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Home / Brunch / Dishing out the authentic

Dishing out the authentic

How Chef Manu Chandra’s strange food poll snowballed into a series on Instagram

brunch Updated: Oct 18, 2020, 07:19 IST
Karishma Kuenzang
Karishma Kuenzang
Hindustan Times
Chef Manu Chandra says he is a ‘fiercely private person’ with a wicked sense of humour
Chef Manu Chandra says he is a ‘fiercely private person’ with a wicked sense of humour

“I’ve always been a bit of a social media pariah,” says chef Manu Chandra as we chat a few days after he broke the Internet with an Instagram poll on Nutella Biryani vs Rasgulla Biryani last week, which snowballed into a whole series about weird dishes and went viral.

The chef partner of the Olive group of restaurants is a “fiercely private person” who does have a quick wit and a wicked sense of humour. And so the chef Manu we see on IG is exactly who chef Manu is as a person.

His tongue-in-cheek humour helps his recipes go viral, he says. “There are enough recipes of any dish online to let you make the same dish every day for the rest of your life. So the purpose of pushing out content in the same space is defeated,” he reasons.

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But even he was surprised with the 3,000-odd DMs he received to his IG story on weird dishes. Most of them expressed astonishment and disgust, 600 were simply vomit emojis and then he found a rasgulla biryani.

“It’s a chhenna biryani, not rasgulla dunked in syrup. The name is misleading; it’s essentially cottage cheese balls,” he says.

But he was intrigued enough to start a series. “It wasn’t to belittle anybody or any food or anybody’s effort. Your authentic is not someone else’s authentic. Your taste is not somebody else’s taste,” he points out.

“I can understand that social media is a great monetisation tool but it makes you a sell-out”

Never have I ever

The disclaimer above does not mean the chef craves social media affirmation. “It becomes a vicious circle. The more you do, the more you are compelled to constantly create, with a level of relevance. But my lasting friendships have not come from social media,” he says

So what does he make of the chefs who are popular on IG? “I feel like asking the people going gaga if they have tasted the food that chef has made. Picking up something is great, but don’t devalue the merit of people who genuinely do this for a living by replacing them with an avatar accessible at the click of a button,” he says.

Screenshots of responses to chef Manu’s Instagram poll to choose between Nutella biryani and rasgulla biryani, as well as his responses to his call for usual dishes
Screenshots of responses to chef Manu’s Instagram poll to choose between Nutella biryani and rasgulla biryani, as well as his responses to his call for usual dishes

This is why his social media handle is an expression of who he is. “I’d rather not sugar-coat it with a fallacy that doesn’t reflect my personality or style,” he explains. “In any case, I would rather read a book.”

He has 17.5k followers, so Manu gets requests to endorse products, which he turns down. “I prefer to buy a product if I think it’s good enough,” he says. “This is a great monetisation tool but it makes you a sell-out.” He’d rather endorse something that just 200 of his followers know deserves merit. “There is a moniker for that now – microinfluencer!”

Not a professional space

Manu doesn’t follow people who work for him. “I need to afford my own employees their privacy. I’ve never wanted my bosses to keep meddling in my business. Social media completely changed that game,” Manu says.

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So, does he check out social media profiles before hiring people? “It’s the thing to do now. But how am I supposed to know what’s genuine and what’s not on social media. Everyone is trying so hard to be somebody else that when you know these people personally, you know that they are nothing like what they are on social media handles. At least, I don’t run that risk of hypocrisy,” he concludes.

Follow @KKuenzang on Twitter

From HT Brunch, October 18, 2020

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