Did you know that there’s such a thing as a food stylist? Neither did I but this is but one of the titles that Kenyan creative digital storyteller, media personality and all round food lover Miss Mandi holds.
I got to speak with the lovely Miss Mandi as she made the announcement on the release of her first E-book cook book, ‘Fuel Your Body Goals’ that is a beginners’ guide to clean eating. She is also back with a new season of Kenyan Christmas Throwdowns this December with loads of new delicious recipes, engaging content, extra hacks plus tips to elevate classic festive dishes.
Who is Mandi Sarro?
Mandi Sarro aka Miss Mandi is a media personality, digital story teller, food stylist and food vlogger not forgetting a lifestyle vlogger as well. I’ve been in the digital space telling stories for about 6 years now and it’s exciting that every year things keep changing.
Who exactly is a food stylist?
You see the food you’re seeing at Big Square’s menu? Your girl did that.
Basically food styling is making the food look edible for people to want to purchase it. It’s like building a big beautiful burger. Like product building.. actually it’s more of virtual merchandising
There’s so many layers of food that guys don’t know about but I hope that they’ll be open to learning because there’s just so much to know.
Why not? I mean we eat food everyday and I realized that when I moved back home, I felt like people were cooking food just for Kenyan audiences and we just can’t stick to the same cuisine all the time, so I decided to bring my own flair to it; thus the name Throwdown. I don’t care to colour within the Kenyan lines. I’m more concerned about telling things in my own way, in my own language and colour.
I’ve never forgotten the first time I made a meal. The light went out (shout out to Kenya Power) and I remember I was making matumbo and it just didn’t come out right. The whole family looked at the dish like oh my God, who made this. From that day, I decided that no matter the circumstance, I will always strive to make food that will make eyes pop wide open (in a good way lol)
Also, Saturday and Sunday dinners were always a big thing for us and Christmas was (and still is) one of my favorite seasons because it brings about all these memories that I have had of Christmas when growing up in Kaloleni. We would always help with the prep the night before. That’s why I look forward to always enhancing the classic Christmas meals with that extra oomph during the Kenyan Chrismas Throwdowns
The second reason is because I moved back home and I was a girl with an accent and I was different, I was consistently trolled and people assumed that I thought I was better than them so one day, I had my friends over in December and I made chicken the next morning, took a picture and uploaded it online and used the #MissMandiThrowDown tag and that was it. That’s kinda where it all started.
I already have my first e-book out and what I’ve learnt in this period is there’s space for you to be whatever it is you dream of. You just need to be consistent at it and find new creative ways to challenge the space you want to get in to.
If I told you the full scope of what I do, you’d really be amazed. I hadn’t even mentioned that I do influencer consulting. Basically, brands reach out to me to create the infrastructure for influencers to create content for campaigns. There’s even food festivals, brands and banks that are getting in touch with me, I mean it’s crazy.
To go back to your question, the good thing about doing things that you’re passionate about is as much as there’s going to be burn out days, you’ll still find a way to rest and get back on to the horse. There is time, you just need to create it for yourself. I love that I have an evening show because it gives me the time during the day to make stuff happen.
Why the Kenyan Christmas Throwdowns?
As I mentioned earlier, Christmas is one of my favorite seasons because it brings about all these memories that I have had of Christmas when growing up in Kaloleni. We would always help with the prep the night before, from marinating the meat to waking up to make the food. It always reminds me of the togetherness that the holidays bring. That’s why I look forward to always enhancing the classic Christmas meals with all my extra sauce during the Kenyan Chrismas Throwdowns.
‘Fuel Your Body Goal’ is your first cook book e-book. What inspired the decision to publish and who was your target?
Well, I started my fitness journey a few years back with Just Gym It and I got a lot of questions as to why and how I lost weight, manage to keep fit and still get to eat all the yummy dishes I make. The questions were the same and I thought, what if I simplify this for you, Kenya-nise it and put it all in an affordable e-book you can refer to.
Another thing I realized is that there’s never been an entry point about Kenyans being taught about nutrition. The idea that exists in Kenya about nutrition is eating kienyeji veggies, ngwacis and ndumas and drinking uji but you actually don’t know the nutritional benefits behind these foods. That’s where I come in. I simplify it for you, take away all the big words, show you that you can make nutritious and delicious meals with ingredients you can easily find in your supermarket or mama mboga without breaking your bank.
Having curved out your niche as a virtual storyteller, you have partnered with both local and global brands over time. What are some of the tips and life hacks that you would share with lifestyle influencers?
1. Really focus on your passion point. I feel like a lot of us are trying to do what the next person is doing even when they have no expertise in the field. I can’t give you advice on hair, that’s Sheila Ndinda’s field. You get where I’m going with this?
2. Don’t start creating just for the money. Create because you really love it. Create because you’re curious about it. The money will come but it will only come once you start understanding what exactly your passion point is.
3. Pay attention to your data. A lot of us don’t even look into data and that’s where you stand out. I live and breathe my data, if you ask me anything about my networks, my subscribers, where majority of my audience comes from, I’ll tell you from the top of my head. That’s how much I’m invested in my data. You need to understand the demographics of your audience.
4. Please stop thinking locally. Think global. I mean, it’s called the World Wide Web for a reason. The money is out there. Yes, you will have your local audience but you’ll get more once you diversify and create content according to the global network.
5. Network. Network. Network.
So many of our friends and networks can unlock the keys to our careers and fields but they don’t because you haven’t expressed your intentions. You can have a friend who will directly connect you to agencies, brands or companies that are looking for what you’re doing but you’re not curious enough to know where and how these people operate. Make your intentions known.