Margarine marvels: Meet Chef Devwrat Jategaonkar who holds a Guinness Book of World Record for his margarine sculptures
Chef Devwrat Jategaonkar is an executive chef with Travel Food Services at the domestic airport in Santa Cruz. He previously worked at the Radisson Blu in Alibaug. Originally from Akola in Vidarbha Maharashtra, he was always curious about the kitchen and the magic that took place inside.
It was at the Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, Pune that he learnt about food carving and how to create food sculptures.
Today Devwrat can sculpt fruits, vegetables, and even margarine into beautifully sculpted figures
A margarine sculpture he carved of the Shiva Trimurti was displayed at the Santa Cruz domestic terminal and it was one of the largest freestanding sculptures that made it to the prestigious Guinness Book of World Records.
In an exclusive interaction with YSWeekender, Chef Devwrat talks about his culinary journey and what made him venture into the arena of margarine sculptures
YSW: When did develop an interest in cooking?
DJ: I used to watch my mother, and my grandmother cook as a child. My grandmother used to cook some Maharashtrian dishes, which were delicious.
My mother, on the other hand, was a home science lecturer and she used to teach her students how to make a variety of dishes. I used to watch her and soon I learnt to make those dishes at home.
That was when I developed an interest in cooking. My father always supported us (my brother and I) in our career choices, and told us to follow our hearts.
Today, my elder brother Dr. Priyadarshan Jategaonkar is a well know gastro-surgeon at Sevagram Hospital, Wardha, and I ended up being a chef.
YSW: How did you learn the art of carving and food sculpture?
DJ: I did not know that I had an aptitude for carving, till I was in my second year of Hotel Management.
My teachers were very supportive, especially my production professor, Manoharan who used to take up many outdoor catering assignments.
I used to carve few basic garnishes during our practice sessions. I asked him, whether I could make a few sculptures for one of his outdoor catering events. He agreed and took me along with him for his next event.
Ever since then my friend Prakash Kadam and I started carving sculptures together for wedding functions.
My father (Shri Anand Vinayak Jategaonkar) was a writer and artist. He has written many award-winning books in Marathi. His painting and drawings were always an inspiration for me. I guess I have inherited my artistic flair from him.
YSW: What are some of your personal favourite dishes you like to prepare for your customers?
DJ: I like to experiment with food, and create fusion recipes. To create a fusion, a balance of flavours and right ingredients is the key. You learn these techniques only with experience.
In India, we have a very rich food heritage and culture. We also have so many varieties of regional Indian flavours.
Some of my favourite dishes which I like to serve to my guests are Mediterranean Mezze, Burmese Khou Suey, Rajasthani specialities like Dal Bati, Churma, Maharashtrian specialities like Puran Poli, Sambarwadi and Solkhadi, and Greek specialities like Spanakopita.
YSW: How did you feel when you made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for your margarine sculptures?
DJ: I was working on this project for almost 4 years. Before the Guinness project, I travelled to Germany to participate in the IKA culinary Olympics. I got a silver medal there for my Margarine sculpture called ‘Oh Cinderella’. It was the first silver for India.
While attempting for Guinness contest, I wanted to create something, which would portray Indian culture and philosophy. When I was working on this project my father fell ill and passed away. During his illness I had told him and promised him that I would complete the project and he was the inspiration behind that effort.
The sculpture was done in 10 days at the Domestic Airport, Mumbai. I had decided to do the Shiva Trimurti.
While we were creating the sculpture, it collapsed three times due to our techniques and due to the temperature, despite the fact that we were working in air-conditioned surroundings.
Finally, I got it right the fourth time around. Due to some technical issue, the GWR team did not approve of my sculpture initially. The whole sculpture had to be weighed once sculpture was done.
We had to create the sculpture again and I had to send the video evidence to the Guinness team. By then, I had lost all hope. But suddenly, one evening, I received an e-mail stating that my sculpture had been recognised and approved by GWR and I became a Guinness world record holder’.
YSW: Who are some of your culinary heroes?
DJ: My culinary inspiration will always be my mother, I still keep on learning many things from her, and my teachers they are the ones who inspired me be to be a chef. I admire and am always inspired by local chefs who know their craft well.
YSW: What are some special cooking tips you have learned in your journey?
DJ: I believe, more than the recipe, instinct and experience play a larger role in cooking. Also, while cooking, you need to be fearless and be ready to accept failure. You keep on learning new things only if you are ready to experiment and go out of your comfort zone.
YSW: What is your advice for other aspiring chefs and people wishing to get into the food sculpting space?
If it is your dream, it’s your responsibility to fulfill it. Do not complain about the situation or support from family/colleagues etc. Find a way to achieve your goals.
You have to work hard, and most importantly believe in your ideas. Treat failures as learnings and move on. Do not give up. As someone once said, ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams’
YSW: What do you enjoy doing on the weekends when you are not cooking?
DJ: I like to spend time with my daughter Mira. I love nature and I like to travel too. I also love visiting ancient caves and studying sculptures, architectural structures and forts.
(Edited by Asha Chowdary)