How do you combine a love of flavours and a passion for writing about them? In Anisha Oommen and Aysha Tanya’s case – the answer was seemingly simple – start your own magazine! And they didn’t stop there. Together, they co-founded their own media production company called Goya Media. The company banner encompasses The Goya Journal, The Malabar Tea Room, and their third venture – the Tamarind Trail.
While any magazine can publish food-related content (and most do!), The Goya Journal plays host to more than just the usual restaurant reviews and step-by-step recipes. This multi-media magazine boasts of unique and interesting stories, which not only celebrate India’s complex food culture but delve into the eccentricities of it.
But food lovers are not bound by borders, and indeed the Goya Journal transcends them – taking you on an exciting taste-testing tour of foreign lands while simultaneously revelling in the comfort foods of home. A culinary feat indeed!
The First Nibble
If you’re a food blog enthusiast, chances are that you’ve already stumbled across The Malabar Tea Room, a dreamy narrative chronicling Aysha’s culinary adventures with her mother. Set against the backdrop of small-town life in Kerala, Aysha’s love for experimentation in the kitchen quickly expanded to include writing about it.
She says, “I have a degree in political science, and when I graduated, I was unsure about what I wanted to do. I was very certain that it wouldn’t involve writing! But two years later, my mother and I started a food blog together, as a mother-daughter project to work on while I was away, and I quickly realised that I loved writing about and photographing food. I started writing for print and digital publications as a freelancer after that.”
Anisha, too, had never really considered journalism as a profession. She says, “I don’t come from a journalism background or even a food background. I studied Economics, Psychology & Sociology, and joined a logistics company straight out of college. But I’d always been involved with writing, through school and college, and I couldn’t ignore that’s where my heart was at. I spent some years with a fantastic editorial team at Yahoo India, and then with a food magazine based out of Bangalore – which is where Aysha and I met. There was no looking back from there. Goya seemed like the most natural step.”
Combine And Stir Well
So, how did it all begin? Aysha says, “We got along really well right from the start. I’d never met someone else who was interested in both food and writing — it had always been one or the other — and we would spend hours exchanging notes on the food-related books and articles we loved, basically geeking out about things most people would not have been very interested in. We realised before long that we wanted to write about food in a way that most publications didn’t really have space for. At which point we thought – how hard can it be? The answer is – quite hard! But we rolled up our sleeves and started one ourselves.”
Anisha adds, “When we started, we saw Goya as a destination for great food journalism in the country. We wanted a platform that would publish the works of serious food writers, and build a repository of Indian food culture. That’s still our vision. We have a long way to go, but so far we’ve met some fantastic, generous people; published some incredible stories; and have learnt that the Goya Journal has a loyal, funny, deeply engaged audience, which is out there spreading the word and sharing our work with friends and family on the interwebs.”
A Hint Of Spice
The Goya Journal’s unique explorations of food journalism are never more apparent than when you are faced with their multi-media platform. Photo essays, videos, long-form articles – there appears to be something for everyone. Anisha explains why they opted out of the print media rat race, “We’re the last generation to live in the pre-internet era, and much as we love print, we simply don’t have the resources to go down that line.”
She adds, “The internet is also a place full of magic and creation, there are new things being imagined in this space every day. It is truly the creator’s playground. We wanted to be able to take the essence of print, i.e, great storytelling, and combine that with the nebulous magic of the internet in all its visual multi-sensory glory. It also gave us the chance to collaborate with creative people across disciples and let Goya be a space for art, as much as literature.”
Economics aside, there’s a deliberate thought process behind each article. Aysha says, “When we commission stories we ask ourselves what the best way to communicate that particular story would be. Sometimes it’s in an essay format, at other times, photo essays tell the story more effectively. There are other stories that are that much more powerful when you can hear the person’s voice, and for those, we use a podcast format. We like to think that using several mediums keeps things interesting and that our audience appreciates it.”
A Pinch Of Something Special
It’s not easy carving out a new niche, especially since the food journalism as a whole is saturated with very different types of media, but both Anisha and Aysha find a great sense of fulfilment in their work.
Anisha says, “I love that we get to meet passionate, talented writers, photographers and illustrators because of what we do. We now have a strong network of contributors around the country that we feel very attached to. A few months ago, we had a party in Bombay for the people we’ve worked with through Goya, and it was lovely to meet some of them in real life, and has been one of the highlights of the journey so far.”
She says,”The most challenging part has been working with no real precedent in this field here in India. Food media is relatively new and while it is exciting that we’re watching it being shaped in front of our eyes, it’s also scary for the very same reason.”
Aysha muses, “My favourite part of the job — is everything, really! I love working out ideas for a piece, I’ve come to enjoy the editing process, collaborating with writers, photographers, illustrators, and more recently, partnering with brands that we love to create ideas and concepts that tell a story well. I love being able to think about food every day, that reading is a part of my job, that I get to work alongside someone I admire and respect, and learn from every day.”
She further elaborates, “The challenging parts are that we have to figure out things like accounts and finance, revenue and billing – things we never had to think about before. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely job, so you need to build discipline and strength of mind to stay focused and survive the gruelling days.”
Just A Taste
With more than one success story under their belts, you would think that they would take some time off to rest on their laurels, but Aysha and Anisha are already cooking up new schemes.
Aysha says, “We have several of projects ahead of us — we’ve received a lot of requests to do more podcasts, so we’re aiming to step that up. We plan to take the Goya Cookbook Club to more cities — we want to meet our community! And we’re going to stay focused on bringing you the best in food journalism every week.”
Anisha agrees, “We’re always trying to keep it new and exciting, hosting more events and finding new talent to work with. Look out for some exciting news on our social media channels soon!”
Beautifully illustrated and penned, each article featured in the Goya Journal introduces something new to your palate. From deconstructing the traditional Onam sadya feasts to studying the anatomies of more fantastical fictional ones – the Goya Journal is a breath of fresh air for anyone who wholeheartedly enjoys food in both its literal and literary forms. We can’t wait to see (and taste!) what Goya Media has in store for us next.
Ingredients For Success
We ask all our interviewees if they have any habits that have helped them on their road to success. Anisha and Aysha had some insightful thoughts on the subject.
Anisha says, “I, personally, have found that a routine is key to keeping me focused and sane. I try to exercise in the morning, make a to-do list at the start of my day. I find sharing my goals with Aysha helps me stay accountable. Whether it’s about reaching out to new talent, writing out a pitch, researching a story, ideating — having a support system to help me stay on track is crucial for me.”
Aysha shares, “Learning to work together as a team has been very important in helping us get to the point we’re at right now. Also, being a writer is a lonely job, it’s mostly you and your words, and a few exchanges with your editor at some point. As an editor and an entrepreneur, however, I’m quickly learning that collaborating with other people and working as a team is extremely important. As an introvert, this doesn’t come naturally to me, but Anisha is excellent at it, and I’m grateful that I get to learn from the best.”
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