Beyond just a badge of honour, a win is a responsibility to better my craft: Ajay Chopra

The winner of gold at the e4m food influencer award, Chopra talks about his journey as a chef, an entrepreneur and how he turned into an influencer

e4m by Mansi Sharma
Updated: Oct 1, 2021 9:23 AM
Ajay Chopra

Chef Ajay Chopra, one of the most popular names in the Indian food influencer industry seems to have found a method to the madness which is the world of digital content creation. And probably that’s one of the prime reasons that he recently won a gold at the inaugural E4M Influencer Awards in the best food influencer category. The man, who is amongst the pioneers in the digital content creation space in the food and cooking category, however, feels there is a lot for him to learn and grow in the space, which is constantly evolving and dynamic. 

Speaking about the glorious win, Chopra told over an elaborate telephonic conversation, “I am very thankful to the publication for honouring me with this award. Honestly, this is a motivation for me to do more. I want to draw new lessons and inspirations from every win because I feel it’s not just a badge of honour to carry but the responsibility to better my craft and promote the idea of innovative dining amongst my audience.” 

The former Masterchef India judge, on being asked when did he realise that he has turned into an influencer, gave a very unexpected response. “Frankly, it was when I became a sous chef. Handling a team of 25 people and contributing to a recipe, that’s when I realised that I have the power to influence people.” 

But how did he actually land in the world of culinary arts and eventually digital content creation? 

Chopra had keen interest in cooking and experimenting with food from a very young age. It was in the early 90s, when Chef Sanjeev Kapoor had entered Indian homes with his show Khana Khazana that Chopra realised that it’s possible to have a career as a chef. He enrolled in a hospitality college, following which he also trained at the Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development (OCLD) for two years. He then went on to have an illustrated career as a chef in India and London before becoming the judge on Masterchef India (season 1 and 2), a show which he feels was the turning point to how Indians viewed cooking.

“I credit the show for bringing a huge change in how Indians perceived food and cooking. Before that, it was only afternoon cooking shows, followed mostly by the ‘mothers’ in the house. But the show brought to light the immense possibilities the world of cooking has. It changed how people cooked and served food in their homes. Visual elements started getting recognition too.” Chopra highlighted. 

After Masterchef, Chopra decided to leave his job as a chef and turned into an entrepreneur. “I worked on a DIY kit project with three other partners but moved out of it after a year. Then I worked on creating concept restaurants and worked on 30 projects within just three years.” 

Chopra launched his YouTube channel in 2018 as ‘The Big Daddy Chef’ with the primary aim to get the men of the house cooking. However, he soon realised that to grow on digital he would need to have a better strategy and renamed his channel to his own name. Today, the channel has 326 K subscribers from primarily across India, US and UK. His recipes are primarily centered around making complicated hotel dishes at home in a simple manner. 

He highlights, “I realised that there are a lot many people cooking on the web. People actually compare the recipes from various chefs and I have to stand out. I have expertise and experience in cooking hotel food. So, I decided to make that my niche; how to help people cook hotel-like food at home, simply. And that has worked well for me.” 

But being an influencer just doesn’t stop at showcasing your skill on the web, Chopra believes. “I think what most influencers lack today is their skills and intention to research. It’s not only about their craft but the whole business of growing a personal brand. You need to have skills across the board.” 

He himself has learned several key skills like lighting, camera handling, and has even started doing his own makeup for the shoots. “I had to figure out a lot of things on this journey. Like, someone told me that being on the web is like running your own marketplace. You need to open when people are there. So, after learning to understand the algorithm that the best time for me to be online is between 6 and 9 pm, Then I realised that a lot of time goes to waste when we are shooting because I don’t understand the cinematographers' language or how lighting works. So, I slowly learned the basic things like what is the right spot to stand and face the camera. I also help with lighting sometimes now. So, yes, I am growing.” 

Chopra admittedly spends at least 30-45 minutes a day reading and learning new skills about his own work and the digital world at large. “I am still struggling with understanding the YouTube algorithm fully. But I am learning.” 

Along with working as a consultant and influencer, Chopra has also launched his own app called “Cook Academy”, through which he is sharing his skills with a larger community. “I realised that there is a lot of material available on YouTube and other apps when it comes to cooking but it’s not streamlined. It can get overwhelming for beginners to scan through all of that. So, I have developed a course called “Ka Kha Ga” of cooking, wherein I give step-by-step instructions, right from the types of knives to very simple recipes like dal-roti. Then I have intermediate and advanced courses as well, which more skilled professionals could benefit from.” 

While it seems like there is a lot on his plate and lesser hours in a day, Chopra has designed his schedule in a calculative way so that he doesn’t get drowned only in work. 

He concluded by saying, “I do not work on Sundays. That time is for my kids and God. It is very important for us to have that time off and protecting ourselves (from the negative impacts of the profession and influencer life). Also, I spend some time in the day learning new things.” 

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