"The Day My Dad Became My Friend"
This Father’s Day, we get some of the happening culinary minds in the country to spill the bean on their most interesting father-daughter/son ritual – and what makes them their absolute must-do
By Madhulika Dash
Let’s face it: We never needed a Father’s Day to celebrate our dads – or recognise the larger-than-
life influence he is on us. For most of us, he was and always remained the captain of the family ship,
even as we became the ‘man’ and ‘daughter’ he wanted us to be.
The formidable figure at home
who we learn to revere and love most all through our growing up years. Our first hero, first mentor
and first advisor, our dads were everything a superhuman should be. This Fathers’ Day, we ask some
of finest culinary minds to share that one anecdote that made their father their very best friend,
confidant and a classic mentor to a good life. Here are some of the coolest friendship that was built
on love, respect – and a bowl of good food!
CHEF SHARAD DEWAN, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, FOOD PRODUCTION, THE PARK KOLKATA
“I don’t remember when it started, but since my tweenage years, I and my dad follow a simple
Sunday ritual – the barber shop, where we get similar cuts, followed by a trip to the mutton shop,
then the vegetable market and back home to cook the mutton. Of course, dad cooked mutton, but I
was his commi, who did all the prep work: weighing the ingredients, grinding them, peeling onions,
garlic and ginger (with a spoon that is). I wasn’t a big fan of the commi life, but the privilege of
tasting mutton before anyone else was worth the Sunday effort. His peculiar style of making it
allowed me to experiment with my dishes in later years as chef. In fact, one of the best moments
were watching him fillet a fish. Even though it was far from textbook work, the sheer joy on his face
when he cooked his first fish with me designing the recipe was the best moment. Suddenly, he
became the friend I wanted to cook with. Even today, when he is a spirited 80 and cooks no more,
just having him around while I cook is an untradeable ritual."
CHEF AMNINDER SANDHU, EXECUTIVE CHEF, ARTH
“My dad is my hero. Not only because he is my dad, but because of the sheer support that he has
been for me through my good times and bad. The incident that made my dad my best friend is when
I was 17. I had shifted to Mumbai then Bombay to study science and my dad came to drop me off.
He did everything to help me settle down, but a week later I was miserably homesick. I called up my
dad and asked him if I could come back to Assam. He said, “Okay, no problem let’s get you back
back." Once I resumed my happy face, he asked me to spend two more days finding little things to
be happy with my new solo life – and my dream. His words worked like magic. It’s been almost a
decade now, I am here, living happily and pursuing my dream of having a restaurant, my style called
Arth. The day I realised how he had turned me into a dream-liver, I had made my own version of the
Seekh Kebab, which I shared with my dad. Since that day, everytime he is around or I miss him, you
would find a plate of fragrant, soft seekh kebab sitting next to me."
CHEF SUJOY GUPTA, EXECUTIVE CHEF, TAJ BENGAL
“Growing up Bong, my dad and I share quite a few common habits – we loved old plays, reading
books and eating, especially when it came to Bengali sweets and fish. Food in fact has been both a
boon and bane of our lives – it is on the dinner table that we have our finest of food arguments,
ranging from what is the benchmark of a good fried fish to how the Bengali thali should be plated.
But in all these years, we have never left the table making our peace. It is on this table that I learnt
some of my father meticulous ways of working, interesting thinking and discipline. In fact, my first
paycheck was the tip he gave me after tasting the fish curry I made for him. In fact, I still get a rupee
five whenever I make something which he has loved. And that even today remains as one of our
favourite moment to talk mano-o-mano."
CHEF AKSHRAJ JODHA, EXECUTIVE CHEF, ITC WINDSOR
“It’s strange but true: my dad who taught me all I know about Rajasthani food and heritage never
cooked for me. But I guess, it was a blessing in disguise, because what he taught me to do was taste
food. My father who grew up in the colonial era became my first culinary teacher who taught be the
virtue of understanding our philosophy. He always said, cooking is a good talent to have, but cooking
with the understanding and appreciation of your own culinary heritage makes you brilliant. Thanks
to his insistence to understand flavours, cooking style and even ingredients, I developed the knack of
research and taste. And while we did have our food session sprinkled with history, the one thing that
we both loved is the latpata mutton keema (keema in gravy), which is a recipe evolved by him. It was
one of our mainstay whenever we sit down to have our bonding over food, history and anecdotes."
CHEF SABYASACHI GORAI, CHEFPRENEUR, LAVAASH BY SABY
“My dad was always a foodie, with an inclination towards his own cuisine. And one of the way he
appreciated eating is by cooking himself. I, of course, was his defacto helper, who would do all the
prep work, setting the table, making the salad – so on and so forth. Back the, I hated it, but looking
back now, I think it was those years that turned me into a chef. In fact, I get my streak of researching
and sourcing indigenous ingredients from him. The mutton rizala that we have on Lavaash By Saby
menu is the one he perfected after making many trips to this little restaurant that he loved. And it
dates to 1967."
CHEF ASHISH BHASIN, EXECUTIVE CHEF, THE LEELA AMBIENCE GURUGRAM
“Since my childhood days, one of my favourite activities would be to go vegetable shopping every
Sunday with my dad. He was the chief grocery buyer of our home and would go to extreme lengths
to get the right kind of food, fruits and even sweets. The way he shopped was akin to a collector. He
would take his time examining the vegetables – thickness of the skin of potato, firmness of
tomatoes, tenderness of okra, and so on. I would get impatient, but dad took his time until he was
satisfied. Over the years, I learnt the virtue of picking up quality produce – and the difference it
made to food. Today while I select my ingredients, I always remember his gurumantra of being
careful and patient about what goes in my dishes. It is something that I now love doing with my
daughter who loves cooking."
CHEF UCHIT VOHRA, EXECUTIVE CHEF AT ITC GARDENIA, BENGALURU.
"My father was a hotelier, he is a hotel management graduate from IHM and I strongly feel that is
one of reasons why I do what I do today, passionately even. While growing up, I don’t remember
him cooking much at home, Sundays being an exception. Breakfast on Sundays used to be my
father’s responsibility and while my mother woke us up and got us ready, breakfast for four would
already be laid on the dining table. His favourite dish was Eggs Florentine, which I first learnt to gain
brownie points from him. But later it became a favourite of mine too, and perhaps the single dish
that made me understand him better."
CHEF MANDAR MADAV, EXECUTIVE CHEF, CONRAD CENTENNIAL SINGAPORE
“There are so many things I’d like to tell my father face to face. I either lack the words or fail to find
the time or place. But if I am a chef today with a love for both meat and veggies, it is courtesy my
parents, especially my dad, who was a prolific cook of vegetarian dishes. So much so that there were
times when I would skip a fish or mutton dish and polish off one of his creation. My favourite dad’s
dish was “Kande Pohe". The taste, the story and the aroma were enough to volunteer as an assistant
to him every Sunday, when the day began with a nice bowl of moist Kande Pohe. His love for this
dish was so evident that it made me fall in love with Kande Pohe. So now every time we are
together for few days he will make Kande Pohe for breakfast and the following day I will make – just
to see whose are better. We did that even when he was in Singapore this season."
CHEF GAURAV RAGHUVANSHI, CORPORATE CHEF, MOVIE TIME CINEMA PVT LTD
“Even though my mother and sister were amazing cooks, the one person’s cooking that would be a
unmissable treat for me was that of my dad. A passionate homechef, he would often cook for me
when my mom was away at my grandmother’s house. And his style of cooking was much restaurant
style – lavish, rich and extremely tasteful. I still recall watching my dad in awe as he chopped
vegetable, marinated the mutton and cooked it in the kadai. He was as methodological a cook as he
was a host. He would lay the table the same way my mother did when we expected guests. If he
wasn’t cooking then we would be out exploring local cuisine of the place and restaurant with legacy.
Somewhere growing up it was food that not only helped me bond with my dad better but also
played a significant role in getting me interested in kitchens and in being a chef. We still love to cook
when we are together – the only difference is now that roles have changed, I cook, he helps."