The Indian kitchen has seen much transformation in recent times. Pasta rubs shoulder with pakodas, a dal makhani is being edged out by a massaman curry and a sit-down dinner at someone’s home is just as likely to feature Italian, Thai or Mexican food as an all-out Indian menu.
And gourmet cooking workshops have taken off like anything, feeding the frenzy about cuisine from across the world. If one teaches you how to bake a perfect ciabatta at home, the other makes a dab hand at grilling out of you.
Take Arati Chaudhuri of Sprinkles and Swirls. Arati conducts baking workshops as well as cookery classes that focus on Thai, Chinese and Continental food.
“I have mostly working people in the 25-35 age group, coming in for my classes, and then there are teenagers too. But, these days I find kids, around nine or 10 years, who come with their mothers and get hooked to baking. A lot of them come for my baking classes,” she says.
Arati reasons that this interest in exotic cuisines is partly a result of the audio-visual onslaught brought on by the food channels and shows. “There are so many cookery shows these days — Top Chef and Master Chef and so on. People are getting more curious and creative about food they cook at home. They want to try out the new things that they watch,’ she figures. The best part of this, according to her, is the willingness to do it all from scratch.
“For breads, pizzas and pastas, most people want to do it from scratch, with locally sourced ingredients. They don’t want the shop-bought ready stuff,” she says.
And chef Madhu Menon, who conducts gourmet cooking workshops at Herbs & Spice, the Indiranagar restaurant, along with chefs Manjit Singh and Mako Ravindran, could not agree more.
“People want food to be beyond ordinary and they do want to make it all from scratch. Instead of reaching for a packaged version, they’d rather know how to make their own pasta from flour and eggs and make their own pasta sauces,” he says. And the interest in global food trends is only on the rise. “Chicken tikka is passe,” declares Madhu.
“People would rather know how to make a Tahini sauce than chutney and we’ve conducted party food and dips kind of workshops that have found great response. We’ve done Middle Eastern food, pasta and pasta sauces, Southeast Asian cuisine, salads and cocktails and more,” he says. And in the pipeline, later this month, are workshops on bread baking, Japanese cuisine and more.
“We see young professionals, mostly in their late 20’s or early 30’s. They are familiar with these kinds of food, but unfamiliar with the ways of cooking them. They want to learn to make them in order to impress their families and guests. And this interest has also gone up since a lot of ingredients that were earlier considered exotic, are now available here. In fact, we make it a point to teach people to cook with locally sourced ingredients, available in the retail market,’ he says.
Then, there are the Weber License to Grill sessions that have hit the spot with the city’s gastronauts. These sessions have an experienced chef teaching participants the nitty-gritty of grilling, right from lighting a grill to marinating techniques, barbecue tips and DIY recipes including vegetarian (and non-vegetarian, of course) grills, grilled pizzas and even grilled desserts!
Aslam Gafoor, COO, Weber Grills India, pegs the interest down to two things — more Indians travelling abroad and more exposure to food trends and global cuisine through television channels.
“Even my kids know more about global food they watch on the television show, food I had no idea of till I joined the hospitality industry,” he says. Aslam emphasises on the educating role of Weber.
“We hold small size classes so we can teach people about grilling — right from lighting a fire, to right cuts of meat and what you can do with a grill. And a large part of it is about educating people on making use of condiments and ingredients available in India that can lend themselves to this technique of cooking,” he says. And from arbi satays to Italian recipes that make liberal use of eggplant and peas, they’re doing it all.