What is the first thing you notice about food when you take the first bite?
Personally, the first thing that entices me about food is the spice level. If you want to make me love a particular food, make sure it’s spicy. With that being said, one of the crucial components of any dish, for me, is its texture. When you’re having a burger, there are multiple layers which you bite through. A plain old burger might look simple, but there is more than it meets the eye. Each of its different components that makes up a burger have to be at the right texture. If you put sub-par buns, no matter how expensive your patty is, your burger will fall through. If I was a proper food reviewer, I would have shared a more in-depth critique, but I’m just an entertainer who talks about food!
How would you define the perfect food joint?
The food just needs to be there, you know? It should be one of the aspects of a restaurant. For example, at Crimson Cup or Cheez, you get to stay without even having to order anything. You get to stay and hang out with your friends or just spend some me-time. For most of these joints, the target group is students who have little to no money to spare and would like to spend time with friends, this kind of culture among restaurants is essential.
What is your process of critiquing food?
It’s very straightforward. When I’m enjoying the food, I want to relay the message without orating any jargon a professional food critique might use. Rest be assured, I don’t have the qualities to be a professional food blogger or a culinary expert. I am just an everyday guy who’s trying to share his opinion on food, in an unorthodox way, that general people might relate to or just laugh at.
You’re also known for doing paid promotions. Doesn’t that affect the authenticity of your reviews?
This is one of the best parts of what I do, and that is not accepting any paid promotions, specifically, from restaurants. I take apparel sponsors for my food reviews, this way, my reviews stay authentic. Many YouTubers do paid-reviews or promotions for a restaurant, and that’s okay. However, in my case, my credibility as an entertainer is far more valuable than money. I just talk about apparel, from sponsored brands, and make sure the paid promotion is done humorously so that my viewers and fans can consume it as an entertaining content as well.
How would you define cyberbullying? Have you experienced it?
When I first started out with my channel, I was overweight. After posting my second video, I decided to go to the comment section under it, and it tore me apart. It was mostly about body shaming, calling me names, etc. It was insane. I was just a kid back then. People can get ruthless when they are behind a screen. It made me feel horrible.
My other notable experience with cyberbullying was with Takeout 2.0. This restaurant literally offered a burger to anyone who would report my video. And their tactic worked, my video got deleted because few people wanted a free burger.
However, this time the majority of people were entirely on my side. A restaurant which had a rating of 4.8 suddenly had to turn off their rating system because they were getting one-stars. That really boosted my confidence and drove me to do better.
How did you pick yourself up again?
Among the 200 bad comments, there were also 50 good ones. My friends supported me, and the people who’d been there since the beginning. In my opinion, you can recover from anything if you have the support from your friends and family.
Social influencers often use controversy to enhance their engagement. What is your opinion on that?
I wouldn’t really call it controversies. I do not shy away from taking challenges that regular food reviewers won’t. I can name like five YouTubers who make money from sub-par restaurants in exchange for good reviews. But thanks to my fantastic apparel sponsors and fans, I never even have to think about accepting money from good-review hungry restaurants. I get to expose them.
Having said that, if you’re using sensitive topics or incidents to create controversies regularly just to get to the top or to be the centre of attention, then you’re just immoral. However, some people find this type of content binge-worthy. Which is okay because they are watching the most talked about content at the end of the day.
How would you defer Rafsan the Chhoto Bhai and Iftekhar Rafsan?
We are completely different people. When I created Rafsan the Chhoto Bhai, it was someone I wanted to be – an extroverted and an exaggerated version of me. In all honesty, I can only be Rafsan The Choto Bhai when I’m in front of a camera. Super weird! I know. But Iftekhar Rafsan is more of an introverted person. I had a different life before my YouTube channel blew up, and some of the aspects of it are still with me. Even in university, when people come up to me, they wonder why I’m so quiet. It’s kind of sad because Rafsan The Choto Bhai is not the entirety of me. It is a character I play in front of the camera. Deep down, it’s someone I want to be in real life as well.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m almost done with my university, after which I will try to do food reviews internationally for two years. I’m quite sure that I will get a good number of the audience thanks to my current viewers. Shortly after that, I plan to pursue my masters. If odds work in my favour, I will work towards becoming the adjunct faculty at my university. I’ll be continuing Rafsan the Choto Bhai in the meantime of course.
What would you tell your young followers?
Put down your phones. Take a break from the screens. Go out for a walk and get some fresh air – it’s the best feeling ever. If someone’s beside you, try talking to them. Get their perspective on life. Everyone has a story. Whenever I feel down, I go out for a jog and talk to people I meet on the street. It gives me a fresh perspective on life.