The food route: women chefs who are decoding food
There is no place like home, and there is no food like mom’s food. Since I lost my mother a long time ago, the cravings for the chocolate cakes or the whole-grilled chicken that she made are things that I still crave. She was a brilliant cook and the kind of food that was laid out on the table resembled what you usually see in pictures of a feast laid on a king’s dinner table in fairy tales.
Deprived of the taste and the food that only my mother could cook, prompted me to take more interest in cooking. My love for food has only grown over the years, and having my own kitchen has only encouraged me to cook new dishes and experiment with food, spices and flavours in the hope that someday I will nail the dish so it tastes exactly like my mother’s. Over the years, my grandmother and a whole generation of aunts have been an inspiration to me.
But thanks to the rising interest in cooking across globe, rise of food tech companies, and multiple travel and cooking shows across the world, food has taken centre stage as an industry. There are a few global and Indian women home cooks, chefs, and celebrity chefs who have inspired my journey with food. Here is a list of women who have inspired generations of women and men to cook, to appreciate and to celebrate food.
1) Nigella Lawson – Nigella is a home cook whose unique style and passion for food, eating, and cooking has won the hearts of millions across the globe. Born in London, her early life was spent in England. Nigella is not a trained chef, but her USP is the way she talks about food. Her description of food is open, warm, and even sensual.
Her recipes are simple, yet very appealing and mouthwatering. She cooks for her family and friends. She has done multiple cookery shows on TV and has a long list of books to her credit such as Kitchen, Nigella Bites, Forever Summer, How to be a Domestic Goddess, and others like Feast and Nigellissima.
In many of her cookery shows, she is happy to sneak down to the fridge for a midnight snack. It has been one of the most alluring aspects of her show. Nigella’s association and understanding of food is all about – love, family and soul food. It is about food that can be cooked at home and shared with family and loved ones.
2) Kylie Kwong – Kylie is a third-generation Chinese Australian. She is a chef, restaurateur, author, and TV presenter whose forte is Chinese culture and cuisine. Kylie learnt Cantonese cooking from her mother. Her recipes are quick, easy, and appetising and she provides a modern take on Chinese recipes. She has simplified the recipes and made them easy to follow and cook.
In her words her cooking style is about, “emphasising simplicity, fresh ingredients, and clean flavours”. My cooking style has also evolved from living in Australia, where we have access to some of the world’s finest produce: organic and free-range poultry and meat; seafood from pristine waters; and a bountiful range of fruit, vegetables and herbs, including bush foods, and foraged wild weeds.”
She has written quiet a few cook books. Her first one was Kylie Kwong: Recipes and Stories. Others include Kylie Kwong: Cooking with Heart and Soul, and My China: Stories and Recipes from My Homeland. She has also appeared in a variety of TV series such as Kylie Kwong: Simple Magic.
3) Ritu Dalmia – Ritu is an Indian celebrity chef and restaurateur. Her popular restaurant Diva in Delhi serves Italian cuisine and was established in 2000 and is one of the popular restaurants for Italian food.
Ritu, who joined the family business at the age of 16, has spent some time in Italy exploring and learning Italian cuisine. In 1996, she moved to London and opened a fine dining restaurant on Kings’ Road with partner Andy Verma.
Ritu’s TV show Italian Khana based on her cookbook has been well received. In her show, she travels across Italy exploring the culture and cuisine.
4) Donna Hay- Donna has a long list of cookbooks to her credit. This chef and author’s USP is the simplicity of her recipes, and the ease with which they can be prepared. Her books have beautifully photographed food, and her TV shows also include fresh, easy recipes.
She has written some 23 cookbooks such as The New Classics, Fresh and Light, Off the Shelf, and Fast, Fresh, Simple. In 2011, her range of home ware was also launched in partnership with Royal Doulton.
5) Anjum Anand – Anjum grew up in London, and studied in Geneva and Paris. Her focus is on Indian cuisine and she has been working towards making Indian cooking easy, light, and simple to cook. She is an award winning TV chef and author. She has written books like Indian Every Day: Light, Healthy Indian Food, Indian Food, and Indian Food Made Easy. The last one topped the Amazon bestseller list in 2007.
She has also received global recognition for her work with Indian cuisine. She also has a line of at-home cooking products called The Spice Tailor, which was launched in 2011.
Food is an integral part of our lives and the mark of a good chef or cook is to ensure that the final product or the dish not only is scrumptious, but also speaks of the love that has gone into it. And as innovation in food continues, the food cooked by mothers will always hold a special place in our heart.