Your name sounds strange and I haven’t heard it before. How do you pronounce it?
Believe it or not, this is the most common question I am asked on the blog. You are definitely not alone. My name is Sneh – pronounced Sn-aye (Australian accent/ sounds like hey!) or Sney-hh (the right way/ sounds like neigh). Sneh is of Sanskrit origin and it means love.
I DO NOT answer to Shen, Sue, Snake (??), Shay, Say, Snee and Sneg ( all variations of my name that people have made up over the years because they just can’t grasp the actual version).
Are you a trained chef? Have you studied photography?
No and no. I am a super enthusiastic home cook and my training has been cooking my way through many home kitchens over nearly three decades. Have you watched the movie Ratatouille (one of my faves)? In that Remy the rat can actually put a spoonful of something in his mouth and all the individual flavours/ingredients pop out in his head. That happens to me. Serious! I can sample something, sit with my eyes closed (might look a bit weird) and make an almost accurate list of ingredients and when I play with those ingredients .. Voila! I have the recipe too!
I haven’t studied photography at an institution. I am completely self-taught. I have been stuck to my camera like a Siamese twin since 2001. I take pictures of everything (you have no idea!), but choose to only mostly share food and some lifestyle. On an average I shoot about 1200-1500 photos a week, sometimes more. As stated in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers – The Story Of Success, to achieve mastery in any particular field; one must practice that skill correctly for a total of 10,000 hours. I think I hit that goal with both cooking and photography many years ago.
While we are on the topic of qualifications and training, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering and am a qualified Graphic Designer.
What is Tasty Express?
Tasty Express is a cookbook I wrote in 2013 and was published by Random House in 2014. It has 110 of my most favourite recipes (95 brand new recipes that you won’t find on this blog!) that I cook all the times. These are quick, nourishing, mostly plant based recipes that are a breeze to make and packed with delicious flavours. It has Sold Out now and I only have few signed copies left. You can buy them here.
Do you follow a specific diet?
Eating and knowing what is right for your body type is such a personal and evolving thing. I try my best to eat well and feed my family a balanced diet, but it is hard work when you are busy and there is so much conflicting information out there. So, I try to keep it simple. No labels and no prejudices.
I was raised a vegetarian on the Ayurvedic principles of eating what is right for your body type. I started eating meat as an adult as part of my work with recipe testing. But I prefer not to. Mainly because I feel like my body doesn’t need it. I am a savoury girl and don’t much care for sweet things. I love my coffee but keep it to 3 cups a day. As I grow older, I find that I need less and that a lot of the food that I used to eat when I was younger no longer suits me. I do not follow a specific diet but these are some of the things I find help my health stay optimum
- Mostly vegetarian meals with the occasional seafood and chicken dish.
- Limited dairy, carbs, sugar, alcohol and fruit.
- Fresh home prepped basics without additives – sauces, spice mixes, jams, chutnies, pasta, granolas, breads.
How long have you been blogging?
Why Cook Republic?
I was looking for a cool name that sounded like a club, a community, a headquarter of delicious activity revolving around cooking and photography. Cook Republic had a nice ring to it and the domain was available. It was a no brainer!
So is food blogging your main work?
Not really. Food blogging is mainly a hobby. My blog is my creative playground where I share my food and my life through visuals and words. It also serves as my portfolio which helps me secure work. Food and lifestyle photography, food styling, recipe development and creating content for clients both local and global is my main work.
What kind of recipes can I find on your blog?
Seasonal, simple and mostly plant based recipes that are big on flavour and will feed your whole family.
Are all the recipes on this blog yours?
Yes, yes they are.
Do you test your recipes before posting them?
Yes, twice (at least!).
Then why didn’t your recipe work for me?
I am sorry it didn’t. And I would love to help you figure out why it happened. There can be a number of reasons. Oven temperatures, size of produce and equipment used, the weather in your country, brand of ingredients, typo in my recipe etc. You can always email me and together we can troubleshoot the recipe.
Where do you get the inspiration for all your recipes?
A lot of places. I do not have a set formula for creating a recipe. The food we eat at home and recipes I talk about on the blog are evolved from tasting, talking, exploring and sharing stories and ideas with friends over a cup of tea or a chat at a fresh food stall. I love weekly farmer’s markets and specialty grocery stores. Raw ingredients are always the best place to start when creating a recipe. I also love rifling through Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus which has helped me immensely to understand successful flavour pairings. I read very few blogs and hardly ever watch cooking shows on television but I love looking through my own massive cookbook collection and cooking magazines to get inspired.
Do you read ALL the comments?
Yes, I do. I read and appreciate all the comments as it is a great source of feedback for me and for others seeking answers from my recipes and posts. So thank you for spending precious moments from your day to take the time out to leave me a comment.
I sent you an email with a question about a recipe I tried on your blog. Why haven’t you replied yet?
If you have a question or suggestion about a post/recipe on the blog, it is best to leave a comment on that post. I can get to it quicker than an email because my email situation at any given time is unreal and out of hand (30K+ unread emails needing attention as of this morning!). I read ALL my comments and if there is a question in there, it definitely gets answered usually within a few hours or a day or two. By discussing recipe questions on the post itself, it gives others a chance to read through that and helps them with their cooking queries too.
What camera, lenses and photography equipment do you use?
Prior to 2013, all the pictures on the blog were taken on a Canon EOS 450D. My current camera is Canon 5D MK III and my iPhone 6S. These are some of my favourite lenses I use for different purposes, listed in the order you should think about buying them if you are looking at investing in lenses for food photography.
Canon EF 50mm F/1.4
A great starter prime lens that won’t break your bank. I shot with this lens exclusively until about 2013. I later sold it to upgrade to a 50mm F/1.2L but missed it so much that I bought another one. That is how amazing it is. Great for soft, moody shots. Also great for videography if you are into creating food videos.
Canon 100mm F/2.8L Macro
My most favourite lens for food photography. My cookbook was shot exclusively using this lens and so were some other cookbooks and apps I shot. It is tack sharp and being a macro just puts that wow factor in your food shots. Being a macro, it also allows you to hang back from your subject/board and shoot without having to get too close and literally hunching over the food.
Canon 24-70mm F/2.8L
The versatile all in one lens. Not a prime but better than any prime lens I have used. 80% of my day to day photography for the blog, social media AND client work is using this lens. Perfect for on table shots, food process and action shots (it is fast!) and market shots. I love this lens so much, I would save this in a fire if I could only save one.
Sigma 35mm F/1.4 DG HSM For Canon
I love this lens for those on table shots where a bigger picture needs to be captured (whole table), for street shots, orchard shots, fresh produce farm shots, cooking demo shots, workshop shots .. You get the picture? It is wider than a 50mm so captures a lot more in a shot. And it produces beautiful photos and videos. Super sharp, great bokeh, fab colours. The Sigma is oodles cheaper than a Canon and having tested the Canon 35mm, I must say the Sigma outperforms it in every way.
Canon EF 50mm F/1.2L
The more expensive upgrade to the lens above. Great for low light shooting and creamy bokeh. Particularly good if you are shooting food portraits in low light or outdoors. A bit slow to focus but has an amazing depth in the pictures.
Canon 24-105mm F/4
I got this in a package with m camera body and used it for a bit. Not a food lens by any means, it is great for zooming in when you are shooting outdoors in good light/daylight and produces some great photos. Would recommend this for food events and general market walking, portrait snapping and people watching at food festivals.
Manfrotto PRO 055XPROB Tripod With 808RC4 3-Way Pan Tilt Head
This is a very sturdy tripod. It also has a centre column that folds down at a 90deg angle to get those amazing overhead table shots (I hardly use this feature because although this tripod supports the weight of my camera with a sandbag on the other end, I find myself hyperventilating with anxiety, worried my camera with the big lens attached is going to come crashing down. Instead I have learned to use my hands and body as a tripod and get those overhead shots without fiddling and fussing). Love this tripod! I use it mostly for client shots and in low light conditions where the camera needs to be very steady, otherwise I am more of a free styling photographer.
Can I use your amazing photos or recipes on my blog or ebook or cookbook?
Thank you for asking. Unfortunately, all my photos and recipes are copyrighted to me and cannot be reproduced on another website or blog unless I give specific permission for it. When you copy my content in its entirety and republish it on your blog, Google penalises my blog and pushes it lower in the search engine results. This makes me very sad. Please don’t make me sad. If you feel my photos and recipes are awesome and want to share the love, feel free to use one or two images and credit them and/or the recipe with a link to my homepage and the recipe page. That would be the right thing to do!
If you feel any of my recipes or photos would be great for your ebook, cookbook or magazine article, please email me to seek republishing rights.
Last year when you did those 12 Food Photography, Food Styling And Cookbook Writing Workshops in Sydney, I missed out. They looked amazing and I was wondering if you were going to do them again as I would love to attend. So are you?
Oh those workshops were so much fun! I literally get a couple of emails EVERYDAY asking about future workshops. So after a long sabbatical, I am pleased to announce that something might indeed be in the works. If you are interested in learning about food photography and styling, make sure you are following me on Instagram because that is where I will announce it first.
How can we get you to talk about our awesome product and share it with your readers/followers? We know if you try it, you will love it. We just know it!!
I do offer paid sponsored blog posts and social media posts. I reserve the right to accept or politely decline taking on your project based on brand alignment with mine, my interest in exploring the product and my reader demographics. To start a conversation and request pricing for all the various content and media packages I offer, please contact me directly at my email address or get in touch with my agent Alex Keating at RGM.
Do your readers know about some of your content being sponsored? How can I know that you aren’t just saying it because you got paid for for it?
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have always maintained the utmost level of transparency across my blog and social media letting my readers know when content is sponsored. Because I take on very select projects that are close to my heart, my readers know that all opinions, thoughts and experiences are honest and thoroughly researched. I would never post something that hasn’t meant a great deal to me or my family, personally.
I have a great recipe/article. Can I send it to you to publish it on your blog with a link back to my website?
Unfortunately, I do not allow guest posting on Cook Republic. This blog is a personal project and all musings and offerings are my own.
I have just started a little business and blog to sell my product and I love your blog so much, I think it will be an awesome place for me to share my passion, recipes, product with your readers. Can you help me share the word about my blog/business? Can I send you something in return?
I love that you are putting yourself out there, good on you! I wish you much success and joy. But unfortunately, I don’t write or talk about something I haven’t come across on my own and loved. I do not accept freebies, gifts, products in return for blog posts, social media posts or the likes unless I have a personal relation with the person or have initiated the collaboration myself. If you still feel like I would be better off knowing about your little space or project, please email me. If I can’t personally collaborate with you, I might be able to point you in the right direction. If I can’t do that, I might still send you a (delayed) email to applaud you for chasing your dreams and wish you the very best.
Will you come and review our restaurant and check out our new menu for a free meal? Will you attend our event/cooking demo and share some pictures on your Instagram? Will you stay at our amazing resort and share your experience with you readers? Will you go on a fabulous all expense paid media trip to _________ and write about it on your blog?
Thank you for thinking of me. Unfortunately, I don’t travel or review restaurants or attend events. Besides working, I am also pretty much a full-time mum to two gorgeous boys which makes it impossible to do any of the above. I also find it awkward to accept favours. So I keep it very straight forward. I pay for what I use and where I stay. I buy what I need. If I love it, I will talk about it and spread the word.