There was a time when chefs were chefs, but nowadays we have a plethora of prefixes to identify them. Some prima donnas like to be addressed as “celebrity chefs”, while others identify themselves as “master chefs.
Then there are “Michelin-starred chefs” who, it is believed, have unfurled India’s culinary flag in different continents, and there is no dearth of “heritage chefs”—repositories of long-lost recipes threatened with extinction and traditional tricks of the trade.
Those who have completed the required courses and graduated from a catering school or institute in the United States or abroad believe that interlopers have seriously devalued and diluted the designation. What has added to the confusion is that, at times, qualified professionals keep juggling with the hats they wear.
There are entrepreneur/partner/owner chefs, and the latest wave to surge like a tide is that of home chefs. Home chefs are not considered professionals in the strictest sense of the word as they are neither armed with prescribed qualifications for the trade nor employed in a hotel or restaurant. Ironically, they cook regularly—twice every day in most cases. They are housewives or homemakers.
Late Jiggs Kalra, food impresario extraordinaire, often used to say that these women, young and old, are the real custodians of our culinary heritage. They possess rare recipes handed down the generations as family heirlooms no less resplendent than heavy silks, brocades, and jewelry.
Home chefs too—at least some of them—have mastered the art of juggling the hats they wear. Some have participated in TV reality shows titled eponymously, and as winners and runners-up, they have joined the select Master Chef group. Others have made the transition to hotels as consultants on regional, sub-regional, or ethnic cuisines. Authors of well-researched cookery books have also discovered it useful to branch out into hands-on commercial cooking. Regular “pop-ups” by home chefs in starred hotels is an emerging trend that can’t be missed.
In the capital alone, home chefs have allowed lovers of food to indulge in regional delicacies from different parts of India. Rani Jinsi has cooked the Kashmiri Pandit Waazwan and managed not to repeat her menu. The perennial favourites are there, of course, but much of the fare showcases lesser-known delicacies. Revolving menus are specked with Anglo-Indian Tea Garden roasts.
Sneha Lata Saikia has introduced the flavours of Assam and the North East. Besides the pop-ups, she has come up with the novel concept of “table for six. Guests are invited for specially curated meals at her CR Park residence and enjoy exotic food in convivial company.
Mrs. 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 Kerala spread that is inspired by her striving to introduce non-Malayalis to the diverse gastronomic heritage of her state.
Sirittiya Bora, with her husband Anirban (who, alas, is no longer with us), introduced resplendent Thai and Bengali dishes that explored exotic flavours beyond cliches. From the small kitchen in their flat in Indira Nagar Aroi, the graphic artist couple’s brainchild reached out to all corners of the NCR.
In Mumbai, Rushina Munshaw Ghildhiyal has spearheaded the revival of Gadhwali food from Uttarakhand. Like Sneha in Delhi, she is a brilliant curator of meals for a small number of invited guests.
The menu keeps changing seasonally. Rushina is a best-selling author, a consultant, an educator, and she collaborates with leading chefs on a regular basis. She is interested in traditional knowledge about ingredients, nutrition, and seasonality.
It isn’t as if all home chefs are women. Rajesh Raghunathan, in Chennai, a qualified business management graduate, better known as the “singing chef,” breaks many stereotypes. He has anchored many TV shows on cooking with his mother. His food and travel show unveiling southern India for North Indian audiences (in Hindi) was simply amazing. He represents the younger generation of Indians who listen to their hearts and aren’t afraid to take the less travelled path.
The lockdown imposed due to Covid-19 has adversely impacted home chefs. Hotels shut down suddenly and “pop-ups” ceased. The small takeaway business was ruined before it could take off.
Some families were devastated by deaths caused by Covid-19. Among the casualties were Anirban and Mr. Jinsi. Babeeta Saksena, who was very active in providing a platform for home chefs and organising in different cities, was also claimed by the virus.
With conditions limping back to normal, home chefs have started to prepare for the second act. Their debut had kindled interest in their work. Support isn’t wanted either.
The renowned foodie and food impresario Rocky Mohan has launched Home Chef Ping to assist gifted home chefs with branding and marketing. We wait with optimistic anticipation for the charge of the Home Chef Brigade!
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Katrina Kaif wishes birthday to Sunny Kaushal with unseen pictures on Instagram
Actress Katrina Kaif shared some unreleased photos from her wedding festivities on Wednesday to wish Sunny Kaushal a happy birthday. In a picture that Katrina shared on Instagram, Sunny made jokes and asked for Katrina’s blessing. While holding Katrina in his other hand, Vicky Kaushal, who was standing close by, maintained one hand on Sunny’s back. In the casual photograph, they were all seen laughing.
In the picture, Katrina was draped in a pink dupatta and donned an orange ethnic attire. Sunny Kaushal was wearing black attire, while Vicky was wearing a yellow and white ensemble. Vicky and Katrina both wore white garlands around their necks.
The picture appears to have been taken at the Six Sense Fort Barwara in Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan, the site of Katrina and Vicky’s wedding. The image showed a number of people in the backdrop.
Sharing the picture, Katrina wrote, “Jeete raho, khush raho (Live long, be happy) (cake and smiling emojis).” Reacting to the post, actor Mini Mathur commented, “hahahah lovvvvvve.” Actor Angira Dhar wrote, “Hahahah laaaaaav this!”
Vicky also wished his brother Sunny on Instagram and posted a picture. Both brothers dressed in white, were seated next to one another in the picture.
“Happy Birthday to the most sarwa gunn sampanna Kaushal! “Love you @sunsunnykhez (kissing face, red heart, and cake emojis),” Vicky captioned the post.
Asha Parekh to become 52nd recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke Award
The 68th national film awards will be presented on September 30 in accordance with the more than 60-year-old tradition by President Droupadi Murmu and Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur, two years after the Covid-19 outbreak put the coveted event on hold.
As the recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke award for 2020, veteran actress Asha Parekh becomes the 52nd recipient of the honour. The previous Dadasaheb Phalke award was given to the star of southern cinema Rajinikanth.
“Honoured to announce that the Dadasaheb Phalke selection jury has decided to recognise and award Asha Parekh ji for her exemplary lifetime contribution to Indian cinema,” Thakur said.
Industry icons Asha Bhosle, Hema Malini, Udit Narayan, Poonam Dhillon, and TS Nagabharana are members of the Dadasaheb Phalke committee.
She worked in more than 95 films and was the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification from 1998-2001,” Thakur added. Parekh was also conferred with Padma Shri in 1992.
The National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), which was founded in 1954, is now in charge of organising the awards, which fall under the purview of the I&B ministry, for the first time.
The government consolidated four film organisations in March of this year, giving the NFDC full authority over all matters relating to the production of documentaries and short films, the management of film festivals, and the preservation of films.
In keeping with tradition, Hon’ble President Draupadi Murmu will be conferring the National Film awards this year,” NFDC MD Ravinder Bhakar said. “It is an honour for the winners and I congratulate them.”
Eminent leaders and figures from the film industry make up the national awards jury, which is chaired by Vipul Shah and includes Dharam Gulati, Sreelekha Mukherjee, GS Bhaskar, S Thangadurai, Sanjeev Rattan, Karthik Raja, VN Aditya, Viji Thampi, Thangadura, and Nishigandha as members.
The ceremony is taking place four years after President Ram Nath Kovind only delivered 11 of the 137 awards, breaking with convention, which saw more than 50 award recipients skip the 65th National Film Awards ceremony in protest.
The remaining prizes were given out by former information and communication minister Smriti Irani and minister of state Rajyavardhan Rathore.
In 2018, 70 award recipients had expressed their intention to boycott the event in an open letter to protest the cancellation of the award presentation. However, a number of the letter’s signatories, including the singer KJ Yesudas and the filmmaker Prasad Oak, later turned up. The honorees clarified in their letter that their action was not a “boycott,” but rather a demonstration of their displeasure with the President’s choice.
TFalguni Pathak on Nehar Kakkar’s recreation of her song: ‘Acche se karo, faltu kyu bana dete ho?’
As Falguni Pathak’s ongoing feud with Neha Kakkar, the veteran singer has said that she is comfortable with her songs being recreated.Recently, Neha Kakkar has recreated Falguni’s famous song, Maine Payal Hai Chhankai, on which Pathak has said in her new interview that she is fine with her songs getting adapted, but they should be done in a right way and shouldn’t be spoilt.Falguni had shared fans’ posts on Instagram Stories in which they had slammed Neha for ‘ruining’ the former’s 1990s hit song. The singer indirectly showed her disapproval of Neha’s version, titled O Sajna. The original song was released in 1999 and featured Vivan Bhatena and Nikhila Palat in the music video. The song was played out as a puppet show in a college fest and was a massive hit.In her interview with Mirchi Plus, Falguni said, “Adapt karo lekin acchi tarike se karo. Remixes ban rahe hai aajkal aur acche bhi ban rahe hai jo humlog bhi stage pe gaate hai. Lekin usko acchi tarah se use karo na. Tum usko faltu kyu bana dete ho (Adapt but do it well. There are so many remixes being made well and even we sing it on stage. But do it well. Why do you spoil it)?”Speaking on her song Maine Payal Hai Chhankai, Falguni said, “I think the song came out in 2000 and till date, it is really fresh. Even when I perform the song now, people give us the same reaction and love that they had on the first day. Usko recreate karo, usme alag rhythm do, make it modern lekin achi tarike se karo na. Uski jo beauty hai, jo simplicity hai usko mat touch karo (Do recreate it, give it a different rhythm, make it modern but do it well. Don’t touch the beauty and simplicity of the song).”Recently, Neha welcomed Falguni on the stage of Indian Idol season 13. In a video shared by Sony TV, Neha called the singer ‘legendary Falguni ma’am’. Falguni sang Garba songs as all from judges Neha, Himesh Reshammiya and host Aditya Narayan played dandiya around her.
Aishwarya Rai’s reaction on north versus south cinema debate
Bollywood actress, Aishwarya Rai, who is busy in promotion of her upcoming film, Ponniyin Selvan: I, was asked about her thoughts on the debate around north versus south films recently. She said that right now was an ‘amazing time’ for Indian cinema as the audience wants to see films ‘from every part’. Many south Indian films, like RRR, Pushpa: The Rise and KGF Chapter 2, have become pan-Indian hits in recent times. Aishwarya said it was ‘evident’ that people are lapping up cinema from across the country.Aishwarya said that the language barrier is being broken amongst the entire country and films from all regions and languages are being welcomed by the entire nation. Over the past few months, many non-hindi films have been box office blockbusters over hindi films. Films such as SS Rajamouli’s RRR, starring Jr. NTR, Ram Charan, Alia Bhatt and Ajay Devgn, were made in Telugu and then dubbed and released into several languages.At an event promoting Ponniyin Selvan: I in Delhi, Aishwarya Rai spoke about films from south India having a successful run in movie theatres across the country. Aishwarya was reported saying, “It’s an amazing time right now, where we need to break away from the typical way of looking at artists and cinema. I think it’s a great time right now, where all these barriers have gone down. People know our cinema nationally. In fact, they are wanting to see the cinema from every part.” The actress further added, “I think this is finally the perfect time where it has become accessible nationally through so many platforms. Everybody can view cinema for what it is, across India. So, I think we need to kind of break away from this conventional way of thinking and help our viewers, our audiences, and our readers also to not slide into that typical way of viewing. Art has always been there, found the audience, and has been appreciated; so, have the artists. But avenues were limited. Today is a great time when it has become accessible to everybody. And proof of the pudding is in the eating, right? It is so evident that people are embracing and lapping up cinema from across the country.”
The perils of ‘perfectionism’
A ploy overused by interviewees, over countless job interviews and employee appraisals, has been to disguise a strength as a weakness. As the interviewer asks the candidate to share his or her greatest weakness, pat comes the reply, ‘I am a perfectionist’. While the interviewee hopes to convey the impression of a meticulous go-getter, it has dawned on me over the years that ‘perfectionism’ can indeed be a serious derailer to people’s careers and life trajectories. This is a roadblock that can be overcome; however, what makes it difficult is that society and work environments often actually laud this trait.
The early years of a person’s career are usually shaped by a focus on achievement and individual contribution. The emphasis is on being reliable, on being down in the trenches, on dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s. ‘Perfectionists’ usually thrive in this environment. But as they get promoted and rewarded, and their responsibilities expand, they need to evolve to lead through impacting and influencing others, rather than through individual contribution alone. Many ‘perfectionist’ managers struggle to make this transition as they are forced to navigate an imperfect world. Using terms from McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory, those whose deep underlying motives are achievement-driven rather than power-driven, find this transformation particularly difficult. ‘Perfectionists’ are also often very harsh on themselves and their teams, setting themselves up for burn-out.
Another phenomenon which often afflicts perfectionists is that of ‘analysis paralysis’. A drive to get everything perfect often translates into a deterministic view of the universe, less tolerant of grey areas, and of ambiguity or uncertainty. This comes in the way of decision-making. I have seen this at close quarters during my years in the investment world, where fund managers would sometimes obsess over getting inconsequential details right in a spreadsheet, while not wanting to ‘bite the bullet’ and come to terms with the inherent unpredictability of investments. As the saying goes, “it is better to be imperfectly right than perfectly wrong”. The rapidly-evolving world that we face today often requires decisions to be made based on emergent patterns rather than perfectly mapped-out parameters.
I often come across budding writers who lament that they have gotten nowhere with their manuscript because each aborted writing session ends with the realization that they have fallen short of the lofty standards they have set for themselves. This mirrors my own experience from my early writing days. While the quest for perfection can spur people on to excellence, more often than not, it instead ends up becoming a noose around the neck. As the feeling of dissatisfaction and being ‘not okay’ becomes progressively shrill, we end up procrastinating and often abandoning the creative pursuit altogether.
Our creative instincts thrive in a free-flowing non-judgmental environment. The harsh glare of criticism and perfectionism serve as an unwelcome ‘censor’, chilling the creative drive and often killing it altogether. It is actually the fear of failure that masquerades as ‘perfectionism’, the lofty standards a convenient excuse to delay having the rubber hit the road.
None of the above is meant to be apologia for shoddy work, or for not striving for excellence. However, to quote British politician Rishi Sunak, “It’s getting that balance right between understanding every aspect of something and then realizing I have done as much as I need to on that and my time is better spent elsewhere”.
What then is the way forward for someone who has the traits for a perfectionist?
At a practical level, whether it is writing a book or preparing a work presentation, we need to be okay with imperfect beginnings, and stop putting pressure on ourselves to get it right the first time. While writing, for instance, till I finish the first draft of my book, I try to switch off my ‘inner critic’. As the saying goes, ‘don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good’.
At a deeper level, it involves a true acceptance of oneself; recognizing one’s strengths and capabilities, but also accepting oneself as a person with flaws, as someone who is bound to encounter failures and make mistakes. In this process of accepting ourselves, we accept others too, and pave the way for deep, lasting connections. Shedding the illusion of perfection is a small price to pay for this reward.
S.Venkatesh is the bestselling author of AgniBaan and KaalKoot, a leadership coach and an investor who has held key positions with JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and Macquarie. He writes about mindfulness and its link to creativity, business and wealth.
Raising a toast to handmade fruit preserves
It was almost three decades back when India heard the footsteps of artisanal handcrafted hundred per cent naturally preserved ‘fruit conserves’.
An English woman married to an Indian who hailed from Bhuira, a small village in Himachal Pradesh, started on a very small scale with multi-fruit and bitter marmalades and preserves with chunks of luscious fruit that eschewed synthetic colours, flavours and preservatives. But people’s palates were not used to the natural taste of these products. They were addicted to brilliantly coloured (artificially) and cloyingly sweet mixed fruit jam. Even single fruit jams strawberry, mango were enhanced with added (synthetic) flavours. It was about the same time that Karen Anand started her venture of gourmet foods near Pune. Both Bhuira and Karen’s kitchen attracted a small but discerning clientele. Karen catered to the uppermost crust of First Class passengers in International airlines and super deluxe hotels. Bhuira carved a niche for itself by introducing new flavour blends and attracting the upwardly mobile Indians who had acquired a taste of homemade preserves and were worried about the added sugar in mass-produced jams.
The words preserves and conserves gained currency during the 1990s to differentiate these from the run of the mill jams. Tatas had come out with an interesting strawberry preserve but it failed to make a mark. After another decade ITC of Welcome Group Hotels fame came up with a line of preserves and conserves that was branded as a product far superior to ordinary jams.
All this while the battle for brands was fought in the marketplace and popular Indian labels changed hands and multinationals with muscle pushed out smaller competitors. Several factors combined to impart a powerful thrust to artisanal fruit preserves. Sustainable became a buzzword. ‘Farm to Fork’ was another phrase that captured the popular imagination. Small once again became beautiful and conscientious citizens were inspired to support village-level enterprises that generated livelihood at the grassroots. Dr Paul set up a women’s cooperative Umang near Ranikhet and trained local women to produce high-quality jams, jellies and pickles from fruits sourced locally. These were sold under the Kumaoni label.
Inspired by these pioneers a group of youngsters tired of corporate life set up Him Nectar Foods in 2015 in Bageshwar and slowly stepped out to the village Pilkholi near Ranikhet. Sushma Nambiar and Jatin Khetrapal remember gratefully the advice and assistance rendered by Bhuira to them when Him Nectar was experiencing birth pangs. Finally, a small factory cum training unit was established in Kalika amidst a cluster of fruit trees. Another corporate dropout who had set up an NGO Himjoli placed his confidence in the new hundred per cent natural product.
This region is famous for its apricots, plums and pears and there was a time when apples were abundant in the Chowbatia Gardens.
Luscious Alexander Pears, Dark Purple Centosa Plums and many varieties of apricots–morpankh, badami and gola are sourced locally. This is the philosophy followed by Bhuira and Karen’s Kitchen. Upgrade skills of local villagers, empower women and come out with a product that matches the global quality.
There are many chefs who use these natural conserves in innovative dishes. CauldronSisterss in Jaipur delight their guests with Alphonso Kalakand made with Alphonso Preserve.
The duo Ratika and Richa prepare natural fruit preserves (strawberries, bael, phalsa, jamun) to enliven cakes and other desserts.
Nishant Choubey loves to work with natural homemade handcrafted in small batches fruit preserves. He firmly believes that marmalades and jams may have been accompaniments to buttered toasts, the use of preserves is restricted only by the chef’s imagination. He has used chunky apricot preserve in his rendering of khubani ka meetha in Michelin plated Indus in Bangkok and has worked the magic of Jamun preserve in smoothie fortified with oats.
Many people harbour the misconception that handcrafted preserves are an exorbitant and unaffordable extravagance. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Top of the line products are available in the range of Rs. 275- 375 for a 330 g jar. You need a small blob–a teaspoon full to taste the nectar!
Ripple effects are clearly visible. It’s an idea whose time has come. From Himalayan hinterland to Sahyadris and the Nilgiris Ranikhet, Pune and Bangalore the preference for artisanal fruit conserves is registering steady growth. The post-2000 generation is given threading labels carefully– ‘nature identical’ flavours are losing ground. Who needs chemical preservatives if you can keep the small jar after opening it in the refrigerator?
Some exotic flavours are also available in sampler baskets in mini jars. Like the resurgence of other handicrafts, this trend is most likely to stay with us.
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