The food and the caterers of Bollywood's glamorous weddings
A Bollywood wedding is as much about the food as it is about glamour. Meet the caterers who are making news for their ingenious creations
'Bipasha wanted an all-white cake'
Bunty and son Suchit Mahajan
Made wedding cakes for Bipasha Basu, Akash Ambani and Shloka Mehta's engagement, Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas
When Bunty Mahajan, a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef, uploaded a picture of actor Bipasha Basu and Karan Singh Grover's wedding cake last March, the post quickly garnered a thousand likes. The four-tiered, Belgian raspberry cake was classy and elegant without being extravagant.
"That's exactly how Bipasha wanted it," says Bunty's son Suchit, who helms the business. "An all-white cake that was simple yet charming," he adds. There was also a quirky monkey bride and groom topper made of fondant adorning the cake for a fun factor.
In 2008, the Mahajans were selling their cakes from Bandra's Out of The Blue. "That's when a lot of celebs sampled our cakes," he says. Since then, Bunty has baked cakes for actors such as Kiara Advani, Soha Ali Khan, Shibani Dandekar and Farhan Akhtar, among others. They even whipped one up for Akash Ambani and Shloka Mehta's engagement, but prefer to remain tight lipped due to contractual constraints. "The beauty of wedding cakes is how different components are brought together into something so magnificent."
'Tea bars are for teetotalers and the calorie watchers'
Sandeep and Praneta Kotecha
Founder of The Kettlery
Set up a tea bar at Ritesh Sidhwani's nephew's wedding and for the Adani Group
Sandeep and Praneta Kotecha, founders of The Kettlery, Juhu, have probably one of the most unusual responsibilities at hand: luring guests to pick tea over alcohol at a wedding. And they're good at it, which is why at Bollywood producer Ritesh Sidhwani's nephew, Trishant Sidhwani's wedding at Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur, the Kotechas stood out for their offerings. "We usually recommend 10 flavours spread across hot teas, cold brews, and milk-based lattes. We also add cutting chai and specialty coffee if the client asks for it," says Sandeep. The food accompaniments usually have six to 10 items spread across cookies, tea cakes and savouries. The owners conduct a tasting session with the clients to help them understand the flavours they want for their guests. One of their signature offerings at the wedding was a tea-infused mocktail with mulled wine, but the flavour that Sandeep takes pride in is the Secrets of The East, a saffron and rose-based green tea blend.
Kotecha says tea bars have been seeing a demand in the last five years because several guests are teetotalers and would rather opt for tea. He also believes that the advent of destination weddings has birthed the need for better experiences in the culinary space. "Whether served hot or cold, it's refreshing. It also gives a good break from the high calorific wedding food to the guests."
"An average celeb wedding has no less than 100 dishes"
Chef Jerson Fernandes
Executive chef, Sea Princess Hotel, Juhu
Prepared the spread for Chiranjeevi's son, Ram Charan, cricketer Dinesh Karthik, and singer Vasudha Sharma
Chef Jerson Fernandes has catered for enough celebrity weddings to be able to write a book on his experiences. An executive chef at Juhu's Sea Princess, he has rustled up delicacies for South superstar Chiranjeevi's son, Ram Charan's wedding in Hyderabad, cricketer Dinesh Karthik, singer Vasudha Sharma apart from regularly cooking for celebrities such as Vicky Kaushal, Urmila Matondkar, Kareena Kapoor and Sunny Leone, among others. It started in 2010 when he was roped in by a high-end caterer to cook for a private event of the Ambani family. "That event was a clincher. After that, it's purely been word of mouth," he says.
Despite being a relatively seasoned name in the business, he treats every wedding like it's his first. "If I've to cook for more than 1,000 guests then I finalise the menu three months prior to the wedding, because some ingredients need to be imported which takes time," he says. As the wedding date approaches, all the necessary work is completed in small batches bearing in mind the shelf life of ingredients. According to Fernandes, an average celebrity wedding would have not less than
As a rule, he first tries to understand the nature of the event, if it's wedding reception, sangeet, anniversary followed by the type of guests invited - Indians or expats - and then finally what the host expects from him as a chef. "I am also made aware of the spice levels and food intolerances," he says. But if it's a cuisine he has never tried before or experimented with, he avoids incorporating it in the menu. "For example, I avoid sashimi, which needs to be served keeping in mind the temperature of the place.
Having said this, there's always room for the unexpected. "There are times when in a rush, you tend to overlook spellings of dishes. One dish which was supposed to be named paneer lababdar was inadvertently spelt as paneer labrador," he laughs.
'For Sonam's wedding, we had classic cocktails and drinks with twists in them'
Ruturaj Bhosle and Gaurav Jadhav
The Wedding Bartenders
Tended the bar for: Sonam Kapoor, Poorna Patel and both the Ambani weddings
When Cocktails & Dreams, a bartending school in Khar, decided to start a wedding division, they looked for talent in-house. The Wedding Bartenders was founded in 2012, and is headed by alumni Ruturaj Bhosle and Gaurav Jadhav. "Initially, it was a small team with just two people and a couple of bartenders. Today, we are a team of 70 bartenders, with 27 core people," says 30-year-old Bhosle. They have built their clientele, drink by drink. "[Since day one], we have customised elements for a wedding, whether it's a pool party, mehendi, sangeet or reception. We sit with the clients and understand their requirement."
This means creating drinks from scratch, such as sorbet bellinis or a gin and tonic bar with some 30 botanicals. For one destination wedding in Jodhpur, they created a popcorn martini. "That became a signature drink at the wedding, and it's a favourite till today." They have done aged cocktails, so an old-fashioned decoction would be aged for 20 days and carry a charred tinge, and smoked a negroni with an actual cigar. "People like a smoky old-fashioned."
Although, their innovations have become more refined with time. "We barely did 10 weddings in the first year. But, because the team did a fantastic job, and our clients kept recommending us to their friends and family, we pulled off 30 weddings in year two. The last three years have been crazy. In 2018, we reached a different level, with the most elite crowd and celebrity weddings in Mumbai."
He means Sonam K Ahuja's wedding last year. "We told ourselves that since we have got this wedding, we should do something really good. So, we had a good combination of classic cocktails and drinks with small twists in them. We came up with a specialised sangria bar and did craft beers. In the whisky sour, we muddled it with imported cinnamon, and burnt a cinnamon stick and placed it as a garnish. In the espresso martini, we used pure espresso."
'Stars are just like us, but with food restrictions'
From Falaknuma tawa cottage cheese with smoked Lebanese zaatar to pindi channa bruschetta with baked brie and avocado ki galouti with Philadelphia infusion – foods like these are creating quite a stir at A-list parties of B-town. After catering for an intimate close-friends gathering for Priyanka Chopra in December 2016, barely a few months after they set shop, there was simply no looking back for the boys at Studio Kitchen.
Brothers Sanjay and Ashish Mulchandani and their cousin Gautam Lalwani who started Studio Kitchen in 2016 have swiftly attained the status of star caterers, catering more recently for Ritesh Sidhwani's Made in Heaven launch, Aamir Khan's and Manish Malhotra's house gathering and Ramesh Taurani's birthday party.They've also catered for Shah Rukh Khan, Huma Qureshi, Shilpa Shetty, Sushant Singh Rajput among others. Backed with a Masters in Business Management from the UK, Sanjay Mulchandani, 30, helms the operations and finance of the company, his brother Ashish, 28, is trained in hospitality (Food & Beverage) from the Glion Institute in Switzerland and heads the production at Studio Kitchen. On the other hand, cousin Gautam Lalwani, 35, heads the operations and communications. While their food quality was always of high standards, made by skilled chefs, what did the trick was, "relentless experimentation and innovation," says Sanjay. Lalwani explains, "For instance, we serve white truffle, the current global favourite, and almond paneer masala with goat cheese crumble, served with zaatar roomali and just a touch of desi ghee."
The stars, Sanjay believes, are much like the rest of us, "but with added dietary requirements". "As long as we cater to their food intolerances and restrictions along their desire for fine food, the overall experience is a pleasure."
By Nasrin Modak Siddiqi
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