If you can cook, laugh, crack jokes, look right into the camera and still forget that you are being filmed, then, I guess, you can be Corporate Chef Anil Kumar. This Thiruvananthapuram-based TV cookery show host is now the corporate chef in Lotus One, Dubai. Multitasking is a way of life for Anil. Talking is second nature to Anil, who does these shows sans scripts. But what he says now will make you sit up. He recently hosted Paris Hilton, (yes, you read it right) when she came to Dubai.
What was it like? “It was painfully funny. Painful because her managers had asked for Lebanese mezze and snacks to be arranged and I had prepared a whole array of it, but when she arrived she asked for the regular menu served at Lotus One! Funnier still, I had served on the cocktail table a bowl of edible gold-leaf wrapped strawberries (24 carat berries), but she didn't touch them at first, thinking they were really gold.”
The other big names for whom Anil has cooked are, well, Eddie Murphy. “There were meatballs and BBQ for him, multi cuisine menus for the Bachchans and Kamal Hassan (breakfast fare with dosa, chutneys, sambar) and, for Rajinikanth, it was boneless Chettinad style kolivarutha curry with crispy appams.” Anil has catered for Sonia Gandhi and Viv Richards too. A consultant for flight kitchens for a long time, he has also been the Prime Minister's onboard chef on VVIP chartered flights. To think that in his childhood, all he wanted to do was join the National Defence Academy!
But today, he says, “The humble profession of cooking took me around the world, to more than 20 countries. It earned me thousands of admirers, helped me inspire many a youngster. While working on board cruise ships in Miami, I had many opportunities to show-cook for hundreds of tourists, and at Taj Coromandel too I did cooking demonstrations for many celebrities. These live exposures made me confident to face the camera.”
Anil does not look at cookery books for inspiration. For he believes while some are good, others merely contain stolen recipes with new pictures! Anil is planning a series of books, which are offbeat - “Smart Cooking” for incorrigible in-laws, adventurous friends, neighbourhood uncles and aunties, restless teenagers, hungry bachelors, desperate wives, and so on. “About 10 of them in the first phase,” he says.
And he does cook for the family, as “cooking at home helps you unwind,” though wife Reshmi is a good cook. His dream? To start a restaurant “somewhere in the world where I can serve good food at a good price.”
A chef's career is tough, and for those who want to choose it as a career, he has a piece of advice: “Even with good training and the best culinary certification, you may end up peeling a lot of garlic before you earn your title - and some rest. Creativity, energy and ambition will get you to the top. Practice and more practice is the sure-fire way of refining your skills. And this comes in handy when you graduate.”