This month’s Lifestyle Design Hero has been a guest columnist on Human Writes: Simona Terron. Remember the heartfelt series of letters to her kitten Laurie and more recently, her delicious cold soup recipes?
This lifestyle journalist has worked with magazines like HELLO, Elle Decor, Hotelier India, been publicist for luxury hotel ITC Grand Chola and co-founded non-profit initiative The Bicycle Project India which donates recycled bicycles to tribal school kids to keep them from dropping out. Her latest projects are XChange Thursdays (earth-shattering monthly talks) and my personal favourite THC or The Heart Chef. She conducts various workshops on baking, cooking, raw food, juicing and smoothie-making under this title.
Simona’s passion for food is infectious. “The love of food is what drives me and I breathe, speak, dream of it all the time,” she gushes.
Who is The Heart Chef?
The Heart Chef is a food geek who loves all things related to food chemistry, artistry and of course, fun with flavours. If it tastes good, feels good and looks good, I LOVE it. In fact, I believe from my core that food IS love.
I call myself The Heart Chef and my show THC HeartBytes because a lot of heart goes into what I do and I want to share my knowledge, experience and skills with anyone who loves food as much as I do.
You simply have to attend one of my mixology workshops to know that I love a good cocktail as much as the next gourmand, or come to one of my barbeque nights to enjoy my grilled delicacies. My podcast is an effective way of spreading the word about these workshops and what I wish to teach in them.
Secondly, there’s a universe out there of talented people who are working hard to create interesting dishes, to solve dietary issues plaguing folks and celebrating their respective cultural culinary journeys. I want to be a connector in this burgeoning community and to bring value to it with collaborations both online and offline. I’ve already interviewed one of my subscribers who wrote her first cookbook recently, and more cool stuff is in the pipeline.
2. How and when did the idea for THC germinate?
I love teaching people and sharing whatever culinary skills I have, in a fun and easy manner, inspiring in them the same love of food that fills me with joy. I enjoy preparing healthy food without sacrificing on taste and believe that anyone can learn to do this.
I also love showing kids how they can make magic in the kitchen, and I believe this truly teaches them the value of being self-reliant from a young age. Not to mention, it also prevents a lot of eating disorders and cravings for junk food and takeaway dinner in their later years.
3. What triggered this passion for cooking?
I have been a huge fan of gastronomy from a very young age, and picked up many culinary & mixology skills along the way from books, people and short courses over the years. I’m mainly self-taught and am constantly learning from the chef friends and others in the hospitality industry I’ve known.
I’ve been a journalist for over two decades and wrote a fair bit on food. As deputy editor of Hotelier India, a premier hospitality trade publication and while heading PR for ITC Grand Chola Hotel, Chennai, I learned a lot about the food industry from the inside-out.
I always wanted to share this passion for food and I have finally found a way to do it wholeheartedly.
4. Why did you choose Whatsapp to broadcast your podcast THC HeartBytes?
I wanted to reach out to people like you and me, who are super busy, don’t have reliable internet all day nor the time to watch endless YouTube videos but wish to learn more about food. Since WhatsApp is so personal, it cuts through the clutter of social media and doesn’t need people to be too tech-savvy or familiar with podcast aggregators or related apps to enjoy my show. And because it is subscription-based, I don’t spam anyone; all my subscribers are people who have willingly signed up for it. They can opt out easily too. And the show is 100% free and will always be.
One of the main agendas on my podcast is to promote #FabFoodFemmes, or amazing women in the food world, to show support and to encourage and celebrate their invaluable contributions to the food and beverage industry. I invite listeners of my podcast who know radical ladies making a mark in the food landscape to suggest or connect me to these women, by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I try to keep things conversational and real by adding inputs of what I’m cooking or experimenting with. I add listener feedback that comes to me through WhatsApp, Email and social media. I answer their requests for recipes and resolve queries.
5. What food are you excited about right now?
I love that plant-based recipes are on the rise and now there are so many substitute ingredients and techniques to avoid using animal products, which makes my conscience feel good. I’m not vegan myself but I try and choose plant-based over animal products, and I do this without forcing others to agree to my point of view nor do I food shame or judge anyone’s choices.
I prefer using natural items so organic, chemical-free, preservative-free, without artificial colours, all appeal to me big-time. This doesn’t mean I don’t cheat with all the above mentioned once in a while but it’s at a bare minimum and often only for convenience.
6. You’ve also co-founded The Bicycle Project India.
Yes, it’s a charity initiative started in November 2008, which repairs old donated bicycles in Mumbai city and gifts them to tribal schoolchildren in nearby villages. This prevents them from having to walk 5-12 kms one way which in turn prevents them from dropping out of school eventually, due to the distance.
I also started XChange Thursdays, a free, monthly event at Title Waves bookstore in Bandra, Mumbai, because I felt that each of us has the power to bring about change in the world, even while being regular everyday people.
I created this platform to start building a community where ChangeMakers from different walks could help each other with networks, support and ideas. I did this so people could join me and take advantage of this opportunity to work together to make this world a better place, and “Be the Change” they want to see.
7. How do you divide your time between writing, THC and the Bicycle Project?
It takes a lot of juggling and discipline, not to mention some creative scheduling. Fortunately, I am deeply motivated by the joy that doing the THC podcast and running both, The Bicycle Project India & XChange Thursdays bring me, despite the fact that neither earn me any money.
8. What would you call yourself first: Host or foodie?
I think you absolutely need to be the latter in order to successfully become the former! I have a condition that I refer to as ‘The Need to Feed’; seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they enjoy my cooking gives me a great deal of happiness.