An Interview With Jade D’sa – A Food Blogger at That Goan Girl
Just tell me a little bit of what food blogging means to you.
Ans: I think all food blogs are about documentation – of experiences, recipes, restaurants that one has visited and of course, pictures. Personally, I’m drawn towards a niche called ‘Culinary Travel,’ which is about experimenting with food while I travel – be it local cuisine, or the incorporation of elements, ingredients or styles of one type of food in another. I think that a food blog can be called ‘successful’ when a reader trusts this one single source more than they do a review site which that merely curates thousands of opinions and leaves the reader to decide what to believe. Ultimately, food blogging is a form of creativity. The way pictures a styled, the quality of content, and style of writing… it is just like any other form of art!
What inspired you to start the blog?
Ans: I started blogging for a couple of reasons. I had moved away from home in Goa to Mumbai, to pursue further education and I didn’t know how to cook. Hence I began eating out, watching cooking shows and experimenting in the kitchen. All of this led me to develop a much more refined palate and food started becoming more than just something to satisfy hunger. I began appreciating it so much more.
I’ve always been someone who needed a creative outlet, and when I began working, I had little time for anything apart from work. My dead-end job, hectic travel and life away from home left me so drained and bored that I needed something to be passionate about. That’s when I started the blog. I began investing my time and energy into it just to have something to do when I came back home from work.
When did you realize this was going to become more than just a hobby?
Ans: I started incorporating travel and lifestyle posts into That Goan Girl when I traveled and after a couple of years, I was beginning to see a loyal following growing ever so slowly. The first sign that I was becoming committed to blogging was when I moved from a free hosting provider (Blogspot) to my own domain, www.thatgoangirl.com. I then created a logo and a website design. When I saw it all coming together, it encouraged me to work at it even more, which led me to win a couple of awards. That’s when I knew it wasn’t just a hobby anymore.
Why do you think food blogging has become so popular now?
Ans: Various reasons. Many start food blogging for the same reason I did – to pursue a passion or as an outlet of creativity. Many think that it is a free ticket to dine at fancy restaurants every other day. Food Blogging, sadly, has become synonymous with posting Instagram pictures and writing one line captions. Ask a food blogger how long they have been blogging for, whether they have a website, how often they post on their blogs, and you will be surprised to know that majority of them don’t even have a website! While food blogging has become popular, quality food bloggers are still few and far between.
What is the most time-consuming part for you as a food blogger?
Ans: Writing the post! Writing about food in a way that takes the reader to the table and makes them taste what I’ve tasted, is no easy task. The meal may have been eaten in an hour, but sometimes, I take up to 3 days or more just to write the post.
Could you give some advice for bloggers who are starting out?
Ans: There’s no substitute for hard work. If you’re blogging the right way, you won’t see results for the first couple of years. Those who’ve risen to fame in months have something fishy going on – believe me! Don’t try to imitate someone else. Consistency and dedication are non-negotiable.
What is the most important thing you should be doing as a food blogger?
Ans: I have two!
1. Know your food – You can’t critique Mexican food if you’ve only eaten it once before. Try it out at various places, watch shows, read books, know what you’re eating and what went into it, talk to chefs… it is only when you are well versed with a particular cuisine, can you provide an honest opinion. Which brings me to my second point…
2. Be Honest – Just because someone has invited you to try out their food doesn’t mean you have to praise it if you didn’t like it. Imagine how you’d feel if you read a biased review, traveled to a restaurant, paid money and eaten something that wasn’t anything like what you read about. That’s a quick way to lose respect and ruin your reputation. If you don’t like something, say so, provided you are knowledgeable enough to know how it should be done correctly.
How much technical know how do you think someone needs to have if they want to become a food blogger?
Ans: Apart from knowing how to write, I knew nothing about the blogosphere. I watched Youtube videos and read about what others were doing, learning as I went along. You need very little technical knowledge, to begin with, but as you proceed, you will need to learn a fair bit – and most of this can be self-taught.
What according to you is the best way to increase traffic to your food blog?
Ans: Make use of all your channels. Build strong social media channels and keep the basics of SEO in mind when you write. Branding yourself helps a lot, too!
How often did you post when you started off as opposed to now?
Ans: I started off by posting once a week. Now I post around 10 times a month. For me, it is very unlikely that I start writing a post and publish it on the same day. While I work on a post every single day (something I didn’t do when I started off), I am done with a post after every 3-4 days.
How soon were you able to make your first 100 dollars?
Ans: It’s been 4 years, and I still haven’t made my first 100 dollars through Google. But I have made way more than that through brand collaborations.
What is your preferred source of monetization for your blog?
Ans: Brand Collaborations. However, I am very picky about who I choose to work with. I don’t work with everyone who pays me. I only work with brands I believe in, have personally used and would recommend to friends and family, even if the brand wasn’t paying me. They need to have a valuable addition to my blog and my readers in order for me to feature them.
Do you think there is a right time to start monetizing a food blog?
Ans: There’s no right time, it depends on when you feel you’re ready to take it seriously. I should tell you though if you’re starting a blog to make money, don’t do it. You will be disappointed.
Which is your favorite social network, if any?
Ans: Instagram, simply because I have built such a strong, engaged community on that platform.
What have been the highlights of your food blogging career so far?
Ans: Winning the award for the category ‘Culinary Travel’ by the Food Bloggers Association of India for 2 years in a row! The FBAI has some of the most talented food bloggers in the country as members and the Culinary Travel category is the most desirable and competitive category. So it was a huge deal for me when I won it twice – that too, without expecting it!
What are the downsides of food blogging?
Ans: The weight I put on! Hahaha, no I’m just kidding! There are a bunch of them! People have the misconception that it’s all about free food. But I can promise you, the work that any GOOD food blogger puts into growing their blogs is worth more than 100 of those meals. Secondly, good food bloggers don’t only write about places they’re invited to. They do their own research, their own finds, their own experimentation – to mold themselves into professionals with worthwhile opinions. All that doesn’t come easy.
Any last thoughts?
Ans: Not really! Thanks for the interview, CookWithNisha!