Behind the genial appearance of a thick, bushy-bearded and twinkling-eyed Delhi-based Chef Sweety aka Harjinder Singh lies the heart of a true foodie who would rather load you with food than talk about his association with it, which in fact goes back to a rehri started by his father on the streets of Delhi in the 1950s.
“My father opened a food cart on the busy Delhi streets after his relocation from Pakistan. The food would be sold out in minutes, and his love and passion for cooking fuelled mine,” remembers Sweety fondly. In city to serve authentic Punjabi food at the ongoing Punjabi food fest at Park Plaza, Sector 17, Chandigarh, Sweety insists on the simplicity of Punjabi food as he unravels the reason for his cooking’s success. “Punjabi food is simple and wholesome, not heavy. It doesn’t need frills and fancies,” says Sweety while voicing his displeasure at imparting of populist touches to Punjabi food. Another new fad that he fails to understand, says the chef, is ghee being considered unhealthy.
“I cook my food in real ghee and when used in the right quantity, it is healthy. This new fad of ghee being considered unhealthy is alien to me and not true,” insists Sweety, who uses pickles and masalas made by him, something that he has been doing since he started cooking and won’t compromise upon.
Simplicity and quality of food are the essentials for this chef who loves to feed people every day and has no qualms about interacting with his customers. “People can’t eat fancy things all the time. Talking about making things from a scratch, I even cook my own kada-prashad and send it to the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara,” reveals the smiling chef.After Sweety’s father opened a dhaba called Kaake Di Hatti at Asaf Ali road in Delhi, Sweety joined his father when he was 19 and later opened a catering business, all without any formal training.
It was Manjeet Gill, a senior chef with the ITC Sheraton group, who spotted his talent, inducted him into the world of catering and started calling him by his pet name Sweety, which he thought had a better ring to it. Ever since, there has been no looking back for the man who has gone on to be featured on Discovery’s programme, Rhodes Across India, a celebration of Indian food by British chef Gary Rhodes. On being asked what his favorite dish is, Sweety simply says, “For me to pick a single dish would mean compromising on others and I just cannot do that. Equal love and attention is paid to everything, but as far as specialties go, I think mine would be pindi chole.”