All Images by @TheHealthyTriniGirl
Rayne Kirpalani is a Caribbean born and raised Chef, food stylist and photographer living in the big city, as she so puts it. Based in Balham, Kirpalani is otherwise known on social media as The Healthy Trini Girl, a brand she created for herself whilst studying at Camberwell College of Art and Design. Through crafting a feed of colourfully curated images Kirpalani has amassed a strong following, further cultivating skills in food styling and photographer in the process.
I met up with Rayne Kirpalani in the ever-vibrant Brixton, the South London district with one of the biggest populations of Caribbean people in the United Kingdom. Before venturing around Brixton, to eat cupcakes (gluten free, of course) and sip on coconut water (not a shop-bought bottle), I got to know The Healthy Trini Girl herself.
Where did you develop an interest in both Photography and Food?
When I was in high school I did Fine Art photography as my final project. I was photographing the people as well as the architecture of Trinidad and tobago. I was very intrigued by the amount of colours, different shapes and quirky patterns that I was surrounded by. I then decided I wanted to pursue it as a career, so I moved to London when I was eighteen and went to Camberwell College of Art and Design.
In my final year, I started a food blog, where I created my brand as The Healthy Trini Girl, and it just took off. I was like “oh my God, I need to do something with this!”. So I decided to do it as my final major project, making a cookbook which focused on students who want to eat healthy and be on a budget. I tried to cater towards them. When I told my tutors that I wanted to do it, they were like “no, you’re not doing it. It’s not allowed. You’re in the Fine Art programme, why would you want to do food photography?” That kind of gave me the inspiration to show them that this is what I wanted to do.
I started off by doing smoothies, salads and granola bowls, using Instagram as just a way to gain feedback on how I should photograph my work. That’s how I decided that this is what I wanted to do as my career.
How do you think social media has changed the way people look at food and Photography?
It’s made it easy. It’s free. It’s accessible to everyone. When you look around now everyone is on their phones. You go on a train, you go on a plane, you’re anywhere and you see people scrolling. What are they on? They’re on Instagram, on some form of social media, looking at people’s work they don’t even know. They’re being inspired by different artists from all over the world.
It’s a great platform for artists and people who are trying to create a brand and an identity. Everybody now has a phone and everybody is now on social media. If you’re not, it’s like “what are you doing with your life?!” Social media is how we communicate with each other, more than anything else now.
Food is now booming all over the world. People’s palettes are changing. They want to experiment with new foods. They are not hesitant or scared to try new things.
Being West Indian, being Trinidadian, how does that influence your work?
I think it just adds soul. Diversity, colour and a certain kind of vibe. It influences key ingredients you use, the way you describe your food andthe kind of food that you cook. People are intrigued by this kind of language and how you represent yourself. I think being someone from the Caribbean and being in London, which is such a melting pot of diversities, people embrace what you have to offer. Food is now booming all over the world. People’s palettes are changing. They want to experiment with new foods. They are not hesitant or scared to try new things. So I think having something different to bring to the table adds something special.
You trained at prestigious culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu. How was that experience?
One of the best experiences of my life! I did nine months of intense, intense, intense cuisine and pastry training. I met the most amazing chefs in the world and learned how to cook. I tasted the most amazing food. In that programme, I met people from all over the world, so I was able to go to Israel and to Dubai. I was able to taste new foods I had never dreamed about. Being exposed to different types of flavours was amazing and really important if you want to be a Chef. You need to be aware of all these different spices and herbs that exist out there. To be given that opportunity was amazing.
Also, you’re in an environment with people who just love food and to me there’s nothing that can replace that feeling. Spending twenty-four hours a day with people who just love talking about food, tasting food. Everything was around food. You meet people who have never even picked up a knife or a fork, but they’re there because they want to learn how to cook and share the same passion for food. All of this made attending Le Cordon Bleu the best experience of my life.
Being part of the market and having these crazy people shouting and screaming, gives me the energy to want to cook.
From choosing ingredients to create meals and menu, where do you get inspiration to create?
I usually feel for something healthy or something in-between healthy. I look for inspiration via my recipe books, Pinterest, Instagram and I try to create a new meal using all those inspirations. I usually go to the markets and source fresh fruit, vegetables and then I’ll try to go to my local butcher or fishmonger and I get the best produce. I don’t really like going to supermarkets because I can’t really tell how fresh it is. I prefer to support the local vendors and farmers. Markets are more fun, more energetic and I can see where my food is coming from. Being part of the market and having these crazy people shouting and screaming, gives me the energy to want to cook.
What would you say is the key to a great dish?
Flavour! Oh God, it needs to have more than just salt and pepper! I go crazy when all I can taste is salt and pepper. I think the food needs to be made with love and have a lot of flavour. I think the person who created it needed to have put effort into to it, and not just do it for the sake of creating. Otherwise, I’m not interested because I could just go to KFC or McDonald’s get that same thing. So I think flavour and the person behind it to have given their everything into making that dish— is passionate about the food they make. That is key.