Name: Praveen P.Occupation: Making parotta
Dusk has settled in. The aroma is just irresistible as we approach a crowded restaurant-cum-take-away at Kaithamukku. The sight is inviting – glass shelves filled with hot parottas, dosas, idiyappam, appam, chicken fry, chicken pirattu…. Parcels are being dispatched at break-neck speed, as we wait to catch up with Praveen P., the parotta-making expert at the takeaway.
However, Praveen is busy making dosas! The dough sizzles on the tava as he makes the dosas with practised ease. Once he removes the batch from the tava, he is ready for a chat. “I do everything, though I am more into making parottas,” he says, cleaning his hands with a towel before sitting down for a chat. “I’ve been doing this for the last five years or so. I picked it up by trial and error,” says Praveen, with a faint smile.
But why this trade? And how did he become an expert in making parottas? “It was not by choice. I had to do something after I finished my class ten. I was not good in studies, so had to learn some trade to earn a living and look after my family. I had to leave my home in Kottarakkara and come to the city in search of a job,” he says, wistfully.
He did try his hand at various trades before donning the chef’s cap. He tried to learn welding, but that didn’t work. “Then I started working at the canteen of Milma at Ambalathara, where I was quite fascinated by how parottas were being made. I wanted to learn how to make it. Surendran, who was then making it, agreed to teach me,” he says.
But it was not an easy task for the youngster with no experience in cooking. “You need to be adept in making the dough, waving the thin flattened dough in the air, folding and spreading the dough with hands, frying it and then patting the stacked parottas while they are still hot. That takes time. It took me at least six months to get it right,” he says, showing us all the above for the camera.
In between he worked at the Airport canteen as well before moving to the present eatery. It is with pride that Praveen shares the recipe of success. “Our parottas are special. Maida, eggs, milk, baking powder and salt are the basic ingredients. We use dalda and coconut oil while rolling and spreading the dough. Not many hotels use egg in their dough. I know many places where they use palmolein instead of coconut oil so as to cut down the expenses. My employer is very particular about the taste and so there is no compromise on the ingredients. He is also strict about cleanliness,” he claims.
The dough is kept for an hour to settle before the parottas are made. The take-away is open from 5 p.m. and closes by 9.30 p.m. or sometimes later than that, depending on the rush of hungry customers.
“But we start work by morning itself, making chicken dishes and other items on the menu,” he says.
He goes home once a week to meet his parents, elder brother and sister. “I am only 23 and have been through some hard times. But I am happy now that I am able to contribute something for my family. We are on daily wages, which is good, because I’ve seen many employers promising monthly salary and then making one excuse or the other to delay it,” Praveen says.