Aishwarya Iyer Is Proof That Career Pivots Pay Off

How this successful founder designed the life of her dreams.

By Isabelle Eyman

Up next, the founder and CEO of Brightland Aishwarya Iyer’s morning routine.

Dream as we might, there’s no such as a single quick-fix that can solve your kitchen woes. But when time is limited or you’re just beginning to embark on your cooking journey, arming yourself with foolproof techniques and good ingredients can be an efficient, economical, and inspiring approach. Along with sharp knives and good cookbooks, we’ve always counted olive oil among the things that can take our cooking from good to plate-clearing great. And while we’re well aware of the fruity deliciousness that is high-quality olive oil, we didn’t truly fall in love with the hero ingredient until we discovered Brightland—and the brilliant and creative olive oil advocate behind it: Aishwarya Iyer.

A single spin around the Brightland website and immediate inspiration pours in. The designs are bright, the copy is cheery, and the celebration of beautifully crafted food products (vinegar and honey rounding out the company’s offerings) is palpable. And behind that commitment to quality is Iyer’s infectious energy and passion for ethically-produced, consciously-sourced, and delicious food.

Coming from the world of public relations, start-ups, and communications, Iyer made the pivot to founding Brightland. Lauded by chefs, amateur cooks, and publications alike (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Food & Wine, to name a few), it’s clear that since its founding in 2018, Brightland isn’t slowing down. And of course, Iyer isn’t either.

We sat down with Iyer to reflect on her major career pivot, get the scoop on her must-have morning practices and beauty products, and, of course, chat all things olive oil.

Step inside Aishwarya Iyer’s morning routine.

Aishwarya Iyer

What drew you to olive oil? 

After learning that the olive oil industry has had a long history of problems, I wanted to do something about it—but I wasn’t sure what that would look like. After moving to California, I wanted to champion American-made, beautiful extra-virgin olive oil that is also elevated. And that’s where the journey began.

What lessons did you learn from making such a huge pivot in your career?

I came from a career of start-ups and fast-growing businesses. With that experience, I applied many of the lessons I learned, from being nimble to being comfortable with discomfort, into everything that I did. My career was also focused on telling untold stories, so it was a very natural progression. 

I had tremendous amounts of self-doubt and fear. It took over 18 months for me to get comfortable taking the leap, exploring what that fear meant, and why that self-doubt existed in the first place. Nobody took me seriously and I had my own self-doubts, but with time, I was able to overcome both of those challenges.

What advice would you give someone who’s considering a similar leap?

Have a healthy amount of naïveté and remember that your journey is unlike anyone else’s. Even if you spend an ample amount of time learning from other entrepreneurs, your story and your journey is your own. 

Describe a typical day for you.

I wake up, listen to a subliminal, walk my dog, drink lots of hot water, eat some breakfast, and get some kind of movement in. After that, no two days are the same. The day could be spent collaborating with our team, working with our suppliers, coordinating with our farm, strategizing on a new product launch, or conceptualizing a photoshoot.

In the evening, I usually cook dinner. It’s typically a veggie-forward dish with lots of herbs and Brightland oil. Evenings include a glass of wine and reading a book or watching TV. 

What do you eat for breakfast?

I drink a cup of hot water when I wake up, and breakfast is a slice of toast with tomato, black pepper, salt, and Brightland’s ARISE basil oil

What practices help you stay healthy and feeling your best?

I take long walks for fresh air and to clear my mind. It’s also important to have time away from my phone and to get 8 hours of sleep.

Your beauty must-haves?

What’s your must-have cooking tool? 

The Brightland Spout. It fits in, and looks beautiful with, all Brightland bottles for smooth pouring. I’d also add a mortar and pestle for guacamole (I’m a Texan!) and grinding spices. For those who are just starting out cooking, I’d also recommend Material Kitchen’s reBoard. It’s a recycled plastic cutting board. It’s lightweight, easy to clean, easy to pick up, and comes in really cute colors.

What are your favorite cookbooks and why?

À Table by Rebekah Peppler. This beautiful book has thoughtful recipes and makes me feel like I’m in Paris. It’s so charming and has gorgeous photos. 

Vibrant India by Chitra Agrawal. The recipes remind me of my mom’s South Indian food.

Super Natural Simple by Heidi Swanson. This California-style cookbook is simple, vibrant, and delicious. 

What do you always stock in your fridge and pantry?

Always in my fridge: Brightland vinegars, Brooklyn Delhi Tomato Achaar, and Greek yogurt. 

In my pantry, I always keep: Brightland ROSETTE garlic oil, Brightland AWAKE olive oil, Brightland RAPTURE balsamic vinegar, Burlap & Barrel Cobanero Chili Flakes, and smoked paprika. 

How can people get more olive oil into their diet each day?

Olive oil is wonderful to sip on its own! You can also add it to dates, ice cream, dressings, and as a finishing touch for ALLLLL.

Time to settle the debate once and for all: should you cook with olive oil or eat it in its raw state?

It depends on the quality. Good olive oil can be cooked with because of its high smoke point. 

Rapid Fire Questions

What scares you about entertaining? Ensuring that my guests’ glasses are always filled! 

What scares you about cooking? Oversalting something. 

Your signature dish for parties? Warm olives by Brightland’s Chef in Residence, Noreen Wasti. The ultimate addition to any cheese board!

A recipe you always make with olive oil? Yasmin Fahr’s Sheet-Pan Baked Feta with Broccolini, Tomatoes, and Lemon.  

The one meal you always make at home? Seared Paneer with Fragrant Sautéed Peppers. It’s wonderfully crispy and comes together quickly.

Dream dinner guests? Florence Pugh, Barack Obama, Cleopatra, and Oprah.

The perfect dinner party playlist includes… Brightland’s Springtime Tunes for Cooking playlist.

A perfect meal should… nourish and delight. 

It’s not a dinner party without… lovely candles and loved ones. 

Every cook should know how to… not take themselves too seriously!