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Meet the chef who whipped up meals fit for Indian presidents

Think Change India
2nd Aug 2017
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Meet Machindra Kasture, the head of a Maharashtrian family, who has served former Presidents of India Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee as a cook. He was the first chef for the President of India in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He also is the recipient of Nation Tourism Award for the Best Chef of India in 2016.

Source: NY Times

Behind the success of this chef stands his wife who has been training her husband with authentic cooking skills. Speaking about this, Vedavanti Kasture, the 20-year-old daughter of the chef, said,

My mother (who used to work with All India Radio as news reader in the Marathi division) is a good cook as well, but her work in the kitchen is not recognised as she did not have a degree. Since Pratibha Patil was a Maharashtrian, my father took ideas from my mother on certain occasions.

Machindra served during the tenure of Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee and Vedvanti says that she is proud of the fact that the family has broken the "gender norms".

I am most proud that our house has always challenged gender norms. I have grown up seeing my father in the kitchen cooking. My little brother is a better cook than I can ever be. He was the one who introduced me to my first glass of wine, she said.

Recalling how he started his journey as a chef, Machindra says that he began his career when there was no glamour attached to this field and people hardly knew who a chef was.

I was the first and only chef appointed in Rashtrapati Bhavan; so everything was new for me as well as for that place. I would say it was a great learning experience, catering to the world's high and mighty when everything is on your shoulder. That pressure is unmatched and it has taught me what no school can teach, he said.

He was working in ITDC Ashok Hotel when, in 2007, he was sent on a deputation to Rashtrapati Bhavan as then President Pratibha Patil was looking for a Marathi chef. Since that day, their lives have completely changed. From taking care of food for events like Bharat Ratna awards and the swearing-in ceremony for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he also represented India as a member of Le Club des Chefs, when he went to the White House to meet then President Barack Obama, UN headquarters to meet Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon in 2013 and Queen Elizabeth II on a private visit to Buckingham Palace in London in 2014.

Pratibha Patil was a vegetarian; on the contrary, Pranab Mukherjee was a fish lover and so definitely it was a shift of cooking style. It used to challenge me to bring out something new every time I cooked. I was mostly involved with formal banquets for visiting heads of the state, so my job was to cater to these leaders from different nations keeping in mind their eating habits and, at the same time, providing them the best of our Indian cuisine. So I had to be master of all," said the national award-winning chef who is currently working at Ashok Hotel, which is a flagship of ITDC.

With inputs from IANS

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