By Pushpesh Pants |
Update: March 08, 2022 2:30 p.m. STI
New Delhi [India], Mar 8 (ANI): There was a time when chiefs were chiefs, but nowadays we have a plethora of prefixes to identify them. Some prima donnas like to be addressed as “celebrity chefs” while others identify as “master chefs”. Then there are the “Michelin Star Chefs” who are thought to have unfurled India’s culinary flag across different continents and there is no shortage of “Heritage Chefs”, repositories of long-lost recipes under threat. extinction and traditional tricks of the trade.
Those who have taken the prescribed courses and graduated from a hotel school or institute in their country or abroad believe that the intruders have really devalued and diluted the designation. What has added to the confusion is that sometimes skilled professionals continue to juggle the hats they wear. There are entrepreneurs/partners/owners chefs and the latest wave to surge like a tide are home chefs.
Home chefs are not considered professionals in the strict sense of the term as they are neither armed with the prescribed qualifications for the trade nor employed in a hotel or restaurant. Ironically, they cook regularly – twice a day in most cases. They are housewives or housewives.
The late Jiggs Kalra, culinary impresario extraordinaire, often said that these women, young and old, are the true guardians of our culinary heritage. They possess rare recipes passed down from generation to generation as family heirlooms no less resplendent than heavy silks, brocades and jewellery.
Home chefs too – at least some of them – have mastered the art of juggling the hats they wear. Some have participated in reality TV shows titled with the same name and, as winners and runners-up, have joined the group of selected chefs. Others have transitioned into hotels as consultants on regional/sub-regional or ethnic cuisines. Well-researched cookbook authors have also found it convenient to branch out into hands-on commercial cooking. The regular “pop-ups” of home chefs in star hotels are an emerging trend not to be missed.
In the capital alone, home chefs have enabled food lovers to indulge in regional delicacies from different parts of India. Rani Jinsi cooked the Kashmiri Pandit Waazwan and managed not to repeat her menu. The perennial favorites are of course there, but much of the cuisine features lesser-known specialties. Rotating menus are dotted with Anglo-Indian Tea Garden roasts.
Sneha Lata Saikia introduced the flavors of Assam and the North East. In addition to the pop-ups, she imagined the new concept of “table for six”. Guests are invited to specially prepared meals at his CR Park residence and enjoy exotic dishes in friendly company.
Ms. Beg offers a small but delicious repertoire of Hyderabad-biryani, mirchi ka salan, baghare baigan and double ka meetha – from her home in Paschim Vihar. Prema Kurian’s guarantees a fabulous spread of Kerala that is inspired by the desire to introduce non-Malayalis to the diverse gastronomic heritage of its state.
Sirittiya Bora and her husband Anirban (alas, no longer with us) presented resplendent Thai and Bengali dishes that explored exotic flavors beyond the clichés. From the tiny kitchen of their flat in Indira Nagar Aroi, the graphic designer couple’s brainchild has reached every corner of the NCR.
In Mumbai, Rushina Munshaw Ghildhiyal spearheaded the revival of Uttarakhand’s Gadhwali food. Like Sneha in Delhi, she is a brilliant meal preserver for a small number of guests. The menu keeps changing with the seasons. Rushina is a bestselling author, consultant, educator and regularly collaborates with top chefs. She is interested in traditional knowledge about ingredients, nutrition and seasonality.
It’s not like all home chefs are women. Rajesh Raghunathan, a Chennai graduate in business management, popularly known as the “singing chef”, is breaking many stereotypes. He anchored numerous TV shows cooking with his mother. His cooking and travel show unveiling South India for North Indian audiences (in Hindi) was just amazing. He represents the younger generation of Indians who follow what their heart tells them and are not afraid to choose the road less travelled.
The lockdown imposed due to COVID-19 has had a negative impact on home chefs. Hotels closed suddenly and the “pop ups” stopped. The small takeaway business was ruined before it could take off.
Some families have been devastated by the deaths caused by COVID-19. Among the victims were Anirban and Mr. Jinsi. Babeeta Saksena, who was very active in providing a platform for home chefs and organizing in different cities, has also been claimed by the virus.
With conditions back to normal, home chefs began preparing for the second act. Their beginnings had aroused interest in their work. The support is not lacking either. Renowned foodie and culinary impresario Rocky Mohan started Home Chef Ping to help talented chefs build branding and marketing.
We are optimistically awaiting the charge of the home chef brigade!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the above article are those of the author and do not reflect those of ANI. (ANI)