Nadia talks about food as if it is a person with a racing heart beat. Dressed in deep purple, she rolls in rosy and breathless, “am I late?” she gushes. Her baby girl, Aliyé’s pick-up from school is the reason. When I tell her she’s on the dot, she takes off her specs, wipes her brow and with much relief plonks herself down on the chair. We sit down for a chat over coffee.
In her lingo Nadia would be a pudding in purple- sweet, adorable and quite irresistible. Nadia exudes warmth, something that positively gets her a long list of customers. “If I have to cater for a birthday party I speak directly to the child. I would say, ‘Darling, tell me, which is your favourite toy, what’s your favourite colour, what are you wearing for the party, what colour are the balloons? I get the complete picture of the party from the child and then bake the cake and make the other eats,” she says gesticulating all the while. She does not stop at preparing the food. Like in Reality TV shows, which Nadia loves to watch, she goes along with the order to deliver it personally. With bated breath she waits for the doorbell to be answered and then revels in the reactions over her food cooked with care. The kids generally swoon and so does she. Nadia loves the whole business of emotions over food.
This people’s approach, to food and food parties, is certainly warming customers to Nadia’s newly launched food business- Sugar N Savories. Besides, the range of cuisines on offer is another of her specialities. Mexican, Italian, Lebanese, West Asian, North and South Indian and of course Kerala cuisine are all there on her menu list. So just dial for global food is her trump card.
A passion for cooking
Strangely this bubbly Bangalore girl was despondent when she chose to move to Kochi last year. But love and marriage and duties and motherhood made her decision to come away to Kochi. She soon missed the cosmopolitanism of Bangalore, its vibrancy, its international feel, the humdrum… she recalls. She had just one passion that could keep her going, she says - cooking.
“When people wake up they have a plan for a day. I have only cooking on my mind,” she says. Encouraged by her husband, Praveen Jerome, to go ahead and live her plans, she began her food business. In Bangalore, Nadia catered for events along with her mother. Her father has a restaurant that serves Arabian food. Her uncles have two multi-cuisine restaurants and she has helped around in all. So food has been Nadia’s world.
“My ancestors were from Syria. The story goes that they came to India for their honeymoon, loved the garden city and decided to settle down. The started a sweet factory, the ‘NP Chewing Gum’, the pink ones were started by them. My grandfather carried it forward. We have been into the business of food over years,” she says justifying her entry into the field.
As long as she remembers she has cooked, eaten, tasted, experimented and served people food. Cooking is in her blood. She has not attended any cookery class. From her father she learnt the meats, remembering clutching to his side and watching him make the magical marinades. “My father is a steak man, the barbeque meat guy, the grilled food expert. My aunt is an Italian from whom I learnt Italian cuisine.” Helping her uncles in their multi-cuisine restaurants gave her exposure to global foods. The Deccan biriyani she learnt from her city of Bangalore. Kerala food of course came to her through marriage.
“Initially I knew of coconut oil only as something to be applied on the hair but now I know that it’s so much better in food,” she says and adds that her husband is from Edappally and one of her biggest critic and fan.
Her catering business started small, encouraged by her friend Tanuja who spread the word around about Nadia’s multi-cuisine cooking abilities. Soon orders began to pour. Mexican food for a group of 40, Italian dishes for a party, Kebabs, short eats for a cocktail…and Nadia began to get her kitchen in order. Soon she landed up with an order to cater Arabian food for 100 people, for a club event. The order increased to 300 and more, she says remembering the thrill and joy of cooking large scale. “I must confess the helping hand the club provided was really good. They followed my instructions to a T. We had a great time together.” Nadia gets her kitchen going anywhere. For bigger orders, her husband’s factory space comes in handy and she doubles up his staff to help in catering. “I can cook anywhere,” she declares confident that her food will have people by their heart.
The Sugar N Savories FB page is a food novella with a story to each dish. She likes to tell the story about each dish, “of where it is born, where it is brought up and where it goes.”
Her own food story goes through passionate efforts to seek out original recipes. Especially when she stole her father’s recipe book and never returned it. He finally gave in asking her, from Bangalore, to write on its dog-eared, oil stained, brown pages, ‘For my daughter, recipes with love.’