These days, whenever I sit to write, I find that all my stories begin with Situation Covid19. It has already changed our lives so much that we don’t really know for sure what tomorrow brings us. And from the looks of it, this will continue for an unforeseen time. I even wonder if this is God’s way of cleansing his creation. And, that would be just a thought.
The reality is, Covid19 actually forced families to stay together at home! More so, people's love for food led them to their kitchens. Amazingly, this is a thing that brought folks together. It's true what the American cooking teacher Julia Child has rightly said, "Food is not simply stuff that people eat when their hungry. Food is awesome, delicious, inventive, colorful, inspiring, and so much more. A mutual love of food can bring different people together and can make the saddest person feel a little better without even meaning to."
Social media wielded their magic to create the perfect food explosion online encouraging the I-want-to-do attitude in the kitchens of every home. The cooking journey for many began during this period. From grandma’s recipes to turning-to-help on YouTube for dinner ideas, healthy recipes, best recipes and baking techniques.. the smartphone has become the greatest sous-chef in the digital kitchens for all amateur cooks, and social media - the recorder of all their learnings, food experiments, creations, and I-have-done-it moments. Looks like food is a great equalizer during #staytogetherathome, after all!
In George Bernard Shaw’s words: “there is no sincerer love than the love of food”.
Personally, I am a huge fan of the famous cookoff - MasterChef Australia, and I feel that while some of the digital recipes are professional and impressive – and easy to follow, most of them are so useless that no cook-book editor would have approved. Sometimes, even though you follow a recipe to the T, your dish still produces underwhelming result in comparison. That’s really disappointing because it makes you self-doubt.
Kitchens are hard environments and they form incredibly strong characters. - Gordon Ramsay
My home chef friend, Shilpa who enjoys cooking for others, says, “cooking is more than just following recipes. It’s really important to understand the food chemistry. While digital recipes offer you a lot of food varieties and cuisine choices, they however, lack personality." About six years ago when she left her full-time job in Holiday Inn, Pune to grab the chef’s hat, her food journey had begun to last a lifetime. With her love for food, culinary skills and determination under fire, Shilpa decided to turn her passion for cooking into profit by starting a home-based catering business – Annapurna.
“Having worked in the best hotels bettered me a lot. Hotel life is one never ending drama where you learn to expect the unexpected and offer impeccable service with a smile. I gathered all the experience I needed, and took it with me for my new venture. In Annapurna kitchen I serve regional cuisine, healthy food, customised meals, quick-and-yummy snacks and ghar-ka-khana which is basically homestyle organic food. From packed lunches, to cocktail snacks and dinners, birthday gatherings and family get-togethers, I have my hands full and it keeps me insanely busy.”
What motivates you? “It’s my love for food and cooking ‘swadisht khaana’ (tasty food) for others that naturally energizes me. I also love to participate in cookoffs and fashion shows (and win), so whenever an opportunity presents itself, I seize it. In my school and college years too I was an athlete - and played handball and basketball.”
Do you have a signature dish? There’s two actually.. Biryani (vegetarian, chicken and mutton) and Puranpoli (with amti).”
Twice a year, Shilpa runs Annapurna Culinary Course for beginners as well as for those who want to improve their cooking skills or experiment with new type of cooking. The course / class not only teaches you some recipes and gives you the hands-on experience, but also offers a complete insight into basic cooking, menu ideas, overlapping ingredients, how to choose the right cooking materials, take specific measurements, some cooking techniques and how to enhance nutritional values. Whatever your motivation for wanting to take a class from her, you're sure to have good food and great fun. Surprisingly, Shilpa’s never got around to recording her recipes or going digital.
“I have always worked from my home kitchen. It’s affordable and I can spend time with family alongside. At first it was tough as I had to figure out everything by myself. Being home chef is a lot of hard work you know. And, without the moral support of my husband and kids I wouldn’t have made it this far. I remember making a few mistakes in the early years of Annapurna, but I can say it was still a profitable business right from the day one.. and luckily I’ve never looked back!!”
There are so many secrets about traditional cooking. Can you share some tips with us?
You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you. Not my words. But there’s a ring of truth to it. The Shilpa I know, is always smiling, so I am guessing she is happy inside pursuing her goal of cooking for others.
It's the first rainfall outside. Forever welcome that change of weather. The nip in the air. That earthy scent after rain. The freshness of plants and trees. That craving for pakoras with hot tea. Luckily Shilpa lives in the neighbourhood so I’ll just call and ask her to send some pakoras over to welcome monsoons, while I make the tea!
If you wish to get in touch with Shilpa, or place an order, you can either call her or whatsapp her on +91 992 255 5281 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org