How She Went From Tech Expert to Celebrity Chef


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Breaking the mold is standard for Chef Priyanka Naik, whose leap from a secure tech job to the unpredictable culinary world showcases her recipe for turning passion into sustainable success.

A self-taught vegan chef from Staten Island, New York, with roots in Indian culture, Priyanka didn’t find her calling in the hallowed halls of culinary schools. Instead, a less likely setting ignited her passion for cooking—a thriving tech career. But it was her commitment to sustainability and a plant-based lifestyle that truly set her apart in the competitive culinary landscape. Listen to the Behind the Review episode below to hear directly from Chef Priyanka Naik.

“Cooking was a form of expression, a nod to my heritage, and a way to advocate for the environment,” Priyanka said, reflecting on her early influences. “My parents immigrated here in the late ’70s from India, so… food was key to staying in touch with our roots and our family.”

Priyanka’s culinary philosophy is deeply rooted in sustainability, which she views not only as a personal choice but as a global imperative. “What we eat impacts not just our health but our planet,” she said, emphasizing the importance of choosing ingredients that promote environmental health.

Whether cooking at home or live on TV, Priyanka rejects single-use plastics, opts for locally sourced ingredients to reduce carbon footprints, and focuses on whole, unprocessed foods to minimize waste. She crafts each dish with the goal of showcasing that vegan food can be both delicious and environmentally conscious.

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Priyanka’s commitment to sustainable cooking and her vibrant culinary style earned her a spot—and subsequently a win—on a Food Network cooking show in 2017. This victory served as a launching pad for her broader mission to advocate for sustainable living through food.

“Winning on Food Network was a validation, a way to show a large audience that sustainable cooking can be vibrant, diverse, and delicious,” she said. It was the beginning of a larger dialogue about the intersection of cuisine and sustainability.

Priyanka’s victory catapulted her into the culinary spotlight, allowing her to further her mission of sustainable, vegan cooking and publish a cookbook, The Modern Tiffin.

Parallel to her success in publishing, Priyanka has built a robust presence on social media, where she extends her culinary influence beyond the printed page. Her Instagram, YouTube, and blog are not just showcases for her recipes but also platforms for education and engagement on sustainability in the kitchen. She regularly shares tips on reducing food waste, choosing sustainable ingredients, and preparing meals that are both delicious and environmentally friendly.

“Social media has been an invaluable tool for connecting with like-minded individuals and spreading the message about sustainable living,” Priyanka said.

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Her posts, often accompanied by vibrant photos and engaging videos, attract a diverse audience eager to learn about eco-friendly cooking practices. Through these interactions, Priyanka has cultivated a community that is as passionate about sustainable living as they are about culinary arts.

Priyanka’s approach to engagement extends beyond digital platforms. She participates in public speaking engagements and cooking demonstrations, where she shares her story and culinary philosophy in person. These interactions enhance her community connections, providing more opportunities to advocate for a sustainable lifestyle.

“It’s about more than just food,” Priyanka said. “It’s about making a difference in the world through the choices we make in our kitchens.”

With every dish and blog post, Chef Priyanka leverages her platform to connect with and educate her audience about sustainable practices. Whether it’s through Instagram stories, detailed blog posts about reducing kitchen waste, or public speaking engagements, she emphasizes the impact of individual choices on global sustainability. Her ability to weave storytelling with practical culinary advice has launched her into a relatable and inspiring figure in the food community.

For those looking to turn their culinary passions into careers, Priyanka advises embracing their unique journey.

“Believe in your unique path. The road less traveled can be daunting, but it is ripe with opportunities to carve out a niche that is authentically yours,” she said. Resilience, self-promotion, and authenticity are her cornerstones for building a brand that resonates with personal and professional values.

Since her breakthrough on Food Network, Chef Priyanka Naik has adhered to these powerful principles for success:

  • Embrace your unique background to stand out in a crowded field. Chef Priyanka’s path from tech to the kitchen underscores the importance of pursuing your passions, no matter how unconventional they may seem.
  • Make your values a cornerstone of your business. Educate your audience about the impact of their purchasing choices, whether that be for environmental, social, or ethical issues. This commitment can transform customers into advocates for your brand.
  • Leverage social media. Use platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn not just to showcase products but also to connect with and educate your audience. A strong online presence can turn followers into a community.
  • Feedback is crucial, whether it comes through social media or direct customer interactions. Use insights from your audience, such as in online reviews, to refine your approach and offerings.

Related: The Top 15 Fast Food Franchises

Subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday. Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pandora and Soundcloud.

Editorial contributions by Charlotte Che and Kristi Lindahl.

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