Life & Style

Men hone their culinary skills

A bake session at Buttercup

A bake session at Buttercup   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Men become eager learners at culinary classes in the city

It was during a particularly challenging phase in his life that Cheery Cherian Thomas enrolled himself in Marina Charles’ baking class in Kumarapuram. Since then, the 39-year-old has made the kitchen his ‘Zen space’, kneading and pummelling dough and experimenting with recipes after long hours at work.

Cooking classes in Thiruvananthapuram have always seen plenty of women in attendance. But culinary teachers say that a slew of competitive cooking reality shows over the last decade has encouraged a lot of men to step into the kitchen, otherwise demarcated as a place for women in most traditional households.

Chef Rose Mary, founder of Cassolette, The Baking Academy in Vellayambalam, has always had men from the IT, medicine and various other industries enrolling in the baking courses offered there. “Some of them have gone on to become home chefs or even set up bakeries,” she says. Young boys have also been a regular presence. “One student, who did a course with me when he was in the Class VII, now, as a plus two student, bakes cakes for his friends’ birthday parties,” says Rose Mary.

A bake session with Marina Charles

A bake session with Marina Charles   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Marina Charles has been holding classes for nine years, dividing her time between Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram. Her Indian cuisine classes in Bengaluru see many expatriate men from Europe and other parts of the world, keen on getting the batter for idli/dosa right or perfecting a butter chicken recipe.

Looking for something new

Sanjay Tapse, a scientist with VSSC, attends Marina’s classes whenever she has something new to offer, which is every alternate month. The 31-year-old used to be shooed out of the kitchen to study when tagging after his mother as a child, keen on helping. Growing up on a steady diet of Sanjeev Kapoor and Tarla Dalal shows where he’d insist that his mother take down the recipes, Sanjay always knew that cooking was something he loved. He cooks his daily meals. “It’s only on busy days that I wish for help. Otherwise, I prefer doing it myself,” he says.

A senior artist with Toonz Animation, Cheery too says attending a class helped him break free from the fear of experimenting. Cheery has certain health concerns that necessitate variations in the recipes. He tries coconut oil and jaggery where he can, sometimes vegan and gluten-free versions too. The results have been so impressive that his teacher wanted to try them herself and added him to her active group of home chefs on WhatsApp.

Cheery has no plans of exploring business options. “That would take away from the joy of it. I have enough deadlines at my day job. It is the expressions of those who bite into my bakes that I wait for. That makes the effort worth it.” So far, he’s successfully baked an Estonian Kringle with jaggery, vanilla cookies with coconut oil, dhokla — “from scratch, not using a ready-to-make mix” he stresses — and lots more.

Most male participants are aware that they are a minority in the classes. Sanjay and Cheery admit to doubting whether they would be welcome but were happy to find welcoming teachers.

Retired men form spirited participants at classes hosted by Padma Renjith. A culinary artiste, baker and founder of Buttercup Bakehouse in Sasthamangalam who has been teaching for 12 years, Padma says, “I once had a gentleman who wanted to surprise his wife by baking a cake for her birthday and he did manage to pull it off. Many seniors call, sounding hesitant at first, asking if it is “okay” if they attend a class. These are people who would have had house helps during their years at work and now have the time to explore cooking to treat their grandchildren to various dishes.”

Change evident

With young boys hosting their own cooking channels on YouTube and vying for tops prizes on cooking shows, Padma says the change is evident in her classes too. Her vacation cooking classes last month had boys aged between 7 and 15 years participate. Anjana Bijudas whose two children Anand, 10, and Riya, 8, were a part of Padma’s class, says the family has always preferred to cook the siblings’ favourite eats rather than buy them. “They used to help me measure out ingredients and watch cooking channels online with me. Since they do everything as a team, they are not aware of traditional biases. Anand shops for groceries himself. He has seen his father help me,” says Anjana.

A class at Cassolette, The Baking Academy

A class at Cassolette, The Baking Academy   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Rose Mary, who was a homeo doctor and then trained in Malaysia and Singapore to be a chef, feels boys are the more gung-ho lot in her classes. “They are game for anything. But then, unlike girls, they haven’t been growing up with the weight of expectations that surround knowing how to cook. So they have nothing to unlearn.”

Marina generally receives enquiries from adolescent boys and girls around Christmas season. “It is also cake season then. So, many youngsters come to learn how to bake.” But, there is a new demographic whose enterprising abilities leaves her surprised. “College kids come, not just to learn how to bake, but to bake with the intention of launching a business. When I was 17 or 18, setting up a business was the last thing on my mind,” she says.

Sanjay, meanwhile, dreams of starting his own food venture some day and hopes to earn enough leave from work to attend a professional course, even if it is to simply satiate his appetite for all things culinary.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 10:49:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/men-turn-eager-learners-at-culinary-classes-in-thiruvananthapuram/article24162401.ece

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