Devraj Sathyadevan's dreams of serving the perfect grill comes true at his eatery, Cochin BBQ
We are looking hard for a landmark next to which Cochin BBQ, a barbeque joint, is on the Seaport – Airport Road and we dare not blink lest we miss it.
We, as it turned out, were looking for a non-existent landmark. Fortunately Devraj C. Sathyadevan of Cochin BBQ was waiting outside the eatery, and really, there is no missing it. Devraj, it turns out, is a committed foodie. Not just the kind that eats but the kind that likes to feed. Till he opened his eatery, he used to be a techno-commercial consultant and still is one.
He talks about his father's petal soft idlis which are still the best he has eaten, “my father used to grind the dough for the idlis. This is in the pre-grinder/mixer era.” Growing up in a family where it was normal for boys, and when they grew up, men, to potter around the kitchen. “I wouldn't starve. I could make a decent kanji-payar.”
While he was studying engineering in Thrissur, he shared accommodation with five others. Each pair had to take turns on ‘kitchen duty' and later he turned out be the common factor, “I was the ‘consultant'.” Food and cooking seemed to be the leitmotif of his life. He was either preparing the menu or feeding people.
Improvise and cook
During a stint in the Philippines he would have almost a dozen friends over for lunch every Sunday. “It was challenging but it was fun. Everything was different, no spices, herbs, no mobile phones to call mother …nothing. But there was plenty of seafood, chicken and I used to make do with those and improvise and cook up a meal.”
Before relocating to Kochi, he was in Chennai for a decade. There he toyed with the idea of starting an eatery dedicated to Malayali cuisine, “it stayed an idea.” Once back in Kochi, the desire got stronger and he succumbed. But he bided his time. A year was dedicated to research and development. His experiments with food were conducted on his family and friends. And by March this year he opened his own eatery. There were hiccups, but “now we are on track.” He is now looking forward to more outlets.
“I had to get the right marinade. Malayalis do not like their meat bland so I had to improvise and make it healthy too. A year later I got it.” He even fabricated his own barbeque grill and he gets them fabricated for anybody who asks. “There is nothing to be secretive about it. Anybody can do it and if they want to why not?”
Devraj is extremely conscientious for a restaurateur. He refuses to serve foods which he knows are unhealthy. Same goes for processes, which is why he chose barbeque, “less oil, less spices.” Artificial food colours, monosodium glutamate, soda bicarbonate (for meats) etc are strict no nos.
As he talks about spices and marinade I realise that I am hungry. So in comes BBQ combo No. 7 (Rs. 100), which is mathi (sardines) and kappa (tapioca). Why a combo for barbeque? “We are used to the meal concept, so barbeque solo is a no go. People look for something to go with the meat or seafood, so I offer chapathis or khuboos or toasted bread, rice, green chutney, mayonnaise, green salad and gravy.”
Clearly BBQ No. 7 is a Malayali barbeque. There no frills or accompaniments. The tapioca is tasty and spicy perfect for a rainy day and if you love your sardines you will be a convert. Chicken barbeque combo (Rs. 90) was as good as a desi BBQ gets. The spices were all there but in moderation and done well. The chapathis were, surprise, made of wheat flour! “Only those here,” says Devraj. We also sampled his biriyani, it is different from biriyani elsewhere.
Innovation and courage are a sure recipe for job satisfaction, Devraj believes.