Wendell Rodricks, the foodie

Updated: Feb 22, 2020, 09:39 IST | Karishma Kuenzang | Mumbai

In the concluding part of our series, chefs from Mumbai to Goa speak about a little-known facet of the designer Wendell Rodricks, and how he shaped their projects.

(From right) Chef Floyd Cardoz, Wendell and O Pedro's executive chef Hussain Shahzad
(From right) Chef Floyd Cardoz, Wendell and O Pedro's executive chef Hussain Shahzad

Wendell RodricksAlmost all of the late Wendell Rodricks's personal profiles on social media comprise things he held dear (apart from fashion) — vacations with husband Jerome Marrel, warm captures with his late female Boxer, Sophia, posts against felling of trees and perils of climate change, and quality food, mostly Goan cuisine.

Known to be a generous host and a cook, proof of which lies in his pictures of the Assado de Leitao he made for Sunday lunch for his friends and a detailed recipe of his familial Goan 'chorizo chilli fry with eggs' — he called the dish a blend of Goan and Parsi cuisine, which he christened 'chorizo par eedu'. It was this love for food and appreciation of those who take measures to revive traditional cultures and cuisines that resulted in his lifelong friendships and mutual admiration for chefs and restaurateurs.

A picture of Assado de Leitao prepared by Wendell that he posted on Instagram
A picture of Assado de Leitao prepared by Wendell that he posted on Instagram

Ambassador of Goan food
One such friend of Wendell's is chef Floyd Cardoz of O Pedro, who, too, is Goan. "Over the years, he was a dear friend who supported me, sending friends over to my eatery, leaving notes and messages," said the chef who moved to the United States over 30 years ago. "He wrote books and would always send me a copy. He had a passion for all things Goan. I was inspired by the way he did things. He sent me cooks over the years to work with and was an incredible ambassador of Goan food," Cardoz said.

Then there's Maria de Lourdes Filomena Figueiredo de Albuquerque and her daughter, Maria de Fatima Figueiredo de Albuquerque, of Goa's iconic Figueiredo Mansion in Loutolim village, with whom Wendell was close friends for over 20 years.

Food served at Maria de Lourdes Filomena Figueiredo de Albuquerque's birthday that Wendell posted on social media
Food served at Maria de Lourdes Filomena Figueiredo de Albuquerque's birthday that Wendell posted on social media

He even sang at Filomena's 90th birthday celebrations in November 2019. "He was a great singer," said Fatima, adding, "But we bonded over the idea of maintaining and preserving the culture of Goa. He was keen on reviving traditions that we may have forgotten and even told my son that he needs to learn traditional methods."

Fatima revived authentic Goan and Indo-Portuguese food, with a focus on desserts that almost disappeared after 1961, with Wendell cheering her all the way. She whips up the cuisine at the iconic mansion, which Wendell once said is better than what he had tried in Portugal. "He loved his food and though he wasn't a big eater, he loved to eat quality, healthy meals. He was a connoisseur who loved to cook and whenever I have been to his house for a meal, it's always been a treat. The last time I went, we had prawn curry," Fatima said.

Wendell singing at Maria de Lourdes Filomena Figueiredo de Albuquerque's birthday party in November 2019
Wendell singing at Maria de Lourdes Filomena Figueiredo de Albuquerque's birthday party in November 2019

Wendell's attention to detail, passion and approach towards cooking prompted Cardoz to make O Pedro's core team meet and learn from him before they opened shop in 2016. "He is one Goan who went back. I knew he would give us insights and I wanted chef Hussain Shahzad to see his hospitality and how he cared like a true Goan. I wanted the core team to understand the passion for cooking because passion cannot be awoken or taught. When I told him we wanted to meet, he invited us over for dinner," Cardoz recalls.

Wendell treated the group to his familial roast pork (every Goan family has its own version of the dish), and clams, prawn curry and fresh cashew juice. Cardoz isn't the only one who sought Wendell's expertise. AD Singh of the Olive group invited Wendell and Jerome over for a meal when he opened Olive in Goa. "I had actually not known Wendell was a foodie till I visited Aubergine, the lovely cafe he had opened in Goa. It's been many years since then and many of my close friends, including Farrokh Chothia and Fahad Samad, have had wonderful meals at his home," Singh said.

Jerome Marrel, Consul General of Portugal Dr Antonio Crystello Tavares, Mário Miranda's widow Habiba, Wendell and Fatima
Jerome Marrel, Consul General of Portugal Dr Antonio Crystello Tavares, Mário Miranda's widow Habiba, Wendell and Fatima

The generous host
Singh's favourite memory of Wendell is when the designer helped find the perfect venue for his wedding with Sabina around 20 years ago.

"He went out of his way to help plan our wedding. I'll always be grateful to him for suggesting this wonderful old home on the river, where we had a very memorable day," Singh said.

AD Singh with wife, Sabina, shortly after their wedding
AD Singh with wife, Sabina, shortly after their wedding

Cardoz recalls going to Wendell's house for get-togethers and meals, for he was often hosting foodies with family recipes like xacuti and shrimp curry. "I remember urak was his signature welcome-home cocktail. He and Jerome were amazing hosts and the get-togethers would go on till late, though there were seldom large groups," Cardoz added.

Recalling his iconic meals, Fatima said he would host people from all over the world as he wanted them to have the authentic Goa experience. "I have memories of Goan food my grandfather's sisters cooked in the early '60s. What he would make tasted similar. He used to cook with joy, I guess that was his secret ingredient," Fatima concluded.

Wendell's Chorizo par eedu

Wendell Rodricks's recipe of 'chorizo par eedu' is an amalgamation of his family recipe for Goan chorizo chilli fry and the Parsi 'par eedu'

"Chop fine two onions, one green chilli and one ripe tomato.

Wendell's Chorizo par eedu

In a heated pan, fry one link of sausage, chopped up (Crasto's, opposite St Inez in Panjim, has the best sausages. Ask for the fresh version. This should be refrigerated and lasts for six months).

When the sausage fat melts in the pan, add the chopped onions and green chilli.

Sauté for about five minutes. Then add the chopped tomato, a cup of water and a handful of soaked masoor dal. Simmer till the dal disappears (can take 15 to 20 minutes).

The dal is the secret to making the chilli fry less oily and more creamy.

Next, add a cupful of white pumpkin (doodhi/lauki) cut into cubes. Another trick. Most people use potatoes. White pumpkin makes the dish lighter and less carb heavy.

Add salt as per taste. Cook for a further five minutes on high heat. When hot, transfer to a Pyrex dish. Break six to eight gaunti eggs over the sausage mixture, drizzle with salt and pepper and put into a hot oven for three minutes.

Serve immediately. Enjoy.

Wendell's Bombay

My favourite haunt was the Jehangir Art Gallery, with the Samovar cafe nearby. The bazaars around Crawford Market were mini cities, with the narrow lanes selling everything from clothes for holy idols, bindis, fine gold jewellery to all kinds of antique furniture at Chor Bazaar, the renowned thieves' market. And, there were the culinary delights: chilled pani puri and kulfi falooda sundae at Kailash Prabhat, hot potato vadas and toasted chutney sandwiches on the streets, bhelpuri at Marine Drive, delicious lassi in the lane parallel to Chowpatty. Some days, I left for work as early as 6.30 am and treated myself to a breakfast worthy of an emperor, sitting at one of the window tables in the Sea Lounge at the Taj, admiring the Gateway of India and the ocean beyond. Instead of tea, I would faithfully order an item not on the menu — Coffee Viennoise, a superb coffee icecream. Even today, I visit the Sea Lounge, sitting at a window seat to enjoy the view and a Coffee Viennoise.

Excerpt from Moda Goa: History and Style by Meher Castelino

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