“I relished every second of her eyes sparkling as flavors started doing pirouettes in her mouth. Her face lit up like a Christmas tree, savoring every bit of the food presented to her with love. “
Who doesn’t want to witness such an episode when they share a meal with their loved ones?
Here is a full-time medical student, guiding you to the exact location of salivating recipes, and reviewing the exuberant variety of food that the streets of Kerala have for its foodies. One minute short recipes, sneak- peek-reviews of some splendid food, his channel has them all. In conversation with Muhammed Aflahe whose brainchild Wayward Gourmet, with close to a hundred thousand followers, continues to grow in the hearts of all Mallu gourmets!
Could you give a glimpse of the story behind your channel’s name, ‘Wayward Gourmet’?
I am a medical student, doing the final year now at MES medical college. Food was always a huge aspect of my life looking back. I grew up in a Thalassery household where there’s a lot of varieties of food. And also as I grew up in Qatar I was exposed to more exotic cuisines. Once I came to India for college, I started traveling for food. I didn’t have any blog or anything but I used to love to travel to random cities (Kozhikode mostly) and then walk the streets having food from the small shops I see along the way. That’s how I got the WAYWARD term in my head. I did not have any particular direction, it was all random. And then gourmet actually came from a Japanese manga I was reading at the moment called Toriko in which the protagonist is exploring a world of food.
When did you realize that you had a flair for food blogging, and what made you take the active step toward achieving this passion of yours?
Once, I took a friend to one of my favorite food spots and the expression they had on their face when they bit into the food was beautiful. That’s what led me to start talking about food. To influence more people to fall in love with the food I love! And one thing leads to another and I ended up starting a blog.
You are a full-time medical student and a content creator. How do you manage your passion-profession equilibrium and find time to pursue all of it?
Everyone needs breaks from their work. Finding a balance between the two is always hard. But if one is work and the other is the break you are looking for, it’s the perfect combo. Eating and food hunting is my stress buster, true that it has now gone onto a little larger scale blogging and a lot of works needs to be done regularly it’s still fun to do. Amidst my studies, I can always turn to my food blog and talk to foodies about food to cheer myself up!
Was there a particular event in your career as a food blogger that catapulted your growth?
I would say that my growth was slow, and gradual until the lockdown. It took me a year to grow the first 4000 followers I had… another 6 months and it hit 10,000. I did start posting videos then. And then I took a huge leap of faith, I tried a voice over. That once again increased my growth pace and then the lockdown came, I tried voice over recipes and that was a HIT!
How do you take your critics? Does destructive criticism bother you much?
Criticism is something I always welcome! That’s why I keep my messages open to all. I reply to each and every one. Sometimes I get carried away having fun I forget what my audience likes or dislikes. During those times it helps me a lot when a fellow follower steps forward and tells me I need to make it better. Sometimes I even get aggressive criticism, I just take what is necessary and leave the rest.
Have you ever felt paranoid about the competition? Do you consider your past self as your biggest competitor?
Competition ruins the fun of it. I have sometimes felt that competition and jealousy is something I regret with all my heart. Those were the times when I least enjoyed what I’m doing and I realized I really should not think of it as a competition. It’s a fun platform with mutual growth.
Do you have a team that holds your back and support you with technical assistance? Or are you a solo warrior?
I’m more of a solo warrior. I do have some people who I can turn to once in a while asking technical doubts. Also, my logo was done by a friend. But all the regular work on my page is done by me.
What do you feel about the overwhelming response that your fans give you? How do you engage with them?
I love them! I respond to each and every message they sent so that they know I love them! It takes a huge chunk of my daily time but it’s totally worth it to know that people are spending their valuable time FOR ME!
You travel quite a lot, hunting good food and great stories behind them. Is there an event or a person who you met in one of these journeys that influenced you immensely?
Yes, there has been a lot of stories that influenced me. But one of the stories which taught me a huge lesson was one where I lost control of my feelings and hurt someone with my blog. It happened during one of my regular Kozhikode food trips. I had the whole day planned. There was a food exhibition in the evening with all kinds of food. I was in Kozhikode from the morning… I had breakfast and while wandering the streets I saw a new shop with a new dish. I jumped at the opportunity to try it but unfortunately, it was disappointing. So disappointing that it completely threw me off my appetite. The food was actually a bit burned and generous use of mayo… all lead to my state of anger. I boarded the bus back to college very angry since I couldn’t attend the food exhibition. I wrote up a negative review and posted it. The next day a friend from Kozhikode called me and explained to me how he got good food from the same place and how they corrected it. He also explained to me how my reckless post had ruined the sales of that shop and how much negative impact there was in that owner’s life because of one person: ME. Knowing that hurt me a lot because I did not start a blog to hurt anyone, yet my reckless anger did that. Since then I decided to never post a negative in my blog. I decided to talk to the owners or chefs present about the issues I faced and how it can be rectified from their side. If they still serve bad food, they surely will get no customers so there’s really no need for me to be a negative reviewing hero there and be the villain in some people’s lives. That’s one of the biggest lessons I learned on my journey.
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