Cooking in isolation: This social platform is providing an opportunity for everyone to share their love for food during coronavirus

Started amid the coronavirus lockdown, Chennai-based Isolation Cooks is providing an opportunity for cooks – amateurs and professionals – to share their love for cooking and food.

Since the lockdown came into effect on March 25, a lot of people took up various kinds of hobbies to do at home. Many people turned towards making various kinds of delicious food.

At present, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, are filled with posts about food, recipes, cooking tips, and much more. One such initiative is a Chennai-based project Isolation Cooks. Started by Kavita Kishore (a freelance journalist), Avinash Chandrashekar (a freelance developer), Mihir Ranganathan, and Nivya Vijayan, the project showcases what is happening in people’s kitchens during this global pandemic.

The co-founders of Isolation Cooks

“The world is trying to come to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic, and for most people, this means sheltering at home, and cooking for themselves. Some of these people have been cooking for ages, while others are just learning the ropes,” says Kavita, one of the co-founders of Isolation Cooks.

The beginning

The idea started a few days after the lockdown was announced in India. Avinash and Kavita were discussing food, and they wanted to document people’s traditional recipes. As the conversation progressed, they realised that this was a great opportunity to build a community around food. “Everyone was cooking and eating,” Kavita adds.  

The duo roped in their friends Mihir and Nivya. “Both of them seemed as excited as we were, and that’s how Isolation Cooks was born,” Kavita adds.

The project’s social media platforms have become a community for people to exchange recipes, tips, tricks, and even menu ideas.

“People who had never cooked before were suddenly forced to cook. Others were cooking so much more than ever before because they were at home, and had the time and freedom to explore cooking. Many were also cooking either to entertain their children or themselves. There were so many interesting dishes being made and shared. That’s when we decided that all this needed to be showcased,” Kavita shares with YSWeekender.

To date, Isolation Cooks has over 100 unique contributors, and around 150 posts, including some professional chefs and food bloggers, which have been published.

What to cook?

At a time when many people still find it difficult to lay their hands on all kinds of ingredients, Kavita says, people are repurposing the leftovers, dealing with provisions that are close to expiry, or just basic essentials.

“Banana bread seems to be extremely popular these days. The same goes for paneer. People are trying to repurpose milk when it splits, and so there are a lot of paneer dishes. A lot of people are also trying to recreate foods they would ordinarily eat at a restaurant. Like Radim Badsi, who made a healthy eggplant burger because he couldn’t find burgers at home,” Kavita says.

The one thing that every individual craves the most is street food and baked goods. And a lot of people are also trying their hands at making chaats, gol gappes, mug cakes, loaves of bread, and cookies at home.

Comforting foods like khichdi, kadhi, and other traditional, yet simple, dishes are also high on the radar, the co-founder adds.

Food and more!

In addition to recipes and photos of food, Isolation Cooks is also showcasing anecdotes, funny things that happen in the kitchen and photos that showcase life in the kitchen.

The project also gets recipes and videos from home bakers, chefs, and other food professionals from around the world. It also has kid chefs, showcasing their kitchen skills such as learning to chop vegetables and baking.

“Our first video was a mug cake recipe made by seven-year-old Deekshitha JC. Since then, many proud mothers sent in their kids’ cooking adventures to us. A lot of first time cooks were a bit hesitant to send us images, but we do have a few people who are trying out new recipes and just learning to cook,” she says.

The team at Isolation Cooks says that people can learn from all the good, bad, and ugly experiences, and realise that even the best cooks sometimes make mistakes, burn utensils, and mistake sugar for salt.

“Now, we are also looking to display works of art related to food. We welcome artists to send in recipe illustrations, comics, and any other kind of food-based art,” Kavita adds.

Food at the time of COVID-19

The project also has a weekly nutrition segment with tips from a Chennai-based nutritionist MVL Sudharshana. The team works with the nutritionist to come up with topics that are relevant to people when they are sitting at home, and problems people have during the lockdown.

“We also dealt with how this lockdown meant that people were relying on foods for comfort, and how that is okay, and how we shouldn’t stress about it too much,” she shares, adding that Isolation Cooks is planning an ‘Ask-Me-Anything’ session with the in-house nutritionist to see what questions its followers would like answered.

Moving forward

Moving further, Isolation Cooks is looking at providing a platform for food-based charities to reach its audience. Moreover, it is also looking to work with some of the farm-to-home initiatives that are springing up.

“We are also looking to tie up with small food-based businesses, chefs, and home bakers. Through these tie-ups, we hope to provide recipes and food-related tips to our audience. In turn, the businesses are able to reach more people,” Kavita explains.

The founders hope that the platform will continue to grow after the lockdown, and be a place for people to exchange notes about everything around food.

“Everyone needs to eat, and we are used to sharing our meals with others in times of happiness," says Kavita. "We are hoping that by sharing our meals (even virtually) during this bleak time, it's possible to feel a little less lonely, and maybe even spark a little bit of joy."
Edited by Asha Chowdary


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