I watched Bajrangi Bhaijaan the other day (yes, it’s still in the theatres), and when the song Selfie Le Le Re struck up on screen, my friend immediately nudged me and rattled off the credits. It’s composed by Pritam, and sung by him, Vishal Dadlani and Nakash Aziz, with additional vocals by Aditya Pushkarna. I was really impressed.
But why doesn’t the same thing happen to us when we suddenly come across a really good plate of food? Churan ka Karela, with puffed quinoa and bitter gourd crisps, designed and executed by Chef Manish Mehrotra with additional help from his staff at Indian Accent, New Delhi. Or, Lamb Salsa Verde that’s been created by Chef Joy Bhattacharya, executive chef at the Trident, Nariman Point.
Well, that just doesn’t happen because, until now, chefs have been quietly tucked away in their kitchens as they create one hit after another. A few with better social skills venture out into the open, but most still prefer the warmth of anonymity offered by salamanders, ovens and burners.
So, the other day when I walked into the 60 year anniversary celebrations of the Dadar Catering College, I was stunned to see so many acclaimed chefs in the open environs of a five-star banquet hall, partying to some hard-core techno music. A roomful of guys, all dressed in their chef coats, bobbing up and down, and women fawning all over them. It was like a rookery of penguins bathed in disco lights.
Everyone who lives in Mumbai knows the Dadar Catering College. It’s a landmark. Officially known as the Institute of Hotel Management, it’s that long, grey building on Cadell Road, and is the alma mater of most of the country’s greatest chefs.
The 60 year celebration was marked by a book launch — a wonderful compilation of 60 recipes from 60 fine chefs. I just feel honoured to consider many amongst those as friends, and their food, familiar by association and fondness. Like Chef Manoj Vasaikar, who runs three of London’s best Indian restaurants, and his recipe for Vegetable or Shrimp Bhanola.
These steamed cabbage cakes have taken London by storm. Or, Chef Vicky Ratnani, the man with the best recipes on television, and his recipe for My 36 Hour Lamb Love (seasoned, slow-cooked lamb on brown rice, flavoured with harissa paste, and served with hummus and zatar).
Then, there is Chef Ananda Solomon’s Alleppy Fish Curry, with sharp flavours of cumin and coriander soured with raw mango. He is the man who can simultaneously cook up a Manglorean Curry in a wok on the left side, while his right hand stirs up a Tom Yum Goong or a Gaeng Keow Wan Gai (green curry chicken).
From the man behind the Bukhara and Kebabs & Kurries (now K&K), is an extraordinary recipe for Paan ki Biryani. The quiet and gentle Chef Bhaskar Sankhari’s rendition of the iconic mutton biryani, with betel leaves. I’ve eaten Chef Sriram Aylur’s stuffed quail eggs at his Michelin-starred restaurant Quilon, in London.
He shares this extraordinary recipe with us in the book. And if you are ever in London with a few quid to spare, don’t miss his pink pepper chilli prawn with Byadgi chilli. And then, of course, aapro Chef Farrokh Khambata features prominently with his recipe for Jasmine Tea Smoked Tender Spare Ribs.
As I flipped through the pages of this book, while trying to balance a drink in one hand and grab at the starters with another, at a really packed and noisy party, I spotted in the distance, two people I have to talk about. First, the Queen of Restaurants, Camellia Panjabi, still keeping a hawk eye out for talented chefs to hire, and the legendary Chef Satish Arora who ran the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel many years ago and is hugely responsible for all those meals at The Tanjore, Shamiana, Rendezvous and Golden Dragon, that we enjoyed growing up.
In fact, the room was filled with men and women who, in my 10 years as a food show host, 15 years as a food writer and, 50 years as an eater, have touched me in some way or the other.
Author and TV show host Kunal Vijayakar is “always hungry”. Follow him on Twitter @kunalvijayakar