Of Shared Memories

Food has an exceptional ability to connect, create wonderful memories and even become the single delicious reason that bond, say seasoned chefs as they share their stories of a common love

By Madhulika Dash

They say food has no grammar, and yet it is the single most important thing that can turn foe, friends; strangers, lovers; heal a broken heart and mend a relationship. It is also the rues that makes memories. In this series of Shared Memories, we look at some of the finest moments when food became the amore of father-son, father-daughter and uncle-nephew – a ritual that as endearing as it is delicious.

Chef Yogendra Pal, Executive Chef, Park Hyatt, Hyderabad
Dish: Chocolate covered biscuit with chocolate cream & strawberry

“One of the perks of being a father to two lovely daughters is the inexplicable sense of being the best that they make you feel each time I cook for them, which I confess is rare, but extremely gratifying. And it comes even with a simple dish like linguini made with fresh tomato sauce. In fact, over the years, cooking for them is the only ‘we time’ that I get to spent with them and catch up on all what is happening in their life. And the best dish I feel which bonds us better is this chocolate loaded recipe of chocolate covered biscuit with chocolate cream and strawberries. While both my daughters love the chocolate and strawberry pairing, it is the one dish that has evolved over the years – from being all sweet to more playful with flavour notes – much like my relationship with them.”

Chef Vikas Seth, Culinary Director, Embassy Leisure
Dish: Sushi

“I rarely cook at home. That expertise is of my wife, Dolly, who is an exceptional cook. But there are times when I get to step into her domain and rustle up a few interesting things like chocolate cookies. In fact, it was the first thing I made for Aditya as a toddler when he could eat and I do so even today, it is a must if I am at home. Of course, now he is around to help if the order of cookies is for his friends as well. The other dish he absolutely love is the pandan leaf paneer. However, lately, if there is one dish, we both can write a book upon and absolutely obsess about is Sushi. It is the single thing we are likely to order first in the restaurant and have our fill while catching up on what we have missed out on.”

Chef Shantanu Mehrotra, Executive Chef, Indian Accent
Dish: Sunday Mutton

“Don’t let the chef apron fool you into thinking I can cook at home readily. Like most other dads, I too, get to step into the homemaker domain only on my Sunday – which as a chef can be any day of the week. And since my two sons came to eating age, I have used this opportunity to introduce them to the brilliance of food, the way I was introduced as a kid. Most things are home-made, from scratch. But the one dish I tend to keep going back – by habit and by popular demand as well – is the Sunday Mutton, which I cook in mustard oil and with enough vegetables. Over the years, it has become a ritual when my sons accompany me to the market to get the ingredients and even turn willing sous chefs in the kitchen, especially the younger one. For me, it is the kind of time I need to catch up. Watching them polish bowlful is still most heartening and worth the effort.

Chef Rajiv Malhotra, Corporate Chef, Chor Bizarre
Dish: Methi Murg

“We are a typical Punjabi family where food is an integral part of every occasion. This passion for food led my elder son to become a chef. It’s a ritual from the time my elder one was 10 years that I cook for my family every Sunday. One of the dishes that my family love for me to cook every alternate week is Meethi Murgh. It is one dish that is also closer to my heart – not because it is considered to be my signature recipe at home; but it is the time when my grown up sons come to work with me in the kitchen, which is instantly filled with laughter, those little jokes and lots of talks. My wife often calls it the ladko ka adda – and in many ways it is, and I love it.”

Chef Glyston Gracias, City Chef, Social and Smoke House Deli
Dish: Crab Curry

“I don’t know how my nephew Reeve Gracias took on loving the Crab Curry that my mother makes, but ever since he could bite a chicken leg, gorging on bowlful has been an unbreakable ‘Uncle- Nephew’ ritual where we compete on who can eat the most crabs. The winner isn’t decided on the pile of shells but how many have been polished well – one small strand of crab meat and you are disqualified. Now 10, that competition has evolved into a ritual where we go to the market together to get the fresh crabs, clean them and even help his grandmother with all the prep required before we sit down for our duel. Of course, on hindsight, it has helped me know him much better as he shares each little secret with me. He has promised to join me in the kitchen to cook the crab together when he can touch the stove at home. Honestly, I secretly wish that happens soon.”

Chef Dhiraj Dargan, Executive Chef, Comorin
Dish: Bhutte Ki Khichdi

“With late working hours, it becomes extremely difficult to spend time with my toddler Sehaj. However, I try to spend my weekly off with him. He is extremely inquisitive about my profession and to give him a glimpse into my work life I often try to toss some healthy and easy recipes for him. One of his favourite dishes from is Corn Khichdi, which is also on our Comorin Menu. The first time I made it, he had with relish, even when I had added a little of the spiced chutney. Over the years, it is the one dish he demands I make, and I am happy to cook. After all, aside of being a quick cook, it is super healthy, delicious – and something I love too. In fact, it is my favourite way to sneak in a few vegetable each time we share the corn-meal.”

Chef Sandeep Sadanandan, Head Chef, Byg Brewski
Dish: Chicken Thermidor

“As a chef, you always would love to have that one person who loves food and its experiments as much as you do. For me that one person is my daughter, Naysa. A tweenager still, she loves experimenting with her food – and is always around when I am trying something new. In fact, she even doubles up as a sous chef and a taster to ensure I always cook that ‘yum’ dish right. Result: While I really do not have that one dish that we love to share as her favourites change every day; it has given me some beautiful memories of cooking and eating together. This time, I am cooking her the Chicken Thermidor, a dish that combines three of her favourites dishes – noodles, which is pink, fried chicken and creamy mushroom sauce. It’s a match made with love!”