Food

When the chef came home

Chef Elijah Durham. Photo: Soma Basu

Chef Elijah Durham. Photo: Soma Basu  

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And created a treasure chest of happy food memories!

After a long day up in the skies (hot air balloon ride) and in the waters (kayaking and air boat ride) in Kissimmee, when you are a tad drained out, what would you look forward to once you are back home in the evening? Perhaps unwind with “ ma ke haath ka khana” (meal prepared by mom)! Wishful thinking when you are a tourist in this small city in Osceola County in Florida! But then I did say return home and not hotel! And well there is no mom on this trip either.

But when we -- a group of visiting journalists from India – returned to the “vacation rental home” that evening, a sweet surprise awaited us. It began from the Door No.7657 Wilmington Loop, a luxurious condo in The Encore resorts run by the Jeeves rentals. We did not have to punch in numbers to unlock the door that evening. Instead when we rang the door bell, we were instantly greeted by Elijah Durham. “I am your private chef tonight,” he said with a big smile.

And something told us it was going to be a treat – if not ma ke haat ka khana, but definitely ghar ka khana (home-cooked food) was assured after days of eating Continental food in hotels and restaurants. A confident Elijah was here to whip up an Indian meal for us, his first attempt at cooking our desi khana. As he readied the table, he spoke of his 20-year career in restaurants that prepared him for dishing out timed meals for big and small groups with or without enough notice.

One fine morning he just decided to be on his own, offering his services to visit peoples’ homes and cook for them in their kitchens. “It was a pioneering way to earn additional income from my talent,” he says, “and also gave me the opportunity to learn a greater variety of cuisines.”

Having a chef come home to cook the meal in your house is a revolutionising concept that works to the benefit of both travellers and locals alike. “It is my aim to offer authentic experiences to people, no matter what part of the world they belong to,” says Elijah, who now runs his own catering company called Elemental Chef and does business with chains of exclusive luxury vacation homes where guests come from all over the globe for perfect getaways. From small families holidaying to large family get-togethers, college students’ reunions and business travellers to honeymooners, a wide spectrum of visitors of different nationalities stay here and there are days when they do not want to step out for a meal. That is when Elijah steps in, cooking and serving the recipes the guests ask for in the comfort of the drawing room. “I do lot of research once I am told about the guest’s nationality and food preferences. It is a fantastic opportunity to share my passion for food and for cooking. I also meet new people and learn so many new things from them,” he says.

He sails us through his culinary banter and sets up and serves our the meal in no time. Veg samosas as appetisers followed by a visually appealing salad consisting of an assortment of minced tomatoes, cottage cheese, cilantro, bread crumbs, potato fritters and chick peas placed on lettuce leaves. The meal was simple and tasty with white steamed rice, chicken curry, mixed vegetable curry and cauliflower subzi with what he called rotis but tasted like khakras. He kept the dessert simple with a layer of cream on an almond cookie and a dash of fruits including strawberry and black grapes.

No doubt it was Elijah’s first good and successful attempt at Indian food, but what mattered most that evening was not what and how much we ate but the experience we all went through – eating our own khana prepared by a firang cook in a foreign land in a homely set up and joined by more foreigners in the celebration! It was something utterly satisfying.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 10:16:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/When-the-chef-came-home/article14630704.ece

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