Michael Swamy – Love affair of “The Historian Chef” with Wildlife

There are two kinds of people in the field of wildlife. First, whose primary profession is related to wildlife, and Second, who are professionally into some other field, but they enjoy wildlife and have passion about it. Here is an inspiring story about a person from the Third category who was able to blend his passion and profession into one. Michael Swamy is a world-wide known Food Designer & Chef and along with his passion for cooking, he is fond of wildlife.

His passion for nature and wildlife has led him to create a culinary experience that combines both nature and food. He has authored many books and is a several-time Gourmand Award winner for his amazing work.

We have known Michael as “Chef who wears many Hats” and have read a lot about the Designer Chef in him. But this time he talks about another Hat as Wildlifer. Through this interview, let’s take a tour of his experiences and commitment towards his passion for wildlife and nature to gain inspiration from him.

Who is Michael Swamy?

I have grown up in Mumbai. My mother had her own small production house, so I was always into photography and direction. National Geographic magazines and books were what got me into wildlife. Actually, I wanted to be a veterinarian growing up. I then wanted to make food films and travel films and I went on to become a chef. So, while studying to be a chef in London at the Cordon Bleu, I got into food styling and food photography. Then eventually trips to Kenya and Ireland and over twenty-five years of traveling to Kanha, the passion evolved. Working with my mum I also learned from some of the best photographers and directors and they pushed me into photography. Gradually from simple cameras and then the wildlife urge, made me invest in the large professional lenses. 

What made you interested in wildlife?

 A journey into the magical world of travel and animals by National Geographic magazine and later the videos. David Attenbrough had the acumen to convert anyone to wildlife. In college, I helped out with the Sanctuary Awards by Bittu Sahgal. Growing up one always had a fascination for wildlife. My mum would get rescued rabbits from the company she worked for. There were always pets in the house. It’s a fondness that never went away.

Does your job help you to stay connected with Wildlife? If yes, how?

When you look at the bee and see its role in the world. How without pollination there would be no food and no humans, you see the connection between the farmer and nature. There is a huge connection between food and wildlife and I set out creating culinary experiences in the mountains at Te Aroha in Dhanachuli and then Jim’s Jungle Retreat in Corbett and then with Pugdundee Safaris and a few other adventure-based resorts. It was a culmination of things that I love. Food, Travel, and wildlife

Without animals, there is no food. Nature and the cycle of life go hand in hand. As a chef and photographer, it was about getting people to understand the value of it all. City folks might have forgotten about nature but cooking exotic food in the wild, with local ingredients helps me stay connected to Nature.

How did you learn wildlife photography?

My 25 years of traveling to Kanha and other wildlife sanctuaries have taught me. I learned from observing animal behavior through the lenses. When you know your subject thoroughly you are able to capture the best images.

What do you do to protect the wildlife and wilderness?

You do it by inculcating certain ethics and behaviors in your guests. The experiences which I provide, also get people to think and go back and spread the message of saving the wilds. I always have creative words whenever I post on social media getting people to go about saving wildlife.

Given a chance will you write a book on wildlife or do you already have one/few?

Most definitely and in fact one is already in the process. I am also working on a book on skills one can learn from nature. 

If you can recall, what would be your favorite moment into the wild?

I think every moment is just savoring the forests and all that it holds. Just being in the wild makes me happy. I even have a show called Cooking Wild with Pugdundee where besides just cooking we appreciate the wild and showcase it too.

Any suggestion or learning that you want to give to budding wildlifers or nature-inspired chefs?

Every person needs to spend time in nature and understand it. Nature teaches you life skills and you need to let go of ego and just get into it and be happy

Do you think that having an academic background in wildlife is necessary to explore this field?

Most definitely not. You learn on the way and self-learning is sometimes the best way to enhance and expand your knowledge. I’ve learned a lot by spending time with the locals, understanding their food habits. Being in the jungle through different seasons you also see the migratory species and understand how seasons play a huge role in wildlife. The learning curve is tremendous.

How can non-wildlife professionals get into Wildlife or its conservation? Are there any platforms that provide such opportunities?

PRONAT is a wonderful course run by Pugdundee Safaris. I also step in to be with the participants and this year I also taught many of the various aspects of photography.  

Undoubtedly, Michael Swamy is a role model for many of us and is inspiring the world to give it back to Nature. Scroll through his feed to see his work!

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