Meet Ambica Selvam, the consultant-turned-food stylist who is plating up a success storyDeepika Singhania
She loves playing with themes and backgrounds, visualising food, and setting the mood. But how did a learning consultant become an expert on serving up visual delights? This is Ambica Selvam’s #PassionToPaycheck story.
Food is an emotion, and Ambica Selvam loves capturing it. “I was never ambitious while growing up. I have always been more sure of what I didn’t want in life than what I wanted,” says Ambica. But after 12 years of being an E-Learning consultant, she finally found here calling in Lingering Aftertaste, her blog and food styling space.
The road so far
Ambica had a very multicultural upbringing. “Dad was in a transferable job, so we moved every 3-4 years. It exposed us to different cultures, which has had a great influence on how I have shaped up as a person,” she explains. She did her B.Com in Baroda, and then moved on to Noida, where she started her career at a call center. “I had heard about the ‘exciting call center career’, so I wanted to try it out. But I moved from being a Technical Support Executive to the training space early on. Since then, I continued to be in the learning & development space till Lingering Aftertaste happened,” Ambica added.
She moved to Bangalore after her wedding, and started spending a lot of her time cooking and experimenting with different food. She recalls, “Back in early 2011, I discovered the movie ‘Julie and Julia’ and later started watching Masterchef India as well. And as cliched as it may sound, these two sort of changed my life! After that, I just kept watching more food shows, read more cookbooks, and of course, I cooked.”
And Ambica was hooked! It went to the extent where she would call people over, just to find an excuse to cook some more. She realised that she enjoyed being around food, so in 2014, she decided to quit her career of 12 years and do something in the food space. Of course, it wasn’t easy! Ambica explains, “It’s good to pursue your passion, but you need to spend time nurturing your skills and planning ahead. It requires a lot of patience. So, you have to learn how to enjoy the journey!”
A flavourful adventure
The passion for food led her to give up her consulting job, but Ambica still had no clue about what to do next. She just had an old blog that she had created three years ago, with one post on it. “I had created it in haste, even though I knew I wasn’t ready for such a commitment. But after my Ma passed away, I remembered her asking me time and again to write a cookbook of my own. So I relaunched my old blog as Lingering Aftertaste to honour that memory and started blogging regularly,” she explains.
This was when Ambica ventured into food styling and photographing. She remembers when she had just started out, “I learnt that I could tell a story with the pictures I was posting. That’s when I learnt the concept of styling the food for a photograph. The more I did it, the more I fell in love with it.”
While Ambica continued to blog and hone her food styling skills, she was building up a solid following. “I had just started to understand my style. My audience was increasing and within no time, I was getting inquiries for partnerships and projects. So I signed up for my first assignment, and there has been no looking back since!”
Today, Ambica works with big names like Saffola, Maiyya's, Swiggy, Prestige TTK, Oberoi, Taj Karavali, AirAsia, Barbeque Nation, Big Brewsky, Apollo, Kodak Lens/Eyewear, Chai Point, and Au Bon Pain, to name a few. But that’s not all, Ambica also got the opportunity to work as the Art Director on Bharjari Bhojana, a cookery show on Udaya channel.
But the success didn’t come easy. Ambica had to face a number of challenges on her journey. “My biggest problem was the pricing. I did not know how much to charge the clients. But I’ve been doing this for a while now, so I’ve learnt how to go about it,” she says with a grin.
The path ahead
The movie buff wants to continue exploring new techniques and styles. Ambica says excitedly, “Collaboration is the way to go. I plan to partner with creative minds outside of the food/culinary arts domains to do unconventional projects. I even have five workshops planned for this year, in partnership with a fabulous brand!”
Ambica also plans to revive her blog and make a few changes that she’ll reveal in the days to come. “I’ve been very busy with work, so I haven’t had the time to keep up with my blog. I want to change it from a recipe blog to something different. Of course, recipes will continue to be a part of it, but I’ll be shifting focus to another food subject that is very close to my heart,” she adds.
It’s a great time to be in the food industry because people are open to trying different things now. The fake food and real food debate gets exhausting, though Ambica is positive that things will get better. “Clients are now okaying the idea of working with actual food. So that is a welcome change,” she signs off.