Flash in the pandemic: New kinds of chefs that emerged after March
The influencer who can (try to cook)
With little else to do — no travel, no eating out, no beauty (with nowhere to go and half the face covered anyway) — influencers of all persuasions began to head into their kitchens. Hastily rearranged knickknacks formed the backgrounds and the element of surprise took on a new meaning. Some specialised in kitchen disasters; others shared honest journeys of discovery. And some just made a bold dash for the oddest USPs they could find. Like @breadfaceblog, a woman with 190k followers who, in posts after post, just squishes her face into loaves of bread. “Thank you for continuing to provide quality content during this scary time,” says one her fans in the comments. One thing we’d certainly like to see less of — the “unboxing” of everyday masalas while wearing a Banarasi sari and about half one’s grandmother’s jewellery.
The kid chef
You have to be careful what you hand chef Kobe, because he’s as likely to eat it as use it in a dish. In an online world that has swung between devastating news and adorable videos (have you seen the baby elephant trying to hid behind a lamppost?), baby chefs like Kobe have made news for bringing smiles to faces, even if the parents have been doing all the real work. Kobe is 18 months old, and has 2.5 million followers and a growing list of sponsors on Instagram. At home, restless children have tended to be rather less fun to watch in action in the kitchen, though anything involving dough has been a good way to occupy kids of any age in these school-free months.
The sourdough whisperer
Have you even been in lockdown if you haven’t made any bread? As a frenzy of baking swept the planet, sourdough took centrestage. Somehow this rather complicated bread became (and remains) some sort of sign of handling the pandemic right. Hugh Jackman, Pink, Padma Lakshmi, Hillary Duff and the Kardashians all gave it a shot. So contagious did this obsession become, that bakers began begging amateurs to try an easier loaf first, because all the sourdough fails were causing tonnes of wastage and putting potential bakers off the whole thing (perhaps they were also as sick of hearing of sourdough as the rest of us are).
The accidental expert
Everyone learnt to do something new in the lockdown, and for many the discoveries were centred in the kitchen. With little else to do to unwind or get creative, people who’d never used a pressure cooker began baking cakes, those who’d been unable to boil eggs right were perfecting biryani. Most of us are now accidental experts in at least one or two types of dishes. YouTube, of course, was cooking school. And social media let you gloat over your successes in public. ‘I can’t cook’ ceased to be fashionable. #Quaratinecooking now has over 15k posts on Instagram.
The real deal
These are the homemakers, the help, the moms, dads, naanis, daadis and home chefs who’d been doing it all for decades, told you for years that you ought to learn this basic survival skill, and watched patiently (and only sometimes smugly) as you flailed about at the start, insisted YouTube was all you needed and then called them desperately as your tava smoked trying to figure out where you’d gone wrong. True saviours in the lockdown, they told you how many pressure cooker whistles you needed for dal, why your omelettes were burning on the outside and raw in the middle, calmed you down when you were tired and frazzled and wanted out. It’s a good thing most tend not to post on Instagram or the rest of us would end up looking quite silly.