Home truths: Celebrity chefs are taking tips from common people

Feb 23, 2014, 10:32 IST | Anu Prabhakar

Celebrity chefs have begun to reach out to ordinary folks before a mammoth project, like a TV show. Some chefs talk about how they got their biggest tips from the unlikeliest of people and places, like Jain homemakers and the streets of Lucknow

Celebrity chef Saransh Goila didn’t get his best cooking tip from a culinary college. Instead, he got it from the streets of Lucknow.

Chef Saransh Goila at the Gurudwara Anandpur Sahib in Punjab where he made a big pot of dal that weighed 200 kg
Chef Saransh Goila at the Gurudwara Anandpur Sahib in Punjab where he made a big pot of dal that weighed 200 kg 

“In kebabs, I always used to add corn flour, maida or besan to bind. But in Lucknow, I saw cooks making them with dal, which makes the kebab melt in your mouth,” remembers the chef, who has hosted the popular food show, Roti Rasta aur India. He also makes sure that trusted friends have a taste of his food, just to ensure that he has the intricacies of the cuisine pat down. “I have learnt so many things from people. For instance, I learnt that putting saffron in warm milk gives you better flavour and colour,” adds the young chef.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake by Chef Mehrishi
Chocolate Zucchini Cake by Chef Mehrishi

Celebrity chefs may not always know it all. And they have no qualms admitting it. With an increasing number of chefs having their own food shows on TV and mammoth cookery books to their credit, chefs, armed with research teams have started reaching out to common people, like homemakers, for their inputs.

Research makes a chef perfect
Chef Gautam Mehrishi would agree. Mehrishi hosts Jain Jalsa, a food show dedicated to showcasing Jain food. He explains that research for the show included trips to various Jain temples in the city and reading books. Interestingly, it also included calling over more than 20 Jain homemakers over to the studio for discussions. “The homemakers were the best people to tell us about cooking Jain food on a daily basis,” says Mehrishi. “A majority of Jains do not use cauliflower, spinach, makhhan (butter) which is freshly prepared. They also don't mix starches in their food. We had to keep all this in mind,” he says, adding that the discussions took place over a couple of days.

Anupy Singla, a US-based former journalist turned author of Indian vegan cook books, offered free food tastings to her Facebook fans and friends from Chicago while working on her two cook books. “This was critical in ensuring that people taste my food before they bought the book,” explains Singla, adding that she sought feedback from people via social media while writing her third cook book, to debate the use of words like roti, phulka, and chapati with
desi fans.

Out of necessity?
Chef Michael Swamy, food stylist, author and the head of research teams behind several food shows, breaks some myths at the outset. “Chefs don’t do the research,” he says, drily. In most cases, speaking to great, but low-key, unprofessional, cooks becomes more of a necessity.

“Unlike chefs, homemakers don’t use readymade pastes. They make everything from scratch. You can get certain nuances right only once you talk to home cooks,” explains Swamy. “For instance, you don’t have to garnish every dish with coriander leaves, even though chefs do tend to do so,” he grins.

Go to top