This new show, featuring food and heritage historian Rakesh Raghunathan, discovers a brand new Tamil Nadu

Rakesh Raghunathan’s new show, Highway Dreams is an explorative odyssey presenting the new and fascinating, modern day Tamil Nadu

Romal Laisram Published :  03rd November 2022 11:47 PM   |   Published :   |  03rd November 2022 11:47 PM
Rakesh Raghunathan on NEXA Journeys presents Highway Dreams

Rakesh Raghunathan on NEXA Journeys presents Highway Dreams

We’ve loved him on his culinary journeys with his mom on the immensely popular Ammavum Naanum and we most recently also saw him at Madras Odyssey, an event that highlighted the culinary legacy of Chennai — but food historian Rakesh Raghunathan is so much more and his new show on Zee Zest promises to help you rediscover Tamil Nadu, from a not so often taken perspective. We catch up with the food enthusiast and chef to find out more about the show.

Tell us a little bit about the new show?
The show NEXA Journeys presents Highway Dreams is an explorative Tamil odyssey presenting the new and fascinating, modern day Tamil Nadu as we explore the region through some known and some unknown highways. Over the years I have travelled the southern part of India extensively and until Highway Dreams happened, I thought I had covered almost everything that the regions had to offer. The show is an eye opener for me because I am looking at my own state through various lenses that I have never seen or done in the past.

How different will this format be from the shows you have done in the past?
So far, I have explored very offbeat experiences around food, tracing recipes, tracing the story of a particular community and the evolution of a recipe and things around food — it could be utensils, it could be cooking technique. But Highway Dreams is an explorative and offbeat journey through the scenic highways of Tamil Nadu which we explore in a Maruti Suzuki Baleno.

Rakesh Raghunathan on Highway Dreams
Rakesh Raghunathan on Highway Dreams


How did you choose your destinations, on the show?
It was more the inputs from the production company and the channel that had the most interesting stories for this. I did give a few inputs, but again it was them who did the entire storyboard and made the show the way it is.

What are some of the places we’ll get to discover in the show?
We commenced this explorative journey from Chennai and we drove over to the Manchester of South India — Coimbatore, exploring the GeeDee Car Museum with a vintage car enthusiast along the way. Moving on to the next adventure, driving through the Nilgiris, we enter the Queen of Hill Stations — Ooty, where we experience immersive and cerebral rejuvenation at MindEscapes, before heading out to explore one of the largest moving telescopes  — The Ooty Radio Telescope. As the journey progresses, we head into the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, on an adventurous tour with a forest ranger while exploring the technology they use to track the animals and monitor them. The journey concludes at Rameshwaram with a session of snorkeling and kite surfing.

Rakesh Raghunathan on Highway Dreams
Rakesh Raghunathan on Highway Dreams


Your favourite shooting experiences from the show, so far?
My favourite shooting experience, I think, has to be the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve because Sathyamangalam is one place that I had never been to, even though I have explored the length and breadth of South India and literally like every single village in Tamil Nadu to document food and culinary practices. Sathyamangalam has always been one of those untouched territories for me because accessing it was a problem due to the whole Veerappan episode and all of that; it has fairly remained very closed. Shooting there was incredible and the entire region is Tamil Nadu’s best kept secret. Also, tiger conservation has been happening incredibly well there, thanks to the forest officers and rangers and the kind of technology that’s in place.

What is your go-to comfort food?
My all time favourite food has to be Tamarind Rice because it’s something which is very special at home and they would make it very well and it has a lot of meaning as it takes me back to my childhood. Curd Rice would be my other comfort food and Ven Pongal, is another one on my comfort food list. Also Adai, which is a lentil pancake that looks like a dosa but it’s not really a dosa.

Rakesh Raghunathan on Highway Dreams
Rakesh Raghunathan on Highway Dreams


Your favourite beverage when you need a quick refresher?
My favourite beverage is probably buttermilk because it refreshes you very well and there’s also the common lime mint cooler. These are the non alcoholic choices, but if it’s a beverage then I am very happy with a nice chilled draught beer, preferably a stout, because wherever I travel across the world, I would normally sample all kinds of beer — that is something I love doing and settle for anything that’s dark like stout or any beverage like that.

What do you have up your sleeve, next?
Next up is a comedy based cookery show and also my book; that should, hopefully, be out next year.

Highway Dreams airs on Zee Zest, every Sunday at 8 pm.