Each week we profile a different Canadian Food Blogger who is part of the FBC community. This week meet Rizwan Asad, the Toronto food blogger behind the Saveur nominated blog, Chocolates and Chai.
Name: Rizwan Asad
Blog name: Chocolates & Chai
Where were you born? Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Where are you living now? Toronto, Ontario
Why did you start your blog?
I was looking for a way to share recipes with some friends here in Toronto, as well as some family abroad. I decided on a blog where I could just casually throw a recipe on to and direct people towards. But then, because I’m not really the type of person to do anything just casually, I threw myself into making the blog pretty (well, as pretty as I could make it!).
How did you decide on your blog name?
Oh jeez…that…was…a process. I had a list of about 40 interesting names, which I narrowed down to 1. But when I went to purchase that domain name, I found that it already belonged to someone who had purchased the domain, but hadn’t used it for anything. The owner also refused to part with it (unless I paid them a rather hefty fee).
So, I went back to the drawing board. I was looking for something that represented my multicultural upbringing, and my love of food. And it was Chocolates & Chai. (Chocolates and a cup of chai may have also been what I was snacking on at the time. This is unconfirmed.)
(Incidentally, I bought that other domain name earlier this year, and am now trying to figure out what to do with it!)
What do you blog about?
Food and happiness. My blog is all about comfort food, with a larger focus on dessert and brunch recipes. The food is accessible, delicious, and not too hard on the eyes.
Is your blog your business, your hobby or something in between?
Something in between…but aspiring to be something more in the future! (Yup, my little blog dares to dream!)
What post on your blog most encapsulates you and why?
Oooh, this is a tough one. Every post on my blog is a part of me in one way or another. But my Dutch Baby Pancake recipe is a good example of what I’m all about – baked goods and togetherness.
Which post do you wish received more love and why?
My Two-Layer Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cocoa Buttercream recipe was one that I had high hopes for. I had a lot of fun writing it, and even more fun eating it. However, it just never really took off in the way that I had hoped.
(It’s also the only post on my blog written in an entirely different font to every other post on my blog. Why? Because, I---well, err, sometimes--you see, umm…okay, fine. I made a mistake! And then I was too lazy to fix it. And I’m still too lazy to fix it. And I kind of like that it’s a little bit weird. Because I am too.)
Which post’s success surprised you and why?
Without a doubt, my recipe for Fluffy, Fluffy Pancakes! It’s by far the most popular post on my blog. Fun fact: when I first published the post, none of the big Food Feature sites would feature it. A few months later, I resubmitted one of the recipe photos to one of the sites that had rejected it. It was approved, and quickly became one of their ‘Most Favourited’ pancake recipes. Go figure!
What’s your biggest challenge as a blogger?
Generating content in a timely fashion. I tend to work in what I refer to as ‘seasons’. I’ll prepare a bunch of posts, with a new post being published every two weeks for a few months. And then my blog goes dormant for a month or two. I’m working on being more organized and producing more content, but I just don’t get new recipes ready as quickly as I’d like. I tend to be quite particular about what makes it to my blog, and the experimental testing/re-testing portion of a recipe can take ages to get right. My Chocolate-Covered Raspberry Cheesecake (mentioned below) actually took an entire year before I was satisfied with it!
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a blogger?
To trust in myself. I get advice (and/or constructive criticism, depending on how you’d like to look at it) thrown at me left, right, and centre! I’ve learned that no one understands my blog the way I do, and that I need to always write what’s true to me and my readers.
What has been your biggest success as a blogger so far?
Being selected as a finalist in the Saveur Blog Awards 2017 (Best Baking & Sweets Blog category) blew me away. I never thought I’d even get nominated! The Saveur Blog Awards were something I followed long before I had my own blog, and even being considered was a huge honour.
Share a couple of your favourite food blogs to read. Why do you like them?
Oh, this is a tough one – I tend to read a little of everything. (And I mean everything – food, fashion, lifestyle, personal finance!) One of my longtime favourites is David Lebovitz’s blog, his writing has an honesty to it that I think sometimes get lost in online content, also…his food is delicious. The Pioneer Woman has written some of the most entertaining blog posts I’ve ever read, she’s hilarious! And finally, Manger – this was one of the first food blogs that really caught my attention as a reader, I loved the slice of life style to it.
Favourite food - care to share a recipe or a restaurant destination?
The recipe that pops to mind is my Chocolate-Covered Raspberry Cheesecake, but if I’m being completely honest, I’d have to say my favourite foods are a bunch of things my mum cooks for me!
What are you working on next for your blog?
The post I’m currently working on is my Top 5 Kitchen Disasters – it’s one I’ve wanted to write for a while. It’s a rundown of 5 times I’ve truly and utterly messed up a dish while cooking. Some of the dishes, I’ve made again and improved…others, not so much.
I’m also starting to learn a little about creating recipe videos, I’ve never done any real video work before so it’s pretty daunting…but baby steps, right?
What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page?
I’m a total neat freak. I can’t cook when my kitchen is a mess, I end up cleaning it instead! (I may also be a procrastinator.) And I have a habit of naming inanimate objects. For example, my Xbox is named Boxvati, my coffee machine is Nessy, and my ukulele is named Leho.
What makes your blog unique?
My voice (because it’s really just me!). And that I have an owl named Hootie for a mascot who I sometimes worry may be more popular with my friends than I am!
What part of the FBC site do you find most useful?
When I first learned about the FBC, I found the Resources section to be very helpful. More recently, I’ve found the Facebook groups to be incredibly great – whether for support, networking, or general queries!
Follow Rizwan and Chocolates and Chai on Social Media