From new mom looking for creative avenues to food blogger to journalist to culinary consultant to successful author, and now curator of APB Cook Studio. An animator by education and a culinary professional by serendipity – Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal takes me on a journey of how she came to be.
As I walk through the studio, copies of her book ‘A pinch of this, a handful of that’ occupy pride of place. Volumes of books on food and ancillaries, exotic ingredients, miniatures of culinary knick knacks sourced on her travels and fragrances wafting from the studio kitchen next door, Rushina’s Cook Studio is testimony to the space she has created for herself in the intensely creative industry of food consulting.
How It All Began
“I was never officially taught to cook. My cooking experiences, during vacations when I was home from boarding school, would be the typical Gujarati casseroles and so on. However, after getting married and getting my own kitchen, I began to live out my culinary fantasies. I loved having friends over for meals – the whole process of two days spent in planning and then shopping for the right ingredients and finally a full house.” reminisces Rushina.
While raising her first child in Chandigarh, Rushina was looking for creative outlets. An internet junkie even then, she soon discovered the virtual world as a getaway. And in between goo-gaahing with new-born Aman, she began working on her digital presence gradually. Her blog, then, was an assortment of all things that she found fascinating. Only once she came to Mumbai and thought of creating a serious space for herself in the culinary world, did she dedicate her blog to food.
Working With Food
“My professional journey began at an event where I met a very established food writer who recognized me from one of my online conversations about Uttaranchali food. And for somebody who had been at home with a baby for two years, that was a huge boost. And that’s how my writing career began – my first article in Savvy Cook Book appeared in 2005.”
Working with several publications, Rushina began planning for months in advance. Once she had a series of 5-6 stories approved by the publications, she would get around bringing them alive. This not only helped her plan her schedule and manage her time effectively, but also utilise the opportunity to further her own learning. “Learning on the job” as she calls it.
Five years of writing and styling for stories later, Rushina chose to break away when she was expecting her second baby. With son Aman now older and Natasha at six months, Rushina decided to step back into the fold. However, realization dawned that she had outgrown her earlier methods. And it was time to renew her passion with newer and more challenging tools.
“And that’s when several things happened simultaneously. I was approached for an assignment as a consultant, and my writing project also got shortlisted. I intensified my blogging outreach. This was a time when blogging was not even taken seriously. Alongside, my assignments kept rolling in – and all this while I was still working from a studio I had created at home.”
Speaking with Rushina, I learn that as a freelancer, humility is highly over-rated and redundant. Her passion for her job shines through with every line she says about her journey.
She has turned down assignments too. The primary thought was always her kids back home – Is the project worthy enough of the time spent away from her two little ones. And this focus also helped her rein in the quality of projects.
Perfect Timing For A Perfect Bite
“We had saved up money to buy a house, and for several reasons that wasn’t working out. At this point, Shekhar, my husband, suggested that I use the capital to invest in my dream. This, in addition, to support from my family fructified in APB Cook Studio being ready and open in August 2012.
At every stage of my career, I did things at my pace and in my space. However, setting up a space like APB meant getting people on board, and whose livelihoods I would be responsible for. And that shook me out of my comfort zone thoroughly. APB was, literally, all my dreams and nightmares come alive, all at once. Everything that could go wrong did. From Shekhar going into surgery the day after opening to both my maids going out of action, again for medical reasons, the odds were stacking up.”
And after getting through all of that successfully, a few days back we actually clocked our first good times. And the first thing Shekhar says is – ‘Let’s pay our mothers back now, with interest.’ Those words shot me straight to the top of the world.
As an entrepreneur, it is imperative to showcase your credit-worthiness to your investors – be it family, friends or otherwise.”
As I sat with her, Rushina was waiting for updates on some very exciting developments. And I could’ve easily mistaken her for a young eager first-time rookie waiting for a confirmation on her first assignment. The twinkle in her eyes and the infectious enthusiasm, even today after almost a decade in the industry, is probably one of the reasons why she is where she is.
APB Cook Studio is a labour of love for Rushina and Shekhar – a big kitchen that is buzzing with all things food. Be it cooking demonstrations, product promotions, special bespoke parties, food styling, recipe development and testing – it all happens here.
“Everybody who walks into the space has gone away happy and has come back – that, I would say, is my single biggest achievement. This is today a space of food, bonding and sharing. Today, random people write in telling me how my journey has inspired them to break out of their mould, and that makes me go ‘wow’.“
Learning Along The Journey
“More often than not, it’s about creating demand for your own product. Initially, I used to approach companies explaining how they would benefit from my services and showing how I can add value to them. Until three years back, I did this. Now, of course, by virtue of having created my own space I get calls seeking my expertise. Perseverance is key.
I have always been very instinctive, and followed my gut instinct. I come from a very non-formal structure. The lack of any corporate experience or training as a chef has actually aided me in my journey. Be it specially-designed solutions for companies or recipes with ingredients, my thinking is not bound by pre-drilled parameters.
I taught myself everything I know today, purely by researching it myself. It is possible – you have to be relentless in your pursuit. You can have all the ingredients and equipments to create the dish. However, knowing the perfect harmonious dish takes a special something that comes from you – nobody can teach you that.
An important lesson: As a beginner, be careful that you don’t do anything for free. Even if it is your first project, nobody will seek you services if you are not good. So, do not shortchange yourself or undervalue the market.
I study a lot, even now. As professionals, it is imperative to keep oneself abreast of developments in one’s own field. Keep learning.
The last two months have been the toughest. Shekhar had to go back to full-time work, which means I wake up early in the morning to get breakfast and lunch ready, before coming to the studio and then put in an entire day of work here. Then go back and work with the kids on their studies. So, it is really a matter of how strong you are in your own head. I was not willing to compromise on how I brought up my kids, or how I went about my professional commitments.”
Pat comes the reply, “Keep this place running.” Adding on, she says, “some more books, and television!”
You can get in touch with Rushina here.