Maryam Vanker is a food blogger and food photographer. Her blog is known as Just Plated where she has a significant following and shares creative cooking and baking ideas. Vanker will also be one of the speakers at this year’s Muslimah Today women’s conference hosted by the Institute for Learning and Motivation South Africa (ILM-SA), where she will be discussing her battle against a rare and life threatening illness. The 2019 Muslimah Today women’s conference will be taking place at the Durban Botanic Gardens conference hall on Sunday, 15 September. Tabloid Newspapers spoke with Vanker about her experience in the blogging world thus far.

Tabloid Newspapers (TN): How did your journey with food blogging and food styling begin?
Maryam Vanker (MV): I come from a background in interior design and after the birth of my twins I wanted to channel my creative ideas into something that would benefit others. Cooking and baking are great passions of mine, as well as food photography which has become a newer and growing interest. These elements combined, gave me the enthusiasm I needed to begin my blog.

TN: What were some of the challenges you’ve faced in this creative industry?
MV: I find one of the biggest challenges is to constantly create new and exciting content for the feed, as well as to capture and hold the attention of an ever-increasing audience. There are many talented food bloggers out there whom I find very inspirational but this also poses a challenge to keep at pace with content creation that’s fresh and edgy while maintaining a high standard of food photography. 

TN: Have you always had a passion for Baking and Cooking?
MV: I think that ever since I got married, cooking and baking became mandatory rather than leisurely. I was then faced with trying to create new recipes that would keep the food interesting on the table. The challenge of thinking up new dishes daily became fun and I would explore different cooking methods, dishes, cuisines and try to perfect authentic dishes found globally. The kitchen is my laboratory!

TN:How do you juggle being a mom of three children and frequently uploading and creating new content?
MV: It is very difficult to juggle being a home-based mom with balancing family life while trying to maintain a creatively curated feed. The key is to find a routine that works and to stick to it.

TN: What have been some of your greatest achievements in this industry so far?
MV: I think that the growth of followers over the past year has been nothing short of phenomenal. It means a lot to me to know that the work I put in is appreciated and benefits all those who follow me. I have grown to know and collaborate with some well-known food brands over the past year and this has been wonderful exposure for both the brands and myself.

TN: What are some of the goals that you have for the future?
MV: I have constant requests to compile my recipes into a book. I hope that with enough time and dedication I can realise that dream.

TN: At the Muslimah Today women’s conference, you will be one of the guest speakers who will be discussing your battle against a rare and life threatening illness. Can you highlight what this discussion will be about?
MV: It is an educational perspective which highlights the struggles I faced during a complicated twin-pregnancy and childbirth. As well as the battle against a rare disease called Help Syndrome of which there is little known. The discussion covers my pre-natal experience as well as my six week hi-care stay and everything in between. It has been a huge life lesson in patience, gratitude, appreciation and perseverance.

TN: If you could solve one issue that effects women, what would it be?
MV: I think that violence against women is a very real and current issue that affects more women than we are aware of. The plight of these women needs to be addressed in order for the issue to be successfully dealt with, as every woman deserves the right to be treated justly with the love and respect she deserves.

TN: Who is your inspiration? 
MV: I take great inspiration from renowned international chefs like Jamie Oliver, Ainsley Harriot and Nigella Lawson, as well as other fellow food bloggers. I think that on social media, the good competition that other food lovers create, keeps us all motivated to produce creative ideas and provide exciting inspiration for our followers.

TN: What is your favourite dish to make?
MV: I love making authentic food from scratch, I particularly enjoy making unique salads. My favourite summer salad is a Thai mango and peanut salad with a ginger and soy dressing.

TN: Favourite Movie?
MV: The Gladiator, with Russell Crowe

TN: Favourite Author?
MV: Daniel Easterman

TN: What quote do you live your life by?
MV: “If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain.” There are no easy solutions in life, it takes hard work and perseverance to overcome difficulties and to grow and be successful at what you do.

TN: What advice can you give to all women, this women’s month? 

MV: You can do anything you put your mind to. Never be afraid to be yourself, to explore your creativity, to chase your dreams and always be true…both to yourself and others. Set goals, work at it and be patient. Good things come to those who wait. 

The entry fee for Muslimah Today 2019 is R300 including tea, coffee, lunch, water and a goodie bag. Sponsorships are available for women who cannot afford this fee. Register online here:  shorturl.at/tEHRV or call 031 207 6155 for more information.