Cooking for love

Cooking for love

Celebrity TV personality Ravinder Bhogal, who is all set for her new show on TLC, speaks to  Asha Chowdary about her love for cooking and why one must master the art of creating the perfect dish.

Whether Ravinder Bhogal whips up a batch of golden caramel banofee éclairs topped with a swirl of vanilla cream or a saucepan of warm chocolate soufflé, she does so with two magic ingredients: passion and innovation.

The award-winning chef, food writer and stylist, who took the culinary world by storm when she contested against 8,000 people to emerge as the chosen one in Gordon Ramsey’s mission to find a new Fanny Craddock, went on to become a noted author when she published her cookbook, titled Cook in Boots. Today, she is all set to come into our living rooms with her special food show on TLC, called Ravinder’s Kitchen, which premieres this month.

On the show, she will take us on an exotic food journey, as she whips up iconic cuisines from across the globe, and gives her own unique twist to each of the recipes. With cuisines spanning Indian, Chinese, Italian, Spanish fare and more, the show promises to be a perfect melting pot of mouth watering delights for the viewer to try out at leisure.

Kitchen crush

Speaking from her London home, Ravinder talks passionately about her love for cooking, which took root right from the days she used to watch her mother cook. “I grew up in a traditional Punjabi family, where cooking was of great importance.

My mother would tell me that I needed to know how to make dal and perfectly round chapatis if I wanted someone to marry me,” she says with a laugh and adds, “So at a very young age, I had to swap my tricycle for a rolling pin. My mother was an amazing cook and she could cook for an army with ease. But I should say that my inspiration to get into this field also came from my grandfather who encouraged me to cook as a child.”

As time went on, Ravinder says that cooking took on a new importance for her. “I began to associate food with love,” she says, adding, “I realised that if you cook for people, they fall in love with you. Cooking was an amazing currency for love and this realisation was truly an inspiration for me.”

Ravinder began her career as a fashion journalist but after the contest, she moved into the food domain almost entirely. When asked what the transition was like, she says, “Fashion and food are such sensual pleasures. A dress can be delicious and a pudding can be delicious too. Both are very visual in nature. So I carried the aesthetics from fashion into food and it was a happy transition.”

As for the competition that was to change her life, Ravinder says, “That moment launched my career. I made a hot chocolate soufflé and chicken stuffed with wild mushroom among other things on the show. After I won it, I began getting calls from agents about getting into the field. I had already been writing a cookbook for myself recording the recipes I cooked. But now I got my own agent and soon a book deal came my way and my cookbook was published. I also started doing TV documentaries for the BBC and much more.”

When asked if it was difficult to keep innovations going while creating new dishes, Ravinder says that this is where the excitement begins. “If you love something and are passionate about it, you will reinvent yourself all the time and develop new things,” she replies, adding, “The wonderful thing about the field is that it is a lifelong education. You can never say that you know everything. When it comes to innovation, I like to add a little twist to my dishes. It could be by injecting a new ingredient or doing something else. Sometimes I break down a dish and reconstruct it totally.”

As for her own favourite foods, Ravinder places khichdi and chaats high on her list. But she is often surprised at how many Indians ruin their food by smothering them with spices or overcooking them beyond recognition. She says, “We don’t even realise how fabulous the local produce in India is. Often, we overspice our foods instead of letting the ingredients speak for themselves.

Another mistake is when we cook the vegetables beyond recognition. It is important to taste the texture of each vegetable and enjoy its flavour. Also, since we get such good ingredients like garlic and ginger to add to our foods, we should not use as much salt as we do in our cooking. Beware of using the wrong kind of oils too. It is important to use healthy oils instead of ghee and butter, unless it is for a special occasion.”

Evolved palette

When Ravinder has to choose a restaurant to dine in, she says she would choose Japanese any day. “I find Japanese cuisine the most exciting. The food is so interesting with so many complexities of flavour and different ingredients. Besides, most of the dishes are elegant, well-balanced and healthy.” But when it comes to choosing the best food cities in the world, she places London first with Mumbai coming a close second.

Ravinder believes that the trend of people watching a lot of food shows these days is one of the best things to happen on television. “I love the fact that people are connecting with food again. They are not running away from their kitchens anymore. It is very important to know what goes into what you eat. The food you make is always healthier than when you dine at a restaurant, because you know exactly what you want to do with it and you can use the best ingredients. In other words, when you cook, you are the master of your gastronomic destiny. A great chef is a person who has a lot of enthusiasm and passion about discovering the delights of food in the kitchen,” she explains.

When she is not cooking, Ravinder loves music, especially Bollywood and Spanish songs. She also loves reading books, writing, and visiting exhibitions on photography and fashion. As for the future, Ravinder hopes that the next generation of young chefs who are coming up will change the culinary world.

“I hope people will soon become responsible eaters and learn about sustainable food,” she says, adding, “People should learn how to make their own produce and grow their own vegetables. They should learn to cook small amounts of food and not waste too much. As for the new, young chefs, I hope they bring in a new wave of exciting ideas into the world of food.”

On a parting note, she adds, “I hope the Indian audience likes my show, Ravinder’s Kitchen. I want them to really enjoy this culinary journey with me.”

The show airs from tomorrow, every night at 8 pm, on TLC.

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