What's Chef Ananda Solomon cooking at home?
Away from their work kitchens, right from Instagram scrolling to experimenting, here's what Mumbai's top chefs are up to
'I am scrolling Instagram more than ever'
Chef Monaz Irani, Plate and Pint
Chef Monaz Irani with mother persis
Over the past two years, Monaz Irani, owner of Breach Candy deli and cafe, Plate and Pint, has spent nearly all of her time at work. "It was more home for me than my own house," she laughs. "Everyone there, including regular guests as well as my team became family and, so, this abrupt halt was a jolt." But, the quarantine has meant more time for yoga, which she now practises every day instead of once a week, laidback conversations with family, playtime with their pet Astro, and the opportunity to binge watch television shows. Although she says, she isn't much of a social media buff, the lockdown has her scrolling Instagram longer. "To be honest, it has really helped keep my sanity during the isolation. I share recipes and seek inspiration for new ones. I don't realise how it makes time fly." Recently, her mother made ravo, a milk and semolina based dessert popular in Parsi homes on auspicious occasions. "It made us revisit the simpler days where I helped her in the kitchen. It brought us much joy."
'Made dhansak for the first time'
Farah Shroff, Parisserie India
Chef Farah Shroff
The quarantine has driven many of us to do things that we have never done before, ranging from meditating to cutting our own hair. For Farah Shroff, co-founder of Parisserie India, a Paris-inspired cloud kitchen in Khar, the isolation is an opportunity to acquaint herself with her culinary roots. Although from a Parsi family, it's only recently that she prepared dhansak and prawn curry, both staple eats of the community.
Since the quarantine, the most important discussion in the Shroff household has been about what to cook for the next meal. "Variety is one of the only ways to spice things up during lockdown," she says. Taking a temporary break from conjuring up classic French entremets, pastry and desserts, she is investing her time in making comforting one-pot recipes, or dishes that can be popped into the oven and served hot, like grilled vegetables, tandoori chicken, baked pesto fish and lasagna.
If food can bring the family together, so can a card game. "Our new favourite game is Monodeal. While each of us have our daily routines, evenings are all about play."
'Staying out of the kitchen is punishment'
Chef Guto Souza, Boteco
Brazilian cheese bread with smoked beef
Chef Guto Souza, head chef at BKC's Boteco, is currently holed up in Holland, where he runs a side business of frozen food products. With the Dutch government allowing certain sectors to run, Souza continues to be fairly busy.
Chef Guto Souza
"I'm working regular hours, and heading the production unit for Guto's pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread). Weekends are spent home with my wife and 13-year-old daughter," says Souza. A lot of his work now includes extensive research about recipes that could be paired with Brazilian cheese bread, which is made with tapioca flour, milk, eggs, olive oil and cheese. But his days are still not busy enough. "Staying out of the kitchen is like punishment. I miss the heat, the noise, even the stress [of the restaurant]," he says.
'Best opportunity to teach Phoenix cooking'
Chef Sarah Todd, The Wine Rack
Chef Sarah Todd with son Phoenix
Chef Sarah Todd has been meticulously ticking off tasks that she had put on hold because of her frenetic schedule, including redecorating her Melbourne home and tending to her garden. But what she's most thrilled about is bonding with son, Phoenix. "Usually, I'd be exhausted or jet lagged due to my hectic travel schedule. I'm trying to make up for lost time." Todd is currently homeschooling him and they sit down for lessons at 9 am daily.
This is followed by a workout session peppered with squats and sit ups. The highlight of their evenings is a stroll around the block, followed by prepping for dinner together. "I feel this is the perfect opportunity to start teaching him new life skills." In the kitchen, it's been all about making the most of the ingredients available, says Todd. "These days, vegetarian curries have been coming to my culinary rescue. But what I'm looking forward to is tucking into an authentic Indian meal once I'm back in Mumbai."
'Figuring how to refine the restaurant menu'
Chef Ananda Solomon, Thai Naam by Ananda
Basale gassi and appam
After giving Mumbai its first real Thai restaurant, Thai Pavilion at Taj's President, chef Ananda Solomon returned to the city for a second innings with Thai Naam, a speciality restaurant in Marol, earlier this year. The sudden lockdown has disrupted the rhythm that he and his team are used to.
Chef Ananda Solomon
"I'm an insufferable workaholic and my family knows it all too well. I've been using this time to figure how to refine our menu and service standards, highlight ingredients in our recipes that help boost immunity and keep the team motivated," he says. While he might whip up exotic Thai meals in the restaurant kitchen, his own diet is unfussy. "If I have appam, avial, curd rice, ishtew and thoran, I'm sorted." But what he misses is watching the smiles of happy diners.
'4 am is the most special time'
Chef Milan Gupta, Taftoon
Milan Gupta, head chef at BKC restaurant Taftoon, has never been a big sleeper. Having to helm the kitchen and, sometimes, travel 20 days a month means his is the typical chef's life. The high energy levels continue to manifest even under lockdown. Although he can no longer go on long walks, Gupta still wakes up at the crack of dawn.
Chef Milan Gupta
"It's the most special time; suffused with serenity and solitude," he says. A little after 6 am, he brews coffee and Kashmiri kahwa, which the restaurant is famous for, while attending to chores on the side. His agenda for now is to focus on wellness. "Mornings are also about fruits and juices. The idea is to stay healthy, with nutritious eating, focus on hygiene and maintain the rhythm, especially with my daughter, Raayah." The family celebrated the 10-year-old's birthday with a virtual get-together. "It seemed like a party for 50 with just three of us, while family and friends joined in on video call. It was unforgettable."
'My love for chaat is hereditary'
Chef Ritesh Tulsian, Yazu Pan Asian Supper Club
Although it's Asian cuisine that chef Ritesh Tulsian specialises in as consulting chef at Yazu Pan Asian Supper Club, Andheri, his first love is desi chaat. "You can say my love for chaat is hereditary," says Tulsian, whose ancestral home is in Delhi's Chandi Chowk, the birthplace of chaat. "As a family, it was an everyday affair to have chaat during high tea, but when my dad moved to Mumbai, it became a weekend ritual."
Chef Ritesh Tulsian
Since the lockdown, Tulsian has been preparing dahi bhalla, chole tikki, pani puri and papdi chaat at home. That said, he ensures he has only a small bite of it. "I have considerably reduced what I eat and replaced it with fruits and milk products since it's important to remain hydrated during summer. Also, since my day doesn't include much physical activity, I am trying not to pile on the calories, but we can't resist chaat."
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