Butter chicken, in all its luscious, creamy glory, is cooked to the background score of Body to Body by Sture Zetterberg. Sambar simmers to the guitar of Sweet Baby by Origo featuring Cody Butler. And, pav bhaji is prepared to the tunes of I Wish You Were Mine by Loving Caliber featuring Mia Niles. Love songs are like tadka in the recipe videos of Sanjyot Keer whose YouTube channel, Your Food Lab, recently hit 3 million subscribers.
Keer was a food producer on MasterChef season four in India, before venturing on his own as an independent content creator. In 2016, he launched a Facebook page, Your Food Lab, to post quick table-top recipes which were a rage back then. As someone venturing into the content space with limited budget, he made do with rented cameras, DIY lights and his family’s dining table as the shoot spot. He would use different table covers and change the paint of the dining table to switch things up visually. Within a year he was one of the top Facebook-first creators in the country, and started to earn from ad revenues of the social media platform. After two years, short-form, table top food content plateaued, and Keer transitioned to 15-20 minute instructional recipes on YouTube. After about four years, his family’s living room had turned into a studio and storage area with products from partner brands crowding it. It was time to create a better and bigger workspace.
In an interview with Lounge, Keer talks about setting up a ‘beautiful’ studio kitchen, using it as a canvas for his recipes videos and cooking with love.
Describe your current workspace.
My workspace occupies several floors of my house in Mumbai. On the terrace, there’s the studio divided into three parts—a fully functional kitchen, an outdoor green turf with a tandoor and pizza oven and the third area is a sit-out with a coffee table and chairs.
There’s a post production and editing room in the first floor. On the ground floor, which used to be a garage, we’re building a gym alongside a fun, chilled zone with perhaps a PlayStation. I'm trying to install a slide connecting the editing room on the first floor to this area as a playful addition.
And, your family lives here too?
This is my home and I live here with my parents and wife. A few of my team members, who are from Pune, stay with me too.
How has your studio kitchen evolved over the years?
I started creating this studio in early 2020. The walls were painted by me, and I worked with my carpenters for each piece of furniture. I love my equipment and one of the most popular elements of my studio is the bright red fridge from Smeg. It is like a mascot for YFL. This fridge wasn’t available in India, and it arrived after a lot of to-and-fro with the company. We had to arrange for a crane to lift and place it here. Think of this fridge like my very own red Ferrari.
There’s a wooden roof—uncommon in Mumbai homes—to add a nice warm vibe, and more than 450 plants. The idea was to fill it with a positive vibe by creating a green haven, because this city is all concrete. I call my nursery to send flower saplings, vegetables or fruits plants with changing seasons.
There’s also a back wall with shelves for spices and utensils. Every two or three months the back wall is stripped off completely, thoroughly cleaned and rearranged. Now, the shelves have copper and cast iron utensils—some inherited from my grandmother—which weren’t placed there before. We do these things to add a fresh perspective or improve the frame for the videos. It infuses a feeling of newness, and I believe your workspace shouldn’t get stagnant. In that sense, the studio evolves everyday.
How does this space add to your shooting process?
The different areas— be it the kitchen, outdoor deck and the sit-out—also act as shooting spots. They act like a canvas to paint my vision for a particular dish. For example, if I am doing a breakfast recipe like idli sambar, I want a morning vibe with some greenery. So, we place a table near the window, have some green elements in the frame, light it up accordingly and plan the final shots. If I am doing a dish that’s usually associated with night dining, like a sizzler, we shoot at night in the outdoor deck. We create nice ambient lighting so that the steam from the sizzler is visible. It’s not just about recipe sharing, but also food storytelling.
If you were to trade this space for another, what would it be?
I can’t think of moving out of here, but yes, when my 12-member team expands to let's say about 20-25 employees, we will have to look for a bigger place. It wouldn’t be a trade-off if I want to build something bigger. Another extension of YFL could be a destination studio in a scenic place, like the mountains or the beach. We can travel there, shoot and come back. For now, this is home, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
How would you define your daily relationship with this space?
This is where I live, and feel that I step out just to sleep in my room. In the mornings, I do functional training with my trainer in the outdoor deck. Then I get ready, have team meetings, start rolling by 11 am and wrap up by 9:30 pm. Sometimes, if there are brands involved, shoots can extend to 11 pm or later. On non-working days, if guests come over, we host them here, make pizzas, do some barbecuing and chill. On Sundays, I usually cook lunch for my family here, and it feels so good. It’s not just an office where you enter and leave; it’s more than that. When I got interested in cooking as a child, I dreamt of having a beautiful kitchen. Now, I am living that dream.
Creative Corner is a series about writers, artists, musicians, founders and other creative individuals and their relationships with their workspaces