The celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain makes an interesting statement when he says, “The way you make an omelette reveals your character.” But here, we are talking about men who can prepare meals fit for a king. These gentlemen never attended a hotel management course or switched jobs midway, in fact their careers run completely parallel to their passion.
They may never win the coveted Michelin Star, but that doesn’t stop them from preparing a grand meal for family and friends. Like their professional counterparts the chefs, they too can speak fluent kitchenese and like the saying goes, they have found their movements through time and space somehow to be trivial compared to a heap of boiled meat in broth, the smell of saffron, garlic, fishbones and Pernod.
Rishikesh Dandekar, dentist
Going by his kitchen knife collection, you know Rishikesh takes cooking seriously. “I am very possessive about the knives, nobody is allowed to touch them,” he says. When it comes to cooking, Rishikesh is not whimsical.
He likes to cook at least two dishes a week and so his kitchen is stuffed with all the necessary ingredients. Once, he was invited as a guest chef to a popular nightclub in the city. “I had a great time, it was like a dream come true,” he says. Rishikesh prepared a variety of cuisines when he was the guest chef for a day.
On his Facebook profile, you will find many people who have enjoyed his meals or are waiting to be invited over to his place. His daughter has taken after him, “She is still learning, I am sure she will get there,” he says when we ask him who’s the better cook? Like all men with good culinary skills, Rishikesh has friends coming over to taste his dishes and yes, he likes compliments.
However, another reason why he goes to the kitchen is to let off steam. “Preparing a dish is a great stress buster,” he says. Rishekesh has also thought about starting a restaurant and maybe in the near future all of us will be able to relish his cooking.
Shirish Paranjpe, Sailor
If there is one thing Shirish will do with as much devotion as joining his friends for a cuppa at Vaishali every morning, it is cooking. He has been learning new recipes and experimenting
primarily with non-vegetarian dishes for 20 years. Shirish was not always kitchen-friendly, “I was inspired by a friend to try out cooking. He was an excellent cook and would come up with delicious meals which were always welcome. One day, I decided to give it a try and got hooked to the art,” he says. Over the years, he has developed a taste for preparing Indian dishes and doesn’t have any
issues sharing the kitchen with his wife. “She supports my passion by helping me find new recipes and though she is a vegetarian, she is okay when I cook non-vegetarian food,” adds Shirish who has a neat and tidy kitchen. He is not one of the guys who are inspired to cut vegetables and grind spices once in a blue moon, cooking for him is a regular affair. “I like inviting friends over for a meal and feel very satisfied when they enjoy my preparations,” he says. Shirish has also cooked meals on the ship for his colleagues at times which they thoroughly enjoyed.
True to his word, he had prepared a spicy chicken curry with lots of gravy which was devoured with relish. The curry had the taste of a crossover preparation — something that is available at restaurants prepared with a homely touch. The chicken was cooked just right, the spices mixed in right proportion. The curry bowl was wiped out clean once we were done eating, thanks to Shirish’s excellent style of cooking.
Rakesh Ganguli, social activist
Learning to cook was not an option for Rakesh. He grew up with a single parent, the reason why he took to cooking at an early age. “I think I was in the seventh or eighth standard when I began to prepare meals. Since I love to eat, I started to experiment and when my preparations started to turn out well, I became confident that I could make better dishes,” he says.
Today, Rakesh can prepare an entire meal consisting of chappatis, rice, various curries and dessert. He gets really busy during Diwali because for the last 20 years, he has been making festive specialities. Besides, he says his non-vegetarian dishes are popular amongst his friends. “When I host parties, I generally prepare mutton and chicken tandoor in the microwave. I can also cook meals in Goan and Malvani styles,” he says.
Collecting spices is his hobby. “I am obsessed with collecting different varieties of spices. In my kitchen cabinets, you will find at least 50-60 varieties,” he adds. There’s no secret to his style, he has improved his culinary skills by observing the ways of older women in the kitchen — how they have preserved certain traditional recipes that have been passed over to them over the years.
The best part about Rakesh is that he can make a decent meal with anything that’s available. For instance, he remembers the time when he was able to prepare a pulao using only limited ingredients, but surprisingly his friends enjoyed the simple fare. “The challenge is to cook something delectable with whatever you have.”
Vikrant Sowani, Entrepreneur
Vikrant started his culinary journey at an early age. “Cooking fascinated me right from the time I was a school kid. Unlike most young boys, I always loved hanging out in the kitchen with my mom. I was curious to know what went into preparing delicious dishes. I also used to note down the secret ingredients.
But it was only during my college days that I actually started trying out different recipes. That was the beginning of my affair with cooking and it still continues. Now I am passionate about the art and make it a point to try different cuisines.”
Since Vikrant likes variety, he enjoys making Indian, Chinese, continental and Italian dishes. “I started by trying my hand at Kolhapuri Mutton,” he adds. He likes to experiment with recipes playing around with different ingredients. Luckily, his wife shares his passion for cooking too.
“I keep asking my mother and wife for recipes and watch shows on TV. The internet, of course, has a lot of information to offer. I surf the net quite often to explore new ideas. Also, I like to try out innovative ideas without depending on anyone. And nothing compares to the satisfaction I get when I look at the final preparation and the compliments that follow are icing on the cake,” he says.
His wife Mayuri enjoys his preparations, particularly when he cooks an exclusive meal for her on their wedding anniversary and her birthday. Besides, since they both enjoy cooking, the two have a great time in the kitchen preparing meals together.