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Anchoring a hot & spicy passion

More than anchoring Master Chef on Asianet T.V, Anil Kumar is full of interesting recipes.PREMA MANMADHAN finds out all the ingredients that make this Chef, so hot and spicy

COOKING. IT'S drudgery. Right?

"No, not if done with love, care and in a creative spirit, " says the man who makes colourful dishes on Asianet-TV: V. Anil Kumar. His show, called Masterchef, is different in several aspects. For one, he does not wear an apron or a cap, or much make-up. (Hardliners don't approve of this non-apron technique) Now, hark back to all those cookery shows.... can one find lipsticked women in fineries in any kitchen?

Already a veteran of TV-cookery shows, Anil Kumar has done this for about three years, on the small screen and several more in five-star kitchens and cruise liners. Sometimes for politicians, sometimes for movie stars, but always with the showmanship intact.

"There may be better chefs than me, there may be better showmen, but I try to be a good showman-chef. Now, the TV shows are all done extempore. I just ask for the ingredients the day before, go there in the morning and plan it roughly in my mind, and ... ..shoot," Anil declares his modus operandi.

Before the small screen came his way, his penchant for showmanship was exploited by all his ex-employers. At the Taj Coromandal in Chennai, he would do a flambé for movie stars who came to the hotel. From the trolley, he would toss the food in the kadai or do a jig while turning the fish over and entertain the guest. He was always picked for the job, chiefly for his spicy style. In a stint in US on a cruiser, he did the same. And then, at Kovalam, he was a lecturer and he claims his classes were quite popular. Now, as Corporate chef at Saj Flight Services, he does a lot of travelling managing about 850 cooks. Standardisation of every dish is very important, Anil discloses. "It's a job with great responsibility because food is very important on the flights. One mistake and you need an emergency landing," he laughs.

Playing the desi version of Yan of `Yan can Cook' series, Anil admits Yan is his idol. In the show, Master Chef, on Thursday last, after making a carrot dish, he begins serving it in a yellow plate. Spontaneously, he says yellow is not the right colour and plumps for a green plate. This naturalness probably endears him to viewers, unlike the rehearsed drab shows, wherein one finds dazzling vessels, pretty aprons, imported blenders and stoves, but deadpan presentations.

"I give simple recipes which everyone can follow. No exotic ingredients that are not available here. I believe in presenting food well and with care. A bit of improvisation will go a long way to making food inviting," Anil says, describing how he made wheat uppuma for the Prime Minister who habitually took wheat gruel. With the uppuma, he arranged plaintain pieces (with the skin) of three colours (cream, green and pink) around it, giving it a `come-hither-eat-me' effect, which worked on the country's P.M.

Strangely enough, it wasn't his mama's cooking that made him take this up as his vocation. A Keralite, growing up in distant Orissa, his father used to cook at times, and it was very tasty, Anil remembers. Much better than what his mother made. That gave him moral sanction to cook. The fact that men can be better than women in the kitchen and that all men should give it a try, is his studied opinion.

Incidentally, it was Anil's cooking that wooed his wife, Reshmi, not his showmanship, he argues. Their love story is almost cinematic in that he quit his US job when he feared she would be given in marriage to some other guy. The happy ending came only some time later. And now, his little daughter is named Tamara. In Arabic, it means spice. Son Adil must also learn cooking, Anil says, just as all men should, he believes.

But guess who cooks in Anil's home. The maid!!

Anyway, attitude is what makes the kitchen a happy or sad place. This message will sure change quite a lot of hearths and hearts.

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