A baker, photographer, traveller, Instagram influencer, and soon-to-be published author, Shivesh Bhatia, at 22, is leaving his trail of sugar and flour dough around the world and on @shivesh17 on Instagram. Find out about his quirks and how he has amassed the following.
You started baking at 16. How did it all start for you?
I’ve grown up eating simple but delicious homemade cakes because my nani and mum have been avid bakers. While I had seen baking happening in the house since I was a kid, I never tried my hand at it until I was 16. My nani wasn’t keeping well and I was missing her chocolate cake, that I loved so much. I got along with my cousins and got home some cake mix and ready-made frosting to make chocolate cupcakes. The first baking adventure was a complete disaster and we ended up with an entire batch of burnt cupcakes but I had the best time in the kitchen. I enjoyed the experience so much that I started baking very often on my own in my kitchen. This was followed by a series of disasters but I kept practising and experimenting because baking truly made me happy. And I haven’t stopped baking since!
Was getting big on Instagram a part of your strategy? If not, what was the transition like from being the neighbourhood baker to an Instagram star?
I never really had a strategy while I was starting off. I was using Instagram like all my friends at school. I was posting absolutely everything and anything there, including pictures of my desserts. I realized that the dessert pictures were getting a good response. That led me to also start working on the styling and photography. I discovered my interest for food styling and photography only because of Instagram- because I realized a visual platform like that required the pictures to look appealing. I was so surprised by the overwhelming response I got from the community on Instagram as well as the media. I slowly built a community around my work that later encouraged me to start a blog and share my recipes there. It’s been three years now and I’ve been sharing new pictures and recipes as well as content on baking & blogging tips and tricks and travel almost every day!
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to build up a fan base on Instagram?
My biggest advice would be to work very hard on the content. Only your content will take you forward- make sure it’s original, engaging and shot beautifully. Another thing would be to make sure you add your personality to the content. Make your captions personal and engaging. Adding your personality to your work will help you stand out amongst the crowd and also help people relate to you on a personal level, which always helps. One thing to keep in mind is to make sure you’re responsive and engaging- respond to comments and be open to receiving feedback. This will help you build a community around your work.
You are coming up with a book. Tell us more about it.
Yes, my debut book- Bake With Shivesh, which is a HarperCollins publication is releasing in October. It all started a year back when my editor first got in touch with me to see if I’d be interested in doing a book. Writing on a book of my own had been a dream ever since I started blogging and working on it has been an unreal experience. The book has some very interesting recipes- cakes, cookies, tarts, pies, pavalova, panna cotta, muffins, cupcakes, mousses, cheesecakes- we have it all. Besides the recipes, I’ve also shared detailed sections on food styling and food photography. I’ve shared in detail everything that I’ve learnt about props, backgrounds, angles, lights, composition and photography equipment. Bake With Shivesh, the book will not only help you create delicious desserts but also make them look beautiful!
What’s your advice for people who want to devise cool baking recipes?
Don’t be afraid of failures! Be open to experimenting- play around with flavors and ingredients. It may not end up the way you imagined it to be but you’ll definitely pick on tricks that will help you up your baking game. When I started baking, I created a disaster after another. I know it is heart breaking to discard something that you’ve put so much time and effort into but that’s the only way to learn. Reading up on baking to understand the science behind it is also very helpful.
What’s the coolest recipe you’ve created?
I’m not sure about the coolest but the most popular recipe on my blog are the fudgy dark chocolate brownies. It’s a very simple recipe and I think that is what the readers love the most about it. So many people from across the world have recreated the brownies from the blog and shared pictures with me. It makes me so happy to see people use recipes from my blog to bake something in their kitchens.
Some ingredient combinations that always work for you when you’re experimenting?
For me lemon and berries never disappoint!
How do you draw inspiration for food styling? What’s your creative process?
My inspiration from food styling comes from the dessert that I’ve created. Instagram is also one of my biggest source of inspiration because it allows me to follow the work of supremely talented content creators in the food space from across the world. I look at their images, take a note about the elements that I like and of things that would make for interesting props while styling food. Whenever I look at pictures, I try and understand why I like it. I always ask- what is it about this picture that makes it interesting, what are the elements that I like? Once I get my answers, I try and incorporate that into my photos. In my debut book, Bake With Shivesh, I’ve written about my process of styling at length. I’ve written about the elements you should definitely incorporate in your pictures while our styling and how you can achieve the right colour scheme, textures and depth in your pictures.
One travel discovery you made and are really proud of?
Not really a discovery because it’s a very popular bakery but Conditori la Glace in Copenhagen got me very excited. It was established in 1870 and is popular as the best confectionary in Denmark. Their iconic sports cake truly lived up to its hype. It has a thin macaroon bottom with a filling of whipped cream mixed with crushed hazelnut praline and topped off with whipped cream and caramelized cream puffs. Incredible!
Enough about food; what other interests do you have?
I absolutely love to travel. After I graduated from college last year, I travelled to more than 10 countries. I try and make sure I explore a new country every month. My most recent trip was to Amsterdam in August and I’ll be traveling to Vietnam in September. Travel inspires me, helps me learn new things and just makes me very happy.