Chefs Talk Detox

And their much-liked way of keeping it down post the season

By Madhulika Dash

Let’s face it: It is not just us diners who get too swayed away with the season end and overindulge – chefs too face the same dilemma. In fact, worse. “We,” confesses Chef Neeraj Tyagi (Director of Culinary, Pullman & Novotel New Delhi Aerocity), “in our zeal to give something new and more lavish than last year to our diners and patrons, we tend to invariably pile on more because of the numerous trial runs, and of course the few times when gluttony gets the best of us. In addition to that is our regular everyday work, which makes us do impromptu tasting once a while.”

Result, adds Chef Sharad Dewan (Regional Director, Food Production, The Park Hotels), “we are obviously a few kilos heavier too by the time the clock struck ‘New Year’ with a prospect of more given that the next few days are our best season.”

By the time, things cool down – which, says Chef Sabyasachi Gorai ( Culinary Director, Byg Brewski), “which by our definition is the festive rush fizzling out and may take two months and a few team party out, we too complain that the ‘rats sewed our clothes tight.’ Yes, the ‘too much food’ logic doesn’t work in season time.”

But with food as their occupation, chefs, over the years, have designed their own mechanism to help them ease out those treat – the best part, it doesn’t include starvation or going on an absolute liquid diet. Two reasons for this, says Chef Vikas Seth (Culinary Director, Embassy Leisure), “first, we cannot simply because on an every day basis we have to research on food and take trials – both involve tasting – and quite a bit of it; and two, a strict liquid diet rarely prepares you for the high energy work schedule that continues for the next two months – and even after.”

What really do they do? Eat wisely, say the food happy people. Here are a few tricks:

Detoxes with Congee


“One of the lousiest things that one can do after a few weeks of feasting is to succumb to bland food in the name of balancing it out. It doesn’t work like that. You can never overcompensate or under compensate for a gluttony before or after. So the best way I do is return to my eating routine by resorting to a healthy meal of Congee or our traditional kanji. Essentially, a farmer’s meal, this fermented rice gruel if done right can pack in a punch of nourishment along with the punch of taste. I often resort to a bowl of this super bowl post days of heavy tasting or on those when I would be on my feet all day long. One soup bowl is enough to go for a long time, plus it comes with the freedom to play around – veggies, steamed meat balls, pan fried fish, and of course the sauces.”

Detoxes with Spiced rubbed chicken on millet khichdi


“In my years of cooking, I have realised that nothing can bring a balance to meals than a home-cooked fresh food. It is the lightest, tastiest way to get back to your routine diet and can help you loose more. But as you go older, you need to tweak the portion size concentrating more on food that fills you up, and keeps you going for a long time. For me, that solution has come in form of khichdi where I can play with lentils and a wide variety of millets, broken wheat and others. I go easy on spice and ensure as many sources of protein I can use, and lots of vegetables. Balanced meal is the key.”

Detoxes with Asian Cilantro Soup


“Taste is important. It is the single most important thing between satiation and this constant feeling of starvation. It is one of the important eating lessons I learnt a few years ago, and have since followed it to T. My go-to meal balancer is of course soup – clear soup. This allows me to pair it with a fair number of other ingredients like vegetables (fresh, fermented, cured, pickled), meat (steamed, braised, cured) and of course complex starch and carbs. Thus, ensuring I have a balanced meal that is light, flavoursome and filling. My easy choice for all these years has been the Asian Cilantro Soup, which I have realised has a broth that can pair well with many ingredients. For days, I am short on time, I prefer a burrito bowl.”

Detoxes with Yellow Lentil and Drumstick Soup


“I am a home bird when it comes to pairing it down post a happy festive season. I like my dal-roti on a regular basis. My go-to-food after a good season of gluttony, which is regular feature in our lives and not just a year-ender, is the Yellow Lentil Drumstick Soup. Made with Pigeon Peas, this hearty winter lentil soup can take on a variety of seasonal ingredient and is a powerhouse when it comes to the goodness of spices and herbs too. I like mine with drumstick batons that give it that extra fibrous boost needed for detoxing the system, and the taste. Two bowls and you are set for the day.”

Detoxes with Mangalorean Fenugreek Kanji


“For me, festive season often comes with a double whammy. I have the hotel side and then my home, where Christmas time is a season where some of the best family recipes come to the fore. And since it is a once a year treat, going overboard is much likely. But once the rush is over, I gear down to having food that have natural flavour and fat – and have started loving the concept of Kanji.It is a Southern Indian dish made with fermented rice water, coconut milk and jaggery with fenugreek seed tempering. The result is a fabulous bowl that soothes you and is almost guilt free even if you pair it with chicken or flatbread given its sheer goodness.”

Detoxes with Apple and Ginger Salad


“Apple and Ginger Salad with rice wine vinaigrette is my go-to dish often not only because its light and refreshing with that citrus twang to it, but also because it is a salad base that can take on a lot of healthier stuff well – like nuts, green salads, beans, sprouts and even a few tiny squares of roasted polenta. And while a simple rice wine dressing is good enough there are times when I also do a tamarind jaggery dressing for the sweet craver in me – and because of the wintery goodness that jaggery brings along. The one trick I use not to overeat the salad, which can be really delicious is not overload it with too many ingredients and have too many different textures to chew on.”