Rahul Akerkar is caught making modaks with actress Sonali Kulkarni. Photo: Jayprakash Kewat
“I started working at restaurants when I went broke while studying,” says Rahul Akerkar, the man behind one of the city’s most-loved restaurants. Looks like the chef-restaurateur behind Indigo, Indigo Delicatessen and Neel in Mumbai is busy cooking up something fun. In an interview with India Food Network, the Bombay boy and celebrity chef shares his Ganeshotsav memories and tells us what's keeping him busy.
How did you chance upon food as a career?
I didn’t plan it. It just happened. I started working at restaurants because I was broke. After finishing Biochemical Engineering, I wanted to pursue a PhD, but it didn’t work out. By this time I had started enjoying food and cooking. So, that’s how I am here.
You are all set to launch your first food channel on YouTube. Tell us what viewers can look forward to.
It is all about my journey with food. It could be on the road or at some of the restaurants I like to eat at. I will also be cooking and talking about my experiences on the way.
Being a Maharashtrian and growing up in Mumbai, what are some of your fondest Ganpati memories?
I vividly remember spending Ganpati at my grandparents’ house in Nashik. My ajji (father’s mother) was a great cook, who would make modaks and karanji and we’d gorge on the variety of food. I also remember patiently watching her cook up some delicious meals in the kitchen.
If you were to give a twist to the traditional modak, what would it be?
Frankly, I would not like to change it. For me, the filling prepared with gur and khopra is unique, and the entire steaming process makes it delicious. I am not fond of the flavoured ones that are a rage at the moment. So, it has to be the ukadiche modak in its purest form for me. Interestingly, I also learned how to make it recently!
Where do you like to eat Maharashtrian food in Mumbai? Any favourite dish?
My favourite has to be Anant Ashram. Of course the best Maharashtrian food has to be in the family homes. I love sol kadi and valaachi usal and amti prepared by my grandmother. I also like some of the more coastal Maharashtrian dishes as we originally belong to north Goa.
With so much happening in the dining space in north Indian or even south Indian cuisine, why do you think no one is exploring Maharashtrian food?
That’s a good question, but I am not sure why Maharashtrian food has not been commercially exploited as much as north or south Indian food. But, given a chance I would love to go back to my roots and explore the cuisine.
What else is keeping you busy?
Travelling, tasting and eating food are a few things that are keeping me occupied. I have no specific agenda at the moment.
Check out Rahul Akerkar's teaser of his food channel 'Talking With My Mouth Full' here: