Chef Devwrat has just won India its first silver medal at the KA Culinary Olympics, a global competition organised by World International Chefs’ Association, in collaboration with German Chefs’ Association. Held every four years this is one of the world’s most prestigious culinary events drawing about 2,000 chefs from more than 75 countries. Yes, there was butter involved.
Sure, you love butter. Who doesn’t? But how much do you love butter? Is this beginning to sound uncomfortably close to King Lear? Overwrought declarations of love on stage are one thing. But perhaps it’s a bit much when it comes to butter. Then again, maybe not. Meet Chef Devwrat Anand Jategaonkar. He loves butter. And fairy tales. Love conquers all? Sometimes, it does.
Chef Devwrat has just won India its first silver medal at the KA Culinary Olympics, a global competition organised by World International Chefs’ Association, in collaboration with German Chefs’ Association. Held every four years this is one of the world’s most prestigious culinary events drawing about 2,000 chefs from more than 75 countries. Yes, there was butter involved. Also a fairytale. And, to be perfectly honest, we suspect a little bit of magic too. How else do you transport a delicate butter sculpture depicting Cinderella from Alibaug in Maharashtra to Erfurt in Germany.
Discussing how he worked on the sculpture for two months, Chef Devwrat says he was inspired by the fantasy and romance of Cinderella. “It’s a story everyone knows. But it’s more than that,” he says, discussing how the ‘Prince’ is a metaphor for the dreams coming true. Now, at the risk of killing some of the romance, we have to tell you that butter sculptures are actually made with margarine, which holds better. It however looks and feels like butter, with its warm colour and gleaming texture. “I like to keep it natural. That yellow is so beautiful,” says Chef Devwrat. He goes on to discuss the challenges. “The temperature has to be maintained at 20 degrees C, and you need to do it in stages, since each part needs time to set after it’s been carved.”
However, the biggest challenge he faced was transportation. “The roads out of Alibaug are not very smooth. It took us seven hours to get to the airport, because I asked the driver to move at a speed of 10 to 15 km/hr.” He adds with a laugh, “The AC was on full blast, and we were all shivering.” When they reached the airport, it took a while to convince the airline to let the 3 ft x 3 ft x 3 ft sculpture travel. “The Lufthansa staff was shocked when I said I wanted to put it in a container with wheels and store it in the luggage hold! But I had no other option. They said it would reach in two pieces. It survived. “We checked in Frankfurt and there was minor damage, but at least Cinderella was okay!” Almost three hours by taxi later, Chef Devwrat and his sculpture were safely ensconced in a hotel room. “The temperature in Germany was perfect for the sculpture: 13 degrees.”
All the effort was worth it in the end. He won a silver in a competition featuring 550 participants. “It was so unexpected. Chefs had done amazing things. There was a sugar sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II that was so perfect it felt like she was standing in front of you. There was a chocolate warrior. And a beautiful sculpture in salt called ‘Unexpected Attack,’ showing a man on a camel being pounced on by a lion.”
Discussing how this was possible only because of the support he received from Radisson Blu, Alibaug, where he is executive chef, Devwrat says it’s a big step forward for a small town boy. “I grow up in Akola, near Nagpur. I wanted to move to Pune because it was a bigger city. But when I went there to study hotel management, it was so difficult. My English wasn’t good, my accent was different, I missed my friends and family… I almost gave up. Then I discovered carving. Made some beetroot flowers.” That’s how it all began.