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Food as mirror

NEHA MUJUMDAR
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EVENT Aditya Bal introduces you to Rajasthani, north Indian and Bengali fare at a live cookery demo today

For Aditya Bal, food isn’t just something you put in your mouth: it’s heritage, history, trade, language all at once. “It’s a mirror to civilisation,” he proclaims. The model-turned-chef, who hosts the food and travel show Chakh Le India on NDTV Good Times, thinks the explosion in food media – talking more about food than ever before – is because people want to rediscover their heritage. “Ten, 15 years ago – ghar ka khaana was taken for granted. Today, food is a light medium to connect with the past – it doesn’t offend anybody.”

He then revises that statement – food can, of course, offend. He’s not chuffed that he’s not allowed to cook with beef or pork on the show. That means he doesn’t get to cook a large body of dishes. This is something he often brings up with the channel, but has made his peace with, for now. “I guess part of being a chef is adapting to what you have.”

Someday, he’ll open a restaurant, he says. And even a cooking school. Aditya is a firm believer in the importance of technique. That said, his favourite meals through his travels for Chakh Le India have been the simplest ones: the ones in some faraway, remote village. There was the corn cake, cooked over a cow dung fire at Mandu village in Madhya Pradesh, or the mackerel, baked in hay, at Goa.

Indeed, he’s increasingly fascinated with traditional methods of cooking. “I want to cook with hay, dried coconut leaves, whatever I find. I know it’s difficult to do in cities for want of space, but I want to try.”

The recipes might not be rural to that extent, but in a master-class today, Aditya plans to introduce people to more of the regional Indian food that he has come to be associated with. Those bored of the same-old rice-dal-roti-curry routine can shake things up with the cookery session at the Le Meridien. Aditya has planned a three-course meal, with recipes from the north, something from Bengal, and something from Rajasthan. “I’m not the one who should be telling you how to cook your own food,” he says, on why he hasn’t chosen a recipe from south India.

Entry is free to the ‘Meet The Chef’ event, which will be held today at the Le Meridien between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. To register, SMS FA (space) BLR to 56388.

NEHA MUJUMDAR

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