If food is a medium of connecting people of different race, religion and culture, Anubhav Sapra is the mediator. The famous food blogger, Mr Sapra, has travelled through the lanes of India and showcased intricate details of every state’s local cuisine and the culture and history behind it. Mr Sapra has more than 6 lakh subscribers on Youtube in just two years.
The Interview Times had a privilege to converse with Anubhav Sapra and discuss about Delhi Food Walks and his passion for food.
Here’s how the interview went-
Question- When did Anubhav Sapra connect himself to the assorted culture of Indian cuisines?
Answer- I was born In Muzaffarpur, Bihar. Right from my childhood, I lived in a diversified locality of various religion, caste and culture. While I am from a Punjabi family, my neighbours were Biharis, Sindhis, Marwaris and Bihari Brahmins as well. My childhood was in an era, which defined togetherness.
Every single day, my mother use to pack food in “Dabbas” (Tiffin Boxes) which were sent to our neighbourhood. The best feeling was when the tiffin box returned. I sincerely waited for that moment, as the tiffin boxes were never empty.
They were packed with delicious dishes cooked by our neighbours. In this way, since my early childhood days, I had the pleasure of tasting various forms of Indian cookeries. So, the love for food started from the days of early childhood.
Question- So you were destined to be a food blogger right from childhood?
Answer- I was never destined to be a food blogger, but I was passionate about food. As I said earlier, I loved to eat various courses of flavouring food preparations, coming from the neighbourhood.
After school, my friends and I use to walk for miles to taste the best Rasgulla and Gulab Jamun. I used to wait for the elders to bring food from hotels or restaurants. Food always excited my mind and thrilled my belly since my childhood days.
Question- When and how did the idea of Delhi Food Walks came to your mind?
Answer- It’s a long story. After completing my class 10, I went to Dehradun for my higher secondary studies. At Dehradun, my friends and I used to thrive on the street foods with the little pocket money we received. Dehradun is famous for its Bun Tikki, Bun Samosa, Noodles and Momos. Those were the days that I started exploring street foods.
After completing my higher secondary education, I shifted to Delhi for my graduation and post-graduation. I studied at Delhi University, North Campus and lived in a hostel. Those were the initial days of me converting into non-vegetarian.
(My family is fully vegetarian, and till today, except cooking eggs, I am not allowed to make any other non-veg items at my home.)
Hostel food is famous for its quality (laughs!!!), therefore, almost every night, especially in any of the room-mates birthday, we went out and had the best street foods, especially chicken. Those were the days, where unknowingly, I started exploring the lanes of Delhi to find the best street food.
After completing my education, like every other Bihari, I started preparing for UPSC (laughs!!!). Even though I was good at studies, and was a topper twice in my college in 3 years, UPSC was never my cup of tea. I attempted four times, but never went into the final rounds of interviews. So, basically, my quota of attempts ended, and I decided to join an NGO as a full-timer.
I always wanted to do something for the society, so if not UPSC, then NGO was the best option. At that point of time, I started to save a bit, (the savings were nominal as the salary was quite less as compared to corporate sectors), and for the first time in the year 2011, organized a food tour near RK Ashram, metro station. It was a fun day. Each person contributed Rs 200, and at the end, we saved Rs 50 per person as well.
The first food tour was an all-embracing experience. Therefore, I decided to do these food tours at regular intervals. During that point of time, I started my blog Street Food Of Delhi and used to update it regularly. An average day, used to start at my NGO, while the evenings at the street food hub and the night used to end with a blog.
During that same period, I got an email from German Online Magazine. They liked my blogs and wanted me to assist them to a Delhi Food Tour. I agreed and took them through the lanes of Old Delhi during the breakfast hours, just before my office time. They loved the tour and published the tour in the German-Online Magazine.
From that time onwards, I started getting regular phone calls for food walks- community as well as customized. Slowly and steadily, we started to grow. By the end of 2011, I changed my blog’s name from Street Food Delhi to Delhi Food Walks. People started recognizing it. Most importantly, the media started to recognize us. Delhi Food Walks was featured on Newyork Times. By the end of 2014, with the great inflow of request, I thought, its time to bid adieu the full-time NGO work and invest all my time to Delhi Food Walks.
By the year-end of 2017, we already had a team of six members. Then, we decided to start our journey on YouTube. Even though we had done a few shoots earlier, but it was nothing serious with no formal editing. In 2018, Delhi Food Walks started its first official video tour in Odisha. This is how our journey started, and today, with the blessings of God and the support from our subscribers, we have over 6 lakh subscribers.
Question- How difficult was it for you to sustain your passion in the early days of your blogging career?
Answer- Initially, the days were tough. It was very difficult to convince people that street food is healthy. People have preconceived notion about street-foods beings injurious to the belly. However, I promised them that I would take the people to the best of the places, where the hygienic process of food preparation is maintained, and people won’t suffer from Delhi Belly. (laughs!!!)
Question- You have travelled to almost all the parts of India. How to manage the expenses?
Answer- So far, in my nine years food blogging journey and two years of my youtube journey, touchwood, I haven’t endorsed a brand or went for any sponsorship. Initially, we bought the camera and the mic through the earnings of the video and EMI’s.
Every production house has its budget. So we plan our budget accordingly. In the initial days of Youtube blogging, we generally had a tight budget. We used to travel on trains, cover many areas in one day and stay at cheap hotels or hostels to cut our expenses. We loved to be self-funded from the very beginning.
Now slowly the channel has grown. However, one thing I have kept intact is my originality. Till today, I have never watched any other food blogging channel as it might affect my USP. I keep my videos simple, unblended with the complexities of modern humanity. At first, because of this reason, I was also ridiculed in the comment section. People commented on my looks of being like a doctor or engineer, and I should concentrate on my career, rather than doing food blogs. (big laughs from my and Anubhav’s side)
Slowly, at a moderate pace, people started liking my approach, and the youtube channel starts getting a lot of subscribers.
Question- Your food blogs are not only related to food; it includes the culture and tradition of one particular state as well. So how important is to connect food with culture?
Answer- Every food has its own story. If that story is not delivered to the people, then I feel its an insult to the food. Therefore, my food blogs not only describe the colour, texture and taste of food but the history, culture and tradition related to it.
Question- At one point in time, you had started DFW ratings. Why did you decide to stop giving ratings to food after some time?
Answer- There is one simple logic behind it. I think my ratings can affect the mindset of a few people. Moreover, the majority of the times, I taste street foods. Therefore, I have no right to criticize their food by giving them low ratings, which might negatively affect their business.
There are ways; I try to say, the food is not up to the mark. In the recent Bihar videos, I said the food is not great but unique (Khana Umda toh nehi hain par anokha hain). Even though, people who follow me understand that the food is not up to the mark, however, it did not hurt the sentiment of the vendor.
Question- Which has been your worst food experience so far, in Delhi Food Walks Youtube Channel?
Answer- Undoubtedly, the chicken momos I tasted at Sikkim. It is termed as one of the best momo-selling shops. Hover, upon serving, I found that the momo had insects in it. I became angry when the owner didn’t apologize and just told that he will change it. It shows that you don’t take the customers seriously. Therefore, I abruptly ended the shoot there.
Question- You have travelled through almost all the lanes of our country? Which were your five favourite states?
Answer- Out of five states, any day the top state will be Bihar. (Sorry, I am biased about my home town. Laughs). Apart from Bihar, I have loved the culture, tradition and cuisine of Odisha, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Banaras, Kashmir and UP.
Question- Very recently, you started showcasing the behind the scenes (BTS) as well, which are indeed funny. Can you share some of the funny incidences during the shoot?
Answer- There are innumerable funny incidences. Now we regret, of not having BTS earlier, as it could have been quite funny.
Questions- Your videos were some in English and some in Hindi. Was there any specific reason behind it?
Answer- We started our video blogs in English as we tried to connect to the audience outside India as well. However, after some time, we thought, talking to a street vendor of Odisha or Bihar in English will make no sense. Therefore, we shifted our base to Hindi and made proper subtitles so that audience outside the Hindi-speaking states can understand the content.
Question- How has Corona-Virus Pandemic affected your blogging? Any back-up plans in future, if travel doesn’t resume?
Answer- To be very honest, till now- our youtube channel hasn’t been affected much with the pandemic yet. We had shooted major parts of Bihar and UP in the months of winter. The reason behind it was simple. Summers in those areas are unbearable. However, it helped us in the coronavirus pandemic as we post only one video per week. However, after the Bihar series is over, things might start getting difficult for us.
Again, to be very honest- we do not have any back-up plan. One small back-up plan is that we have started one new recipe channel, and if lockdown isn’t eased, we might shift there and give rest to Delhi Food Walks for some time. However, I feel that after the monsoon, things might ease down a bit and atleast we can travel by road to nearby places like Punjab or Rajasthan.
Question- How was your food tour experience in Odisha?
Answer- It is still one of my very best experiences. As I said, Odisha is my first official food tour. When I decided to travel to Odisha, people started ridiculing me. Who goes from Delhi to Odisha to state food??? was the common reply of all people. There is a stereotype in the minds of people regarding states like Bihar, parts of UP, Odisha, Assam and North East. People term it as the underdeveloped state with no real things to explore. I wanted to break this stereotype only.
The food experience was awe-inspiring. Starting from Tri-Nath Aloo Dum Dahibara at Cuttack, to Ravi Mausa Bara and Ghuguni at Bhubaneshwar, I loved all the delicacies. My favourite town was Beherampur, especially Mutton at Pida Hotel. I have never seen such an affordable rate of such quality food products that are available in Beherampur. I was also thrilled to watch the making of Rasugulla at Pahala. I was helped by Rohit Srivastava of food findo a lot. It’s one of the best experience I ever had, and very soon after the pandemic, I am planning for a second visit to Odisha.
Question- What are the some of the weirdest things you have eaten?
Answer- Silkworm Fry, Red Ant Eggs, Pork left-over salads. These are the weirdest food, which I have consumed so far.
Question- Any advice to young bloggers?
Answer- Always be passionate about your work. Follow your passion and money will come after you.
Question- How do you want the world to know Anubhav Sapra?
Answer- A person who used to tell stories through food.
You can follow Anubhav Sapra on-
Article Written By Sayak Karmakar, Resident Editor, The Interview Times
Image Source- Delhi Food Walk Facebook Page