is your take on the weird food trends surfacing in the market?
Ashu Saxena: Until it’s a genuine amalgamation of cuisine and ingredients, it is fine. However, it has a limit to pursue. A Rabdi Dosa or Chocolate Biryani is a NO-NO.
Q. What is your biggest strength as a blogger?
Ashu Saxena: Spontaneity, creativity, and understanding of taste.
Q. How do you ensure engagement on social media and content?
Ashu Saxena: New recipes, experimenting menu with a twist enhancing the taste and presentation help in the creation of interesting content thing regularly engages the audience.
Q. What is your favorite thing as a food blogger?
Ashu Saxena: Creating unique recipes that resonate with everyday cooking.
Q. What advice do you have for someone willing to take this up as a career option?
Ashu Saxena: It requires a lot of perseverance, dedication, behavioral understanding, and time management skills. So be creative and spontaneous with your content and regularly engage with
Q) Being a recipe creator, how important do you think healthy cooking and using homemade ingredients rather than ingredients with so many preservatives?
Ashu Saxena: Homemade ingredients are the best thing to pursue while cooking. They are healthy and aromatic and enhance the food taste and presentation while retaining all the good elements of the food.
Q) Tell us about any chefs you admire and what you admire most about them.
Ashu Saxena: Chef Kunal Kapur is one of my favorites. He is one of the most humble, knowledgeable people with an easy-going attitude. He connects with his audience at the grassroots level and always makes it easy to connect.
Q) How does the ethnicity influence food and food culture of a place?
Ashu Saxena: Food is a window to the cultural and ethnic evolution of a place. When it comes to food, ethnic or cultural heritage normally gets overlooked. The traditional or ethnic food of our ancestors may make a special appearance at a festival or during holidays, but for day-to-day nourishment, people prefer modern eating habits more out of convenience and the costs involved.
Ethnic food practices have evolved around seasonality, weather, and availability of ingredients and are often considered an important family event rather than modern times which is based on cost and convenience.
Q) The modern-day trends on Veganism, Gluten Free, etc what’s your take on that?
Ashu Saxena: Gluten-free or Vegan initially prospered because of people who had coeliac diseases, which was further fueled by Vegetarianism being a better choice than Non-Vegetarian. These days, however, a gluten-free or vegan lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular among those who’ve not been diagnosed with coeliac disease.
With major retailers/supermarkets in urban areas catching on and stocking up on vegan-friendly food convenience is driving this trend even further. Another reason is that by adapting these food preferences people believe they are doing their bit to save the planet from cruelty and are promoting healthy eating.
Q) How do food habits affect our lifestyles?
Ashu Saxena: What we eat affects what we feel. Food should make us feel good, and happy and provide complete nourishment. Unhealthy food, undisciplined time schedules, and distracted eating habits lead to health and mental health issues. They impact our calorie intake, mess with our metabolism, and deprive us of quality sleep.
Q) How can today’s kids be kept away from the varied available options of Junk food?
Ashu Saxena: Junk foods are easier to eat because they have a flavor that kids respond to, and most junk food is carb-based. Children are literally wired to eat carbs. They seek out foods that are sweet or loaded with carbs from a biological perspective because it gives them an energy boost besides tingling their taste buds.
We can adapt any or all of the below steps to ensure kids are kept away from available junk food options like – Buying less junk food in the first place, and keeping healthy food options easily available at home, we ourselves should adapt model eating habits, always prefer serving healthy food options, cutoff unscheduled snack timeouts and prepare a meal or snack together with the child.
Q) What is your take on the ready-to-eat kind of packet foods?
Ashu Saxena: The increase in popularity of ready-to-eat meals has been attributed to the scarcity of time in which to perform household chores. Lack of time for cooking and the cost-effectiveness of such products have caused the ready-to-eat meals market to grow and in urban markets, ready-to-eat meals have become, and continue to be, an essential part of consumers’ lives.
To further understand the importance of convenience for consumers when choosing ready-to-eat meals, nowadays the consumption of ready-to-eat meals is not only tied to households with two working parents. The motivation that drives consumers to choose ready-to-eat meals; is the choice between cooking or eating a ready-to-eat meal depending on the degree of convenience of the product, its sensory characteristics, and its perceived healthiness. These characteristics are not unique to ready-to-eat meals but apply to all food products.
Regarding healthiness perception, nutritional studies have reported that ready-to-eat products contain more fat, sugar, and salt than homemade meals. These ready-to-eat food products can be an alternative while traveling to areas where preferred food availability is in question, or when time available to make a full meal is not available, however, these should never be considered as a substitute for a properly cooked meal.
Q) What do you consider to be the three most important skills for chefs?
Ashu Saxena: The three most essential skills for Chefs are – Passion, Creativity, and being a Team player.
If one is determined and enjoys what they do, uses their all might, and channelizes their strengths into evolving into a better self, pursuing their passion, the sky shall be the limit. Ms. Ashu Saxena has set a benchmark in her own way, inspiring a million others to follow their true calling and use every day of their lives to build a better version of themselves.
Mehar Jolly is the Interview Team Head for Icy Tales, conducting interviews and writing on health professionals, celebrities, writers, nutritionists, speakers, authors, and more. With a Journalism degree and over five years of experience, she is a leader in her own right.