Foraging for breakfast and then foraging for insights. What's Finely Chopped Consulting all about.



I wanted to tell you about the consumer insights work that I am doing in the sphere of food and what better place than the blog to do so, but let's talk about breakfast first.

Finely Chopped Breakfasts with some news to follow

Would it count as a 'foraged food breakfast’ if you did not step out of the house to make it, is what I asked myself as I prowled around our kitchen, making my breakfast, before the start of the day's work. Breakfast is non-negotiable in my scheme of things.

I knew that there was some finely chopped bell peppers from the previous night’s roast chicken dinner prep in the fridge. The plan was to grate in a bit of Parmesan on it, add a few drops of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), and make a chilli cheese grilled sandwich with the last two slices of the La Folie bread left in the fridge.

I then spotted the bag of Zatar from Israel that Sharmila Ribero had given me when we met. She has written a lovely book called ‘Everyday Love’ packed with recipes and tips for cooking for kids. I decided to add some of the zatar to the mix and then put the sandwich in the griller. I had a couple of bites of the muesli which she had given me, and whose recipe is in the book, while the griller did its work. I was a bit hungry by then!


Making breakfast is a bit like insight mining one could say.
Looking at what's around you and then trying to make sense of it & see how to make the best use of it. 


As I sat down to eat, I saw the kalanchoe plant that chef Hemal Shah had sent with the invite to her first pop up event, Monsoon Mystique, which I attended last Sunday. It was on the window sill beside our little bistro dining table. I decided to put the plant on the table before I finally had breakfast. I added a bit of fresh zatar to the plate before eating as I loved the aroma that wafted out of the bag. 

The picture was complete once I poured out an espresso for myself from our Nespresso machine. It was Colombia beans  pod which made sense given that I had just finished my first Marquez the previous night. ‘News of a kidnapping.’ As the missus had promised, I found it a more palatable read than 'Love In The Time Of Cholera' which she dotes on.



Have I told you about Finely Chopped Consulting? 



I opened the papers after breakfast and saw the feature in the Bombay Times about walks across the city. I was quite happy to see that my conversation with Ismat Tahseen from the Times formed the base of the food walk part of the story. I smiled when I saw that she had labelled me as 'foods insights consultant.' Life had come a full circle I realised.

I had started conducting the Finely Chopped Food Walks in 2012. I was still in market research back then. The idea was to give people a feel of the city of Mumbai through its food during the walks. Sharing some of what I had learnt about the eateries that fuel the city. A lot of my market research training went into how I conducted the walks. I would look at a group size of 6 to 8 people. Just as we had been taught to do in focus groups. That allowed people to interact with each other and yet get heard. I would make it a point to go beyond the dishes that we ate in the walk and try to bring out the stories of the owners of the eateries and the restaurants that they had started too. With a focus on the socio-cultural context. Try to draw patterns to connect the places that we visited in the walk. The walks formed the foundation of my debut book, The Travelling Belly, which was published by Hachette India. The book was my conduit towards switching careers and following my dreams. In the process, Finely Chopped became a brand that I created from scratch. Not that this was ever the intention. I had started Finely Chopped as a place to tell stories from the world of food in 2007. 12 years on, that's what I still do.

7 years on, I now eat, live and breathe food. Pursuing a career as an independent food writer and consultant after having worked in leading market research agencies for 15 years and then for a couple of years more as a consultant.

This has allowed me to reach parts of the world of food which would I could not have conceived of before. I have been truly fortunate to have had folks from kind grandmas to internationally lauded chefs open their kitchens to me. I have had the opportunity to travel across the world and eat with people, interact with writers, journalists, restaurateurs, hoteliers, food producers, government policy makers, change makers in the food space, or just foodies who love to eat, and I have tried to learn from them through every interaction. I have been a part of juries for awards in the F&B space in India and abroad which have offered further opportunities to spot trends. All of this has given me a perspective into the world of food which I never had in my market research days.

Which is why I thought that it would make sense for me to marry my two professional worlds together. That of being a consumer insights specialist and that of being a food writer. Using the synergy to help folks in the food business understand their consumer better and thereby create more meaningful, impactful and value creating enterprises.

They could be anyone... FMCGs, cottage industries, entrepreneurs, restaurant chains, hotel groups, cafe owners, mom and pop shops, caterers, boutique hotels, homestay owners, government bodies, tourism bodies, etc. They could be looking for specific ideas on menu design, front of house staff training, packaging inputs, website and social media optimisation, product and service quality feedback, competitive mapping, something more fundamental such as understanding where markets are headed and where they could make a mark from themselves. Or media companies looking for content strategy inputs. Startups as well as brick and motor companies trying to understand the new rules of business in the world of food.

Anyone who has anything to do with food, travel and hospitality and is passionate about it, for as they say, passion feeds passion.

I have done a few projects in this space already in this space. I have helped the owners of Bombay Street Food, a Mumbai themed restaurant in Toronto, get under the skin of our city through food walks and restaurant audits. This was to enable them make their end offer look close to the original. I have helped them word their menus, as I have done so for a standalone regional food restaurant owner in Mumbai too. I have worked with an ice cream manufacturer targeting the regional foods market with flavour briefs to work on and worked out a distribution plan in terms of restaurant tie ups. In a project that I did for ITC Masterchef prawns as an endorser, I worked out the content plan and scripts too for the films that we shot basis their brand objectives. As I did for a similar activity for Abbott. I worked with Alex Hunt of Attache Travels in developing the script for the food section of his Delhi and Mumbai episodes (and was on camera too). I have worked with Sodexo in devising and leading food walk programmes for the corporate clients. As I have with SodaBottleOpenerWala for whom I have also scripted and produced video content.  I am currently working with a production company on developing the content plan for an extended recipe based TV series that they are doing. I am also working as the India ambassador for the the international hospitality conference, HOST Milano, helping players in the HORECA segment across the world understand hospitality trends in India. My biggest project in terms of the challenges it posed and the scale of operation till date has been curating regional fend trends for the Times Kitchen Tales project for the Times of India. The project went in to win a silver Abby after season itself.

The projects that I listed above, are some of the ones where I had worked as a consultant/ strategist and not just an endorser/ influencer. They have given me greater joy than any project that I had done till date.

They have after all allowed me to work on the subject that my world revolves around...how to eat better!

In the process, I have to got work with some great folks. I have done some very interesting work and, sorry for the pun, I am hungry for more.

If you are in the world of food, travel or hospitality, and feel that I could be of help to you in helping you understand your market better and operate better in the process then do hit me up at kalyan@finelychopped.net and I would love to work with you. 





Bio:

I realised that what started off as a post on breakfast became a cred presentation of sorts, but then it is not every day the Bombay Times gives you an opportunity to announce a new beginning. Even if it was a coincidence!

So here is a short bio of mine in case what I have said so far interests you.

Kalyan Karmakar had started his career in market research, switched tracks to become an independent food blogger and is now considered to be India’s one of India’s leading food bloggers. He is a popular food columnist and a published author too.
He started writing his blog www.FinelyChopped.net in 2007 which makes him a pioneer in the field. His debut book, a food travelogue called The Travelling Belly published by Hachette India in 2014, went into a reprint within a year of it being published.
He runs Finely Chopped Consulting where he combines his experience in market research and in food to help brands in the food space track consumer trends and provides them actionable insights for the same.
He is the curator of the Times Kitchen Tales, a pan Indian initiative to celebrate regional Indian food from the Times of India. 
He is a popular food columnist and his words can be found at NDTV Food, Times of India Blogs, DailyO, Femina, The Indian Express and Scoopwhoop.
He is the India representative for HOST Milano. A global hospitality convention that happens at Milan.
He is a part of the jury for the Living Foodz Epicurean Awards, the Conde Nast Best Restaurant Awards, BW Hotelier Awards, Times Travel Awards and the Food Super Star academy. He has spoken on food and food culture at prestigious forums such as the Times Lit Fest, the Tasting India Symposium, FBAI Dialogues, the Kalaghoda Festival, the National Police Academy and the Casa Asia in Barcelona and is a guest faculty at the Mumbai University for its course on food writing.
He won the Best Indian Food Blogger Award in the BH&G and Social Samosa Influencer Awards 2017, the FBAI Best Food Blogger Award multiple times in every year since its inception and the Godrej Protect Power Blogger Award in 2017.
As a market researcher & consultant, he has earlier worked in agencies such as The Nielsen Company, TNS India, IMRB International and Draft FCB Ulka has presented award winning papers at the Esomar World Congress & Asia Pacific meets. Clients handled include Unilever, Godrej, Nestle, General Mills, Mahindra, Reliance Food Retail, ICICI Bank, Ford, Hyundai, Amul, ITC Foods, Pizza Express. Type of projects worked on: brand tracks, advertising development and pretesting, new product development, product and service quality audit, segmentation, pricing, etc.

Social media handles:
Twitter: @finelychopped
Instagram: The Finely Chopped

Published work:


In Print:

In digital:
Scoop whoop

Some of the work that I referred to:

Time Kitchen Tales for The Times of India (Content curation, event hosting):








Abbott (Content design)



Sodexo: CXO Food Walks series




ITC Master Chef Prawn Trails (Content design)



Attache Travel: Delhi (City expert inputs)



Peetuk (menu design)



Recent media mentions:

Vir Sanghvi: Hindustan Times






The Times of India



Hindustan Times Brunch




SpiceJet




Postscript: #freelancerlife

The ladies who were behind the genesis of the breakfast story at the start of this post. Pictures of chef Hemal Shah and Sharmila Ribero and glimpses of the 'forages food breakfast' that I had started the story with and the making of the breakfast itself;







Comments