Learn from a master

Learn from a master

A group of chefs were in the City recently to experiment with the flavours of the country and to gain know-how about Indian cuisine from MasterChef India contestant, Sanjay Tyagi. He might not have won the competition, but is glad that his profession is being taken seriously.

“In the early 90s, when I had just graduated, people used to look down upon the profession. But, the media has helped in increasing awareness regarding the hospitality industry. Now, being a chef is considered glamourous,” says Tyagi.

Born and raised in a small village near Delhi, his culinary skills were sharpened at a very early age. “My entire family is into agriculture and we are pure vegetarians. Everyday, when my father returned home, he would demand something new for dinner. I started helping my mother in the kitchen and ended up being innovative,” he adds.

Later, he joined the Indian Institute of Hotel Management and started his career with the Taj Group of Hotels in Delhi. He went on to head many departments in various popular hotels in the country. “I used to participate in a lot of food festivals abroad and I visited Korea every year to teach Indian recipes to chefs there. Teaching is not new to me. The only difference between chefs abroad and here is that those in foreign countries are very enthusiastic about their work. Here, even after gaining considerable experience, I know many chefs who have lost interest in their profession,” he informs.

It was difficult for Chef Tyagi to cook non-vegetarian dishes as he is a vegetarian; however, he adapted to this change in his life. “I taste meat but have not informed my parents about it. I don’t eat meat but I love eggs — maybe because I could never make them at home,” he adds.

Good cooks often tend to be very conscious about what they eat; Chef Tyagi begs to differ.

“When we cook a particular dish, we cannot eat it as we are constantly tasting and smelling the aroma. I prefer eating home-cooked food and carry my meals to work. My wife is an excellent cook and her vegetarian dishes are better than mine. Even my children prefer her dishes over mine,” he explains.

He feels that reality shows increase awareness about various types of cuisine and ingredients, but aren’t always a learning experience. “We are given tasks that we have to complete in a given time. There is no time to learn on these shows,” he says.

Chef Jim Harvey from the USA and Chef Jeff Anderson from Canada, who were training under Chef Sanjay Tyagi, were full of praises for Indian cuisine. They said that the flavours are multi-layered and each spice has a story behind it.

“The food is not as hot as we had expected and the colours are amazing. While North Indian cuisine is silkier in texture, South Indian cuisine has more spices,” adds Jeff. Chef Jim said that he learnt the nuances of Indian cuisine and got to know various aspects of Indian recipes.

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