One for the record

Culinary feat Chef Jacob  

Chef Jacob will barbeque non-stop for the Guinness World Record on March 14

Chef Jacob's sitting on a Swiss ball at work. “I also stand for six to eight hours daily,” he says, earnestly adding, “And for the past four months I have been going to the gym morning and evening.” He talks of doing weights “for extra stamina to fight fatigue ,” and meticulously eating a high protein, high fibre diet “for extra strength in the legs”.

Is he planning to climb a mountain? Swim a marathon? Party in Ibiza?

Not really. All this training is to prepare himself to cook a meal.

Of course, since this is Chef Jacob Sahaya Kumar Aruni, enthusiastic culinary historian, avid foodie and energetic spokesperson for South Indian cooking, this isn't going to be an ordinary meal. A TV chef and restaurant consultant, as well as director of the catering department at the Sankara College of Science and Commerce, Coimbatore, he has a penchant for kooky cooking, whether it's balancing his pots and pans by a river for his culinary show on Sun TV or taking on the challenge of whipping up enough biryani for 10,000 guests at a wedding lunch.

So, on Sunday, March 14, at Radisson Temple Bay in Mammallapuram Chef Jacob will be attempting to set a Guinness World Record for the longest barbeque marathon. (“I actually told the Guinness people that I'll cook for 48 hours, but they instead asked me to do a barbeque for 24 hours. That's never been done before.”)

The event, which is open to the public, begins at 9 a.m. and will end 24 hours later on Monday morning.

“I'm going to cook more than 500 varieties of international and Indian barbeques,” he says, reeling out highlights from the menu: “Sausages, steaks, patties. There will be vegetable grills, cauliflower barbeque and buns. Also tandoori and chicken tikka along with South Indian grills such as fish sukka and pomfret.

It's a tough challenge, both physically and mentally gruelling since he will be cooking on five grills simultaneously to get through 300 kilos of vegetables, 100 kilos of fruits (“I'll be grilling strawberries, pears and fresh figs”) and 380 kilos of meat and fish, including lamb, crabs and salmon. “The idea is not to break a record, but set a new one,” he says, explaining why he's so focussed on completing this task he's set himself. “I want to showcase Indian and South Indian barbeque items.”

An adjudicator from the United Kingdom will supervise the attempt, along with 12 sub-judges, who will act as witnesses.

As Chef Jacob flexes his muscles, he says he's already preparing marinations, about 72 in all. “Oregano, basil and thyme, as well as all the Indian masalas.” You can cheer, as long as you don't chat. “When people come in, they just have to ask the Radisson Temple Bay staff to guide them to the Guinness attempt,” he says, adding, “Only thing is they may not be able to talk to me. I only get five minutes rest every hour according to the rules. And that's to rest my muscles, or maybe get a quick massage.”

We're assuming the one thing he probably won't want to do during the break is grab a barbequed snack! For the rest of us, watching in comfort, these 24 hours of deliciously fragrant tandoori smoke promise to provide a steady supply of juicy pineapple wedges, crunchy potatoes and plump oysters.