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From machher jhol to veg thali, what’s cooking at President Kovind’s Rashtrapati Bhawan?

The kitchens at Rashtrapati Bhavan are run by an executive chef and the President can bring his own cook too

india Updated: Aug 20, 2017 07:15 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rashtrapati Bhavan,President of India,Ram Nath Kovind
President Ram Nath Kovind greets invitees at the home reception function at Rashtrapati Bhavan on the occasion of 71st Independence Day in New Delhi on August 15, 2017.(PTI)

The smell of a Bengali fish curry doesn’t waft through Rashtrapati Bhavan’s kitchens anymore. The staple fare is strictly vegetarian and almost bland, tailored to suit the new resident’s diet and taste.

President Ram Nath Kovind is a frugal eater and told the staff to serve him simple, masala-free food after he moved into the world’s second largest presidential estate this July.

“The President has not expressed his fondness for any particular food. He loves different sabzis (vegetables). But one thing is evident … he is very conscious about his salt intake. The instruction is to put as little salt as possible,” a source said.

That’s unlike the maachher jhol and baked fish that kept his predecessor, Pranab Mukherjee, going during his five-year term in the country’s highest office. But there’s one likeness between the two men: cheeni kum. Mukherjee and Kovind don’t have a sweet tooth and, thus, confections will continue to remain off the menu.

Kovind likes litti-chokha, or flour balls roasted over coal and served with a hot curry and ghee. He perhaps developed a taste for this popular Bihar snack when he was governor of the state.

The kitchens are run by an executive chef and the President can bring his own cook too. Mukherjee put his trust on a personal cook who had served him for three decades. Before him, Pratibha Patil had two cooks from Maharashtra, her home state.

During state banquets, chefs from hotels such as ITC or Taj are invited to help out.

The viceregal house during British rule, this Baroque-style 200,000-sqft red building hosted dinners and luncheons fit for royals. But the legacy lost its sheen in democratic India.

Mukherjee is credited for reviving the mojo, especially the food served to the President, his family and his guests.

The spread at events grew more diverse with new vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian culinary delights during his tenure.

The tradition is set to continue on Kovind’s watch, keeping with Rashtrapati Bhavan’s neutral character.

First Published: Aug 20, 2017 07:15 IST