Nov 25, 2017
The term ‘chef’ conjures up the image of a dapper restaurant kitchen head in his smart white double-breasted jacket and toque blanche. Rarely is the term ever associated with the humble home cooks who put out delicious meals day in and day out. But with the rising popularity of home bakers, food bloggers and home chefs who often supply dishes to food ordering apps, things are slowly changing. However, what do the “professional” chefs think of their homely counterparts? #HomeChefMatters, an all-day conference organised by Godrej in association with the FBAI (Food Bloggers Association of India) and Vikhroli Cucina, offered an opportunity to find out.
Workshops for home chefs
Chefs Ranveer Brar, Rashmi Uday Singh, Kunal Vijakar, Vicky Ratnani, Vineet Bhatia, Hemant Oberoi, Saransh Goila, Varun Inamdar, food writers Kalyan Karmakar and Rushina M Ghildiyal and chef and restaurateur Irfan Pabaney were among those who offered their insights through thought-provoking panel discussions. Home chefs also had the opportunity to benefit from workshops such as tips and tricks on food photography by Nitin Tandon and food presentation and styling by Rakhee Vaswani. Vicky Ratnani shared his expertise on cooking local and seasonal. Lunch break became a major part of the event as it featured forgotten regional delicacies prepared by various home chefs. We were particularly captivated by the flaky “cucumber cake” or “Tausali”, a Konkan and Malwan specialty (recipe at the end of this article).
An impromptu cook-off
But the highlight of the day was definitely a cook-off organised between the numerous food bloggers and home chefs present at the event. They were divided into teams and each had to come up with a dish featuring two compulsory ingredients – Godrej vegetable oils and California walnuts. Amidst all the furious chopping and frying, we were reminded of that oft-repeated saying “too many cooks spoil the broth”. But judging by the presentation of dishes such as “Gonghat me baingan”, Persian brinjal stew and Asian chicken stir fry, this was one time when the cliché didn’t hold true. The winning dish, as judged by Kunal Vijaykar, Rashmi Uday Singh and Himanshu Taneja, was however a mouthful titled “Annanasche Sambhare a Pathare Prabhu”. It was crafted by a team including Youtube chef Pallavi Nigam and baker Shalini Digvijay.
Lost recipes and fresh foods
The theme of the event was “lost recipes” and panellists stressed upon the need to document recipes in order to preserve them over time. While it’s important to innovate, Hemant Oberoi warned, “Don’t forget your roots, or someday the roots will forget you.” Vineet Bhatia encouraged home chefs to be minimalist in their approach, focusing rather on how their food appeals to the five senses. Regarding the question of whether home chefs qualify as “chefs”, Ranveer Brar said, “You have to value your art first before others begin to value you.”
The final panel discussion of the day revolved around the importance of fresh food at a time when more and more people are reluctant to don the apron. Chef Anjali Pathak proclaimed proudly that she cooks for herself every single day. “We all need to take charge of our nourishment. I do love eating out but only for the social side,” she said. Chef Irfan Pabaney admitted that he eats at his restaurant The Sassy Spoon with his team daily but exhorted the audience to cook whenever possible. Along with lost recipes, the discussion also brought up the issue of lesser known ingredients. “If we don’t demand our home-grown super foods, vegetable vendors will stop stocking them,” opined Ankiet, a food blogger.
The event held at St. Regis Hotel in Mumbai, summed up this quote by Julia Child pretty well – “No one is born a great cook. One learns by doing.”
RECIPE: Cucumber Cake or Kakdichi Tausali
1/2 grated cucumber
4 tbsp grated coconut
1 tbsp powdered cashew and almonds
2 tbsp rice flour
1 cup semolina
1 tbsp oil
Mix the grated cucumber, jiggery, grated coconut, cardamom powder, powdered cashew and almonds. Add the rice flour, semolina, oil and mix well.
Line a plate with the mixture and cook in a steamer or oven for 15-20 minutes. Check to see if it’s done with a toothpick or fork.
Upturn the cake, cut into square-shaped pieces and serve.