My tryst with cooking began sheerly by accident when I was a teen. My mom was unwell and being the eldest one, I had to manage the kitchen one day. Till then, I had assisted my mom occasionally but had never cooked anything independently. So for the first time, I cooked a typical Maharashtrian meal and irrespective of the taste, it was appreciated by everyone just out of their love. When I went to meet my mom in the hospital, she looked at her young apprentice with such pride! That day is etched in my memory forever! It taught me three important lessons:
- Way to everyone’s heart is through the stomach.
- The happiness of feeding someone is unparalleled.
- And there is a chef hidden within each one of us waiting to be let loose.
What started as a hobby years ago turned into my passion for baking and cooking so much that I eventually made it my career. Over the years, I experimented with variety of cuisines learning from whoever was willing to teach me. From my mom and mom-in-law to friends across India, from friendly street food vendors to chefs in elite restaurants around the world, from recipe books to TV shows and internet, they all became my Gurus. With my own experimentation and learning over the years, I never realised when my kitchen transformed into a culinary studio!
I am sharing a few realisations from my joyous and exciting culinary journey over the years for any one eager to bring out the chef within.
- Live to Eat.
As George Bernard Shaw rightly said, ‘There is no love sincerer than the love for food’. One has to be passionate about food to excel in the culinary field. I meet many people when I am conducting culinary workshops. Be it home makers, young army doctors posted in Himalayas, school and college kids, those with busy careers or people retiring after long successful career and now exploring their passions, they all have one thing in common – their love for food. This is perhaps, the most important thing !
- Knowledge of ingredients is of utmost importance.
Different cuisines require different ingredients. It is important to understand the role of each ingredient and how it interacts with other ingredients to create that awesome dish. Local ingredients are the best to use as they are easily available at reasonable prices and are fresh.
- Learn the correct skills and techniques.
Cooking with someone’s recipe without knowing the techniques can be a disaster! By learning the right techniques, you can improvise and experiment rather than being bound by a recipe. Internet is such a huge store-house of information, videos are available or one can join culinary schools or attend workshops to learn.
- Equip your kitchen with right tools and equipment.
Right tools and equipment not only reduce efforts but also help you get that perfect finish. So go ahead and arm your kitchen with quality tools and equipment.
- Is cooking an art or science???
This age old debate still continues. In my opinion, cooking and baking is as much a science as an art. Knowing food science gives you an edge.
- Keep experimenting!
Keep a journal, document the recipes you are working on, the minor and major improvisations that you make. Every iteration will perfect the recipe.
- Learn to read a recipe.
Numerous recipes are available on the internet, but you should be able to discern a good recipe from a bad one, adapt it your conditions depending upon the availability of ingredients, climatic conditions like temperature, humidity and the taste you want to achieve.
- Be confident and bold.
Enter the kitchen with that confidence. Be bold and innovative. Even if a dish fails, analyse and prepare to make it again.
- Be creative.
Plating is as important as the the taste and flavour of the dish. Great presentation can turn your party into a grand success as it will also be a visual treat.
- Cultivate your signature dishes.
It is something people will identify you with. Identify and stock your kitchen with those magic ingredients that will lift your dish to the next level.
- Live to Eat.
So let go of any inhibitions, explore the culinary world and bring out that chef in you! As the Star Wars Jedis say, may the force be with you!!!