I met Puneeta Chhitwal-Varma on Instagram! As a better food advocate, she is on a mission to help a million people change how they cook and eat, and regain their power in the kitchen. Puneeta has been featured on a number of prominent national and international media platforms including CHCH TV, CBC Life, The Social on CTV, Global News, Martha Stewart, BBC World News and CBC Radio. Have fun learning more about Puneeta!

  1. Tell us a bit more about yourself, Punneta!

I am a better food advocate, writer and the founder of MapleandMarigold.com. My blog started out as a love letter to India and Canada. Maple represents Canada and my life here, and marigold with its colour and significance in Indian culture represents my roots in India. After 15+ years building a successful corporate marketing career, I stepped away to take a break and blogging came naturally.

The break didn’t last long and even though at the start, what I wrote was read by all of three people – honestly it was really 2 + my Mom – my passion for words and creating change in the kitchen was growing. I saw how my advice influenced people into making different, better choices in the way they cooked and ate.

Recently, I completed a Food & Mood certificate from Deakin University, Australia. This brought me a full circle and along with my personal research and learning over the years coupled with my roots and experiences in India, I have expanded the conversation beyond just how food tastes and its impact on our physical health. Good food improves our mental wellbeing; it is directly and deeply connected with how we feel. And there’s more. Good food is good for us on a personal level and also good for us on a planetary scale.

Today, I am cooking and teaching people around the world through workshops, videos, writing, media appearances and my Sunday Cooking Club, to help them reconnect with what they eat, reduce their food waste, and make good-for-us, good-for-the-planet choices in the kitchen and at home. 

2.         How did you get started working on TV?

Three years ago, a journalist from CBC Radio reached out to interview me for a story on Indian-Canadian food. I was delighted to share my love of cooking and eating with a wider audience, much bigger than what I was used to on @MapleandMarigold. After that first appearance I pitched a segment for a morning time TV show, and then a podcast and then radio again, and all along I was hooked to the idea of reaching more people with my message – “good food is about more than just how it impacts us on a personal level.”

3. What was your most memorable TV interview? Why?

A few years ago, I was on an early morning Canadian show booked to talk about Diwali and traditional customs in India. My demo table was set up with tealights and candles, traditional décor, Indian burfi (sweets) and I was ready. At least I thought I was! What I hadn’t factored in was that the Canadian election results were announced the night before and the studio was frantic with panelists and political presenters. I went on with the news anchor and somehow the conversation started with my sustainability initiative, that was a side hustle at that time. Admittedly I was delighted to share about making green choices in the kitchen – that was still new to me at that time – but that wasn’t the segment pitch and I was distracted. In the last 15 seconds I just segued to Diwali and picked up the sparkler that was on the table.

Learning of this long story: be prepared with back-up talking points and much more detail than you think you may need on-air.

4. Any ‘fumbles’ during a TV interview? What happened, how did you fix it, what did you learn from it?

I have many more examples in addition to the earlier story. A lot of the TV and broadcast media is live so there’s “no backsies.” Most recently I was on a morning show, broadcasting from my kitchen and somehow Skype just wouldn’t connect. The audio worked but the video at either end was just dark, black. I tried a numbers of things to make the tech work, but nothing did. Finally, I restarted my phone and yes, that worked but I missed my time slot for live on air. It’s live after all. The team at the studio was great and we recorded afterwards and aired the following day but the stress – at least a couple of grey hair!

What I learned: always reboot your technology before a live segment.

5. Can you share 1-2 tips / nuggets of advice for others who would like to work in the media?

I have 3 tips:

Find and establish your voice before you start pitching to media. This is not just the content and what you want to talk about but more about your tone and who you want to be on air.

After you book that first show and you’re writing down your script flow, be clear (to yourself) what 1-2 messages you want to include in the conversation. They may not be directly connected with your segment (best if they are) but are messages that are beneficial to your business. Look for an opportunity to segue so you are able to include them in an organic manner.

Pitch the shows and stations that you like to watch yourself.

6. Anything else you would like to share with the readers?

When you are planning your story ideas, write them down and bounce them off people who know and understand you and your work. Think about the viewers and what they may be interested in. Lastly, be prepared for rejection. It comes with the work and get used to picking yourself up off the ground, and trying again.

Follow Puneeta!

IG @MapleandMarigold

FB @MapleandMarigold

Tw @Maple_Marigold

Website: www.mapleandmarigold.com

Cook with Puneeta at the Sunday Cooking Club. Next session meets on September 26. https://www.mapleandmarigold.com/sunday-cooking-club-2/