The LaLit New Delhi’s Executive Chef Nandita Karan says passion for your work can help overcome all challenges
What motivated you to enter the world of professional cooking, despite the challenges?
One of the biggest reasons for me to take up a career as a chef is my passion and love for food. Cooking is not merely preparing food and serving it, cooking is an art. It requires a lot of innovation and creativity. Working as a chef is very challenging. It is a fast-paced environment with a high level of pressure to deliver and requires you to remain on your feet for long hours. But if you are passionate about food, this is a highly rewarding career.
A physically challenging job and fast pace: what keeps you going? Do you have a comfortable equation with male chefs?
Every day in this industry is different and challenging. And this, combined with my love for food, keeps me motivated. It is a very busy environment and at times, I do feel overwhelmed by the success of some of the male chefs. But that does not mean women are behind, they can do wonders. At the LaLit, my colleague Chef Madhumita Mohanta has won several national awards.
Why do more men opt for this career than women?
Traditionally, the kitchen has been a woman’s domain. Women are capable, but they often lack the familial support to invest long hours to build this career. A chef has to be in the kitchen on special occasions such as Diwali or New Year’s Eve and these demand more work. It is the demanding nature of the job that makes it less favourable for women.
We now find many successful YouTube channels and blogs by home chefs. Going by this trend, do you feel women would like to opt for this career?
Home kitchen and hotel kitchen scenarios are very different. Cooking and showcasing a recipe that you have mastered for family and friends is very different from cooking for hundreds of guests. Professional cooking caters to different palates in the same space and on the same table. Of course, if someone is passionate, they would work towards training professionally and expand their career horizons.
Who are the other women chefs who inspire you?
I follow many women chefs and bloggers. To name a few: Nigella Lawson, American celebrity cook Rachael Domenica Ray and Donna Hay. I am inspired by Chef Ritu Dalmia as well.
Please share some ways to minimise food wastage.
At the LaLit, it is our brand policy to minimise food wastage and reduce the carbon footprint. A few practices that we follow are: FIFO (First In, First Out) method, temperature control, portion size, proper storage, try to use every part of the vegetable in best possible way, check our supplies and buy local, preferably from a farmer. Our purchase habits help us minimise wastage and also improve food quality.
Can you share any new recipe that you have created?
Good recipes are a result of creativity and innovation. Some recipes that I created are:
- Ragi Patisapta – Patisapta is a traditional Bengali recipe to which I have given a healthy twist using ragi flour (finger millet).
- Boondi Ravioli with Saffron Rabri – It’s a fusion dessert, Italian style, and I have used Indian boondi and rabri to prepare it.
What are your future plans?
I like to go with the flow. Though, given an opportunity I want to start organic farming and a restaurant on farm-to-plate concept. I also want to work towards saving the lost traditions of Bihar’s regional cuisine and thereby popularising them.
My leisure time is all about relaxing with my family.
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