I often get emails from young bloggers, medical students and doctors who are just starting out. They ask me for advice on how I developed my website and brand and for any tips I may have to help them grow their followings and stand out in a sea of a million blogs. My answer is always the same- that it took many years of hard work, passion, persistence, and good content. The Foodie Physician was not an overnight success by any means. I started the blog more than 10 years ago as a way to share my culinary experiments with family and friends. I had no idea how it would change my life and put me on the path to where I am today. I’m an Emergency Medicine physician, food blogger, cookbook author, brand ambassador, media consultant, and mom. I wear many hats and I love them all.
The funny thing is that I didn’t cook much growing up. I didn’t have to; as the youngest child in a family of terrific cooks, I grew up watching my parents cooking homemade Indian food together every night. It wasn’t until I started my residency that I really started cooking on my own. I was living in New York City, experiencing some of the best food in the world. I also quickly became obsessed with the Food Network and would watch Rachel, Giada and Ina for hours on end. They inspired me to experiment in the kitchen and I soon learned that I had a knack for cooking. It was around that time that I also met my future husband Pete — a fellow resident, foodie and enthusiastic guinea pig for all of my kitchen creations. Cooking was a way for me to relax and unwind at the end of a stressful shift in the ER. I would lose myself in chopping, sautéing and baking and all of the craziness of the ER would just melt away.
One day, completely on a whim, I decided to enter a cooking competition on the Food Network website. The next thing I knew, I was being flown out to Los Angeles to compete on a show called Ultimate Recipe Showdown, hosted by Guy Fieri and Marc Summers. Unfortunately I didn’t win the competition but the experience definitely ignited a spark in me and for the next few years, I entered the cooking competition circuit. I competed in many cooking contests, traveled around the country, and won lots of cool prizes.
Eventually, after doing this for a few years, I decided that I wanted to learn more about the fundamentals of cooking so I enrolled in culinary school. By this time, I was an attending physician so my work schedule had improved. I enrolled at the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE) in Manhattan and for a year, I worked in the ER during the day and attended culinary classes at night. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I learned so much. At the end of culinary school, I represented my school in a national cooking competition sponsored by Grey Poupon. I trained for months and ended up winning the competition and a $20,000 scholarship that paid for my culinary school education.
It was while I was a culinary student that I started my blog, The Foodie Physician. I didn’t know anything about blogging at the time but my husband and I opened an account on Blogger one night and I just started writing! At first the blog was just a hobby, a way for me to share what I was learning in culinary school. But then after a while, it began to grow and grow.
I took nutrition classes and started to focus on merging my medical and culinary backgrounds on the blog. My husband Pete and I took food photography classes and expanded the blog to a broader health and wellness website focusing on food as preventive medicine, also known as culinary medicine. After treating patients with chronic diseases in the Emergency Room every day for many years, I was tired of simply writing prescriptions. I started writing about ways people could take control of their health through dietary and lifestyle changes. Following a well-balanced, nutritious diet full of whole foods and leading an active and balanced lifestyle can help prevent many chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. I believe that we have the power to take control of our health and it starts in the kitchen so one of my main goals is to get people excited about cooking!
Over the past few years, as The Foodie Physician has grown, I’ve taken on other roles beyond food blogger. I also work as an ambassador and/or spokesperson for companies and groups such as the US Highbush Blueberry Council. I also started venturing into the world of media doing regular cooking segments on the local news and even appearing on national TV shows like The Dr. Oz Show. Along the way, I also wrote a few cookbooks (Natural Pregnancy Cookbook and Natural Baby Food). In addition, I’ve also lectured about culinary medicine at conferences and medical schools. I’m happy to hear that many medical schools have expanded their nutrition curriculum in recent years and many offer culinary medicine courses for their students.
I won’t lie — it’s not easy wearing so many different hats and there are times when I feel completely overwhelmed or burnt out. Sometimes I envy the food bloggers who do this as their sole career and can churn out multiple posts every day. But then I step back, take a breath, and remind myself that I’m exactly where I want to be and I wouldn’t change a thing. I have a wonderful family, a great work life balance and I’m able to do what I love. I’m always eager to see what opportunities are going to come my way. People often ask me what’s next for the Foodie Physician and the truth is that I’m not sure what the future holds or what direction I’ll head in. But whatever it is, I’m definitely excited to find out!
Sonali Ruder, DO is a board-certified Emergency Medicine physician, trained chef, mom, and cookbook author. She is the founder of The Foodie Physician website and the author of several cookbooks including the Natural Pregnancy Cookbook and Natural Baby Food. She can be followed on Instagram and Facebook @thefoodiephysician and on Twitter and Pinterest @foodiephysician.