Int'l Women's Day: 5 desi chefs who rock our world
Raising a glass to ladies in white hats around the country
LADIES, lend us your ladles. You’re too rad to be holding those right now. Between the run up to Women’s Day and more importantly, the next dinner service, these powerhouse women chefs from around the country took us on a rollercoaster ride behind-the-scenes. From fireball spats resolved by the walk-in freezer to fun admissions of ingredients they secretly hate, this is a tour of the kitchen like you’ve never had before...
Ruchika Sharma, Hyderabad
Celebrity Chef Ruchika Sharma has had many ups and downs in the past five years — from overcoming a car crash to being crowned the winner of a beauty pageant. However, the one thing that has remained constant is her love for cooking. With over 2,000 episodes of culinary shows like Mahaa Ruchi on Mahaa TV under her belt, Sharma recalls, it hasn’t been an easy ride. “I had to face a lot of opposition from my parents too, who wanted me to study medicine. My grandmother asked, ‘Why do you want to choose cooking as your profession when you will get married and cook for your family anyway?’ ” reminisces the award-winning pâtisserie expert. But all that is history, and these days, on or off a set, the fashionista admits, “My chef’s hat is one of the most cherished things I own. It's my favourite accessory.”
I realised I wanted to be a chef: Every time I passed by a beautifully decorated cake.
One ingredient I can’t stand: Cardamom.
Women one-up men in the chef game because: You can’t beat a mother’s love in the kitchen.
A dose of Rose
Rose Mary Kuruvinakunnel, Kochi
Rose Mary Kuruvinakunnel is one of Kerala’s pioneering female executive chefs. An alumnus of Les Roches Switzerland — ranked amongst the world’s best culinary institutions — Rose previously helmed the culinary squad at Fort Kochi’s Old Courtyard Hotel for 16 years. “There’s a phrase us classically trained chefs tend to use: mise en place which means ‘put everything in its place’. Sure, the job is a physically and mentally demanding one. But, women chefs are generally more organised and passionate in the kitchen than our male counterparts,” explains Rose. Currently, this expat from the Philippines operates a home-based food enterprise centred around the Zone Diet. So, how did she get involved in the culinary arts?
“I realised I wanted to do this for a living during an internship in the 1980s at a small restaurant in Spiez. In fact, I always advise aspiring chefs to start working in smaller kitchens first. You’ll learn heaps more there, than within the confines of a corporate kitchen,” concludes Rose.
I realised I wanted to be a chef: During an internship in Spiez.
One ingredient I can't stand: Rose petals.
Women one-up men in the chef game with: Better organisation in the kitchen.
Belle from Fabelle
Deepthi Joji, Chennai
Both the men in her life are chefs — her dad and husband. But 25-year-old Deepthi Joji found her way into the kitchen not because of what they cooked for her, but ironically, what they didn’t: dessert. As she talks to us from the Fabelle Chocolate Boutique of the ITC Grand Chola, she’s planning to whip up Gorgonzola cheese ice cream. “We’ll see how it turns out,” she says with a laugh. Who said chefs are too stressed to say cheese!
I realised I wanted to be a chef: When my executive chef dad and my mom, an amazing cook, would whip up these feasts. But no one knew how to make dessert!
One ingredient I can’t stand: Artificial flavouring.
Women one-up men in the chef game with: Nothing. Bring passion to the job and gender is irrelevant.
Megha Kohli, Delhi
Megha Kohli was so young when she joined the culinary world that the older chefs would pack her off to the walk-in freezer every time insults were served before service. A decade later, the 27-year-old is one of the most promising chefs in the Indian culinary business, running and managing Delhi’s popular cafe Lavaash By Saby. From 12-hour days of onion peeling to constructing her own menus — this once aspiring journalist just got interviewed by one.
I realised I wanted to be a chef: After I applied for an Oberoi programme on the insistence of a friend.
One ingredient I can’t stand: Paneer! I hate it. It’s the most unimaginative ingredient that most restaurants serve for vegetarians.
Women one-up men in the chef game with: Their ability to multi-task, and plating finesse.
Ladle to baby cradle
Suchitra Venkat, Chennai
This Chef’s culinary baby, Chennai-based Doner Kebab, just turned one. Coincidentally, she also just had a baby. Fortunately, with the success of their now popular bistro, only the latter is teething. Meet Suchitra Venkat, who grew up around the delightful aromas of her grandmother’s kitchen. “Sitting in my mother’s arms, watching them cook, made me want to emulate their creations with my own twist,” says the new mommy with a smile. Her recipe for a heavy pressure day in the kitchen: “Rap music.”
I realised I wanted to be a chef: In my grandmother’s kitchen.
One ingredient I can't stand: Liquorice.
Women one-up men in the chef game with: Calm in the kitchen. But I would not know anything about that, sometime it seems that I am challenging Gordon Ramsay.