Blogger of the Month: Ram Swaminathan of Sunday Chicken Dinner
A dedicated student by day and passionate food critic and blogger by night, Ram Swaminathan shines in the spotlight as Poor Taste’s March blogger of the month! The author of Sunday Chicken Dinner is a fervent food lover residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite his tight schedule balancing school work (he’s set to graduate from San Francisco State University in May) and his social life, Ram still manages to find time to create new and innovative recipes and share his food infatuation through blogging. Just looking at the pictures of the gourmet food he creates inspires his followers to share his love for food, and his recipes–from spaghetti with sea urchin and caviar to lobster mashed potatoes–are easy to execute and as delicious-tasting as they are looking. His precise and detailed tips for creating gourmet food at home make any reader want to follow Ram on his epic journey through the world of food.
When did you begin blogging and how did you end up blogging about food?
I started a little over a year ago. I’ve always loved writing and as my love for food has evolved, it just seemed like a natural way to join the two. I also wanted a way to document my recipes and my progress. But my girlfriend says she’s been telling me to do it forever, so the real origin is up for debate.
Does your recipe skill come naturally or have you had formal training in the past?
No, not at all. I’m a self-taught man. My dad was the main cook in the house and I always used to watch him. When I started working in restaurants I’d spend more time watching the cook’s cooking and plating than tending to my tables. I quickly realized that whatever I wanted to do had to revolve around food.
How did you begin writing? Were you passionate about writing first, which led to combining it with your love of food?
As for writing, I always wrote on the side and kept journals and stuff, and my teachers in school always encouraged me to write. Writing and cooking are the only two things that I felt I could do naturally and enjoyed enough to do in my free time.
Do you experiment with your recipes before posting it online or are your recipes mostly spontaneous works?
I don’t really have the patience for experimenting. I make sure that I take notes and document tweaks as I’m cooking so that the recipe is actually the real deal and not a guesstimate. That’s not to say that there aren’t total bombs, because there are. They just never make the blog. I’m constantly exploring new things, so every time I make something, I like it to be a challenge.
How do you plan what food you’re going to cover on your blog next? There are so many different genres of food; it’s probably tough to create something unique and new each time.
There’s no real process to the recipe collection. Sometimes it’s been an idea I’ve been tinkering with for a while, but mostly it’s whatever I’m inspired to do that day. The cookbooks and things I read definitely provide some inspiration on a day to day though,
So you read cookbooks? Are there any specific chefs or specific cookbooks that you have an obsession with currently?
Oh yes. I’m obsessed with them! It constantly changes, but [there are a] few I really admire right now, like David Chang’s Momofuku. He just took the whole food world by storm and his style is so different, it really makes you think differently about food. Of course I think Thomas Keller is God and his books teach you the necessary respect for ingredients and the way to source and prepare them to their fullest potential. Anything less is simply not worth it. If a cookbook makes me think like, “Fuck, I wish I thought of that!” it’s usually one I will buy. The French Laundry Cookbook really opened my eyes and showed me that the capabilities of food and recipes are endless. I like that cookbooks now are more than a collection of recipes, but the mentality, thoughts, and styles of chefs.
As a food blogger, do you find yourself critiquing others’ food when eating out? If so, are you a harsh critic?
Hell yeah! It’s gotten really bad actually. My girlfriend can’t stand it, but I think its bullshit that I should have to pay for food that I could cook way better for a lot cheaper. When restaurants serve crappy food, I feel like they don’t care and take what they’re doing for granted. In a business that should be built on passion and pleasure, when someone fails at it, it’s really difficult not to take it [personally]. I never take it to Yelp or anything, but I definitely get mad. I’m getting mad just talking about it!
Is there one place that you would actually recommend to others? Hopefully this is a place that you didn’t have to critique so harshly!
Burma Superstar in the Inner Richmond is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. It’s right around the corner from my house. They have a forty-five minute wait seven days a week, but for a good reason. The food is awesome and the service is exceptional. I also feel Brenda’s French Soul Food in the Tenderloin is an untapped gold mine. It’s definitely gotten more popular recently, but the food is awesome and really unique. I suppose Burma excels in that aspect as well. It’s hard to find restaurants in a town as food-obsessed as San Francisco that are unique, and [that] execute everything perfectly.
Where do you see yourself in let’s say, a year from now, with your blogging career?
Well, I would love to be getting paid a million dollars to write about my food, and the goal is always to move forward and progress. But I started it because I love to cook and I wanted to share that with other people. So if nothing more happens than a few more people read and appreciate my blog, that’s all I can really ask for. Food for me has always been about community and bringing people together, so that will always be my ultimate goal. Getting interviewed and receiving attention for my blog has been a pretty awesome and flattering experience though, so more of that would definitely be good for my ego!
For the latest escapades and best recipes from this SF native, be sure to check out his blog here.
Photo provided by Ram Swaminathan.