Anahita Dhondy: "We receive a story with every dish"

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

#Anahita Dhondy, #books, #chef interview, #food, #Parsi cuisine, #Parsi food

Chef Anahita Dhondy says she’s currently working on a restaurant project that’s coming in 2022.

Anahita Dhondy, who among other things is a celebrity chef and social media influencer, is most famous for launching, and establishing across India, nine outlets of Sodabottleopenerwala, a chain of upscale restaurants with menus drawing from Parsi cuisine. That restaurant project showcased Dhondy’s passion to popularize regional Indian food, especially Parsi food. This year, Dhondy quit her job to take on new projects and finish ongoing ones, one of them being her debut book, Parsi Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family. It is a recounting of nostalgic and fond memories of her family and their culinary journey, blended with recipes sourced from her community. In an interview, Dhondy talks about championing regional Indian food, unpacks a few flavourful passages from her book, and shares glimpses from her family life.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

To begin, let’s talk about the lockdown which was the major event in all our lives these past two years. How did you fare in the lockdown? What did you do to keep yourself engaged? 

The industry took a huge hit. A lot of my chefs – at that time I was with Sodabottleopenerwala – had gone back to their village. In the beginning it all felt very nice, everyone felt they were on a holiday, not realizing the lockdown would stretch to a couple of months. When the first lockdown happened in April 2020, we shut and only reopened in August. So we opened in August for deliveries, and trust me, that reopening was very hard for a number of reasons. People were scared, the chefs were also very scared to come in and work, everyone was not sure how to handle it. In September we opened the restaurant again, and it functioned till March, and then again we went into another lockdown. That again took away so many jobs from the hospitality industry.

Global Tech News Daily

Before that, I had already given my resignation at Sodabottle, which was in January. I moved on; I was with the brand for almost nine years, setting up nine outlets all over the country, so it was time to move on and explore more avenues, finish my book, and I was happy that I was able to support and be part of a restaurant which created such a stir. It was very important for me to focus and complete the book which I’d been working on for almost five years. If you ask any  chef, in the day-to-day activities, you don’t find time to put down your thoughts and write. From 2020 to 2021, I took time out to create a lot of content on social media. I was sharing recipes online, which people really enjoyed to make, and obviously working on the book. 

During the lockdown, people were very sceptical about eating outside, so I also set up a weekend kitchen with my mom. The weekend kitchen basically had different menus every week, and it was just she and me cooking. So there were no other chefs, there were no other helpers, nothing, we would take limited orders, and we would make that over the weekend. There were difficult times, and we tried to make the best of it.

Global Tech News Daily

So the name was ‘Anahita and Nilufer’s Weekend Kitchen’? Is it still operational?

It’s not on right now, because I am doing a lot of other work. I am working on a couple of consultancies, FMCG products, I am doing a lot of recipe development. We ran the Weekend Kitchen from 2020 July to May 2021. By June 2021, everything reopened, since then I’ve been an advocate of ‘Go support the restaurants’ because the money and time they invested is very difficult to gain back. But obviously we can always reopen depending on the situation.

Also read: Navroz | What chefs eat at home and with their families on Parsi New Year

What was it like cooking with your mom in a small, artisanal business?

Honestly, it was a difficult situation for everyone involved and very scary, but it was an opportunity to work with her and I enjoyed every minute of it. I am happy we got to do so many menus. It was so much fun to brainstorm with the core family and to come up with the menu and the design. My brother is a designer and photographer, and he would design the menu. We would post the menu on social media at 5 o’clock every Wednesday, and by 9 o’clock we would be sold out. On Saturday morning, I would have to be in the kitchen at 5AM. We would have to cook everything fresh, and everything would be dispatched by 11AM. It was lots of time spent with the family, and I am grateful for it. Every week there were the same or different people ordering, and we have a good database of about 500-600 people.

Your book ‘The Parsi Kitchen’ came out in a period of personal transition for you. Around that time you resigned from Sodabottleopenerwala. What prompted you to leave?

I have been writing my book since 2016-17, so it’s almost been five years. Honestly, you have to move on to grow. I wanted to work on popups, or different recipes, and travel. When you’re running a restaurant, you’re in there day in and day out. And if you’re travelling, you’re still connected to it. The brand and I had reached a point where we had spent a lot of my time together. I am grateful to them, because it was something I always wanted to work on – Parsi food and Indian food.

#Anahita Dhondy, #books, #chef interview, #food, #Parsi cuisine, #Parsi food
Falooda recipe from ‘The Parsi Kitchen’

Which prompts the question: you have a massive following on social media. Why write a book, which as a medium is slower? 

I have been on social media for long and I enjoy sharing content on social media, but a book will always be there, for ever. It was always a dream, and even when I was in school, I was writing a book. That was a book on teenagers which didn’t get completed. When I signed a contract with HarperCollins, I took two years to figure out what kind of a book it would be. So I drafted different versions of ‘The Parsi Kitchen’ to what it is today. I was not happy with the way I put the contents together, the index, it was very very recipe focused. I realized that the format I wanted to work with was storytelling. We receive a story with every dish. It could be a restaurant, a chef, a family, anything. Those stories are not shared. I wanted to make sure the book had a good mix of stories and recipes.

You mention in the book that one of your most vivid memories is of you as a five-year-old, sitting cross-legged and eating cake batter in your mother’s kitchen. Is it her influence that set you on the road to becoming a professional chef and now an author? Over the years, how has her influence changed for you?

My mother has always been very forward thinking. She actually wanted to go to culinary school very early on in her life. But she had children, and she decided to stay. She never gave up on her dream, so she always learned from books and classes, and she took time and effort to create new recipes that she would feed us children. So we grew up having a lot of dal-chawal and Parsi food, but we also had a very very good mix of, at that time, new and experimental cuisine. So she would make a soufflé, she would make a pizza from scratch, and I’m talking of the early 1990s. She would make mayonnaise from scratch, and she was supplying it to Modern Bazaar, which had just opened in Delhi. She was a pioneer in her field.

I grew up with her being in the kitchen most of the time, so I was part of her experiment. Obviously I was not helping her out at that age, but I was tasting, understanding flavours. As I grew older, I started helping her out in the kitchen, and she saw I had a strong and keen interest in the kitchen. She would always call me and tell me, “Oh, I’m making this, you want to help me with this or you want to see this?” Your curiosity grows when someone shows you a skill. Sometimes if you watch a certain thing being cooked, you think it’s magic, the way it transforms. So that is exactly how I felt. The memory I have is purely because of stories told to me of how I was in the kitchen, and how I would be sitting on the floor. And when someone tells you those stories you feel that you vividly remember them. 

So encouraging. 

It’s always been like that from a young age. There’s been no distinction between my brother and me, in terms of studies, in terms of the arts, music, dance, whatever it might be. We were always encouraged to do whatever we were passionate about. When you’re a kid, those interests change very quickly. You might like something today, and something else tomorrow. As parents, they encouraged me to try different things. When I told them that I wanted to be a chef, they were very excited. They had a lot of questions, because they were very concerned – where, which school, what – and they hadn’t seen too many women in the kitchen. So they were concerned, and it was only natural. But I think they were very forward thinking and they were always happy to encourage me to pursue whatever I wanted to do. I was very clear that I wanted to be associated with cooking, that I wanted to be a chef from very early on.

Then in the book you recollect being a budding chef who was “dismissive of Indian food, loved to eat it, but didn’t want to cook it”. Was that because it was ‘ghar ka khana’, something you were familiar with and accustomed to? 

I won’t be able to put my finger on any particular thing, because there are so many layers to this conversation. As a young chef, when I was in college, whenever we were put into an Indian kitchen, it just felt like a lot of work which was not beautiful and interesting. It’s not just me, there are lots and lots of chefs, and most of us in my batch. This was when I was in Institute of Hotel Management (IHM), Aurangabad, that we used to dread going into the banquet kitchen, where you are cooking for 500 people, 1,000 people, 1,500 people. You’re making the same kebabs, you’re making the same roti, you’re making the same dal, you’re just making larger quantities, which becomes very bulky, and that’s exactly what you feel as a student.

Most kids would be like, “You know what, I’d like to learn Middle Eastern food or Mediterranean food, or French food, or get into the bakery, and not Indian food. Like you said, it’s ghar ka khana, and you don’t think there’s much that you need to learn with it. But I feel like that perception and that ideology and frame of mind has changed so much in the last ten years, because of the conversation that’s been happening around Indian food. It’s no longer the food that we used to get earlier. Now there’s a whole lot of regional Indian food that’s been popularized. We’re talking about seasonal ingredients, we’re going back to old fermentation recipes, we’re actually promoting Indian food and are very proud of it, which we had kind of lost in the middle. I feel like my generation of chefs is kind of bridging that gap, and I see a lot of my chef friends in the community who are doing the same. We’re always having conversations with people about how to bring back Indian food and make it cool again. 

I think that realization happened to me when I was studying at Le Cordon Bleu. I was cooking there, I was really happy with the course, with my marks, and everything, but there was still something that was missing, and I realized then and there in London that it was Indian food that was missing from my life. When you leave your home and leave your parents and your mother’s kitchen, you realize the importance of the things that you took for granted. All of that comes back to you, and you realize that’s what you want to cook, that’s what you want to promote, showcase, and that’s the most important thing you want to be proud of. 

#Anahita Dhondy, #books, #chef interview, #food, #Parsi cuisine, #Parsi food
Dhondy studied at Le Cordon Bleu.

You talked to people in your circle, most of them Parsis, who contributed their dearly cherished recipes for your book. What were those conversations like and how did that affect you?

I spoke to a lot of people and tried out a lot of recipes, and some of them actually didn’t work. However important it is to showcase the community and the cuisine, it was also very important for me to show that the recipes are absolutely workable. So if you open it, you make it, and the dish actually comes out the way it is in the picture. Or at least close to it, it’s always going to be ‘unnees bees ka farak’. Everyone’s hand is different, everyone’s understanding is different, and there’ll always be a little bit of up and down. But, otherwise, 90%, the dish should be the way it is. When I spoke to a lot of people, some were happy to have a conversation and share, but some people were not. Some people held on to their recipes.

I have always been the kind of person to whom anyone will ask any recipe, will call me up and I will be happy to share recipes. We need to share them because if we don’t, they’re just going to die with the generation that held on to them. Some people were extremely helpful, some people were not so happy. Some people have contributed their recipes, and I’ve mentioned their names and thanked them, and it’s important to do that. 

You write about this dish, ‘Ravo’, how you customised it for your in-laws. Every recipe in the book has a helpful suggestion to tweak this and that as you please. Historically speaking, Parsi cuisine has been open to influences from various places. Has that rubbed off on you, and helped you to be more flexible and less of a purist when it comes to recipes?

Parsi food has a little bit of Iran, a little bit of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, obviously the British influence is there, and the Dutch bakeries, the Portuguese bread making skills. So a lot of influences that brought the cuisine to what it is today. But Parsi cuisine in each and every household will be influenced by some other external factor. It could be the region that you’re staying in, the ingredients you’re getting, it could be the influence of another cuisine. For example, my parents were always in Allahabad, and my dada-dadi and nana-nani were also there, and they grew up in Uttar Pradesh. There was a whole community of Parsis in UP, in Allahabad and Kanpur and Lucknow. They all had certain influences from UP, it could be customs, or festivals or ingredients or dishes like puri halwa or aloo puri, and kaddu ki sabzi, which is a very UP dish. But it’s relished in our homes as well. So it’s very important to constantly evolve and adapt to wherever you are, and I think the Parsis have done it very well, wherever they might be today.

Have your family or community values helped you in your professional career and while writing this book?

Family values and community values are the same. For every Zoroastrian, they’ve always been ‘Good thoughts, good words, good deeds’. So it’s ingrained in us right from the time we’re children. We just have to be truthful to what we do, how we do it, and be very thankful and appreciative. Whatever I was able to gather on the journey of creating the book, I’m very grateful for that. It did take its course of time, but I am very happy with the work we put in, because it’s always going to stay on, it’s always going to be there forever. I wanted the book to be an insight into the community and the cuisine. If anyone from any walk of life can pick it up. Most importantly, I wanted it to be accessible for people who are trying out Parsi food for the first time. Not just the fact that the recipe is explained really well in the book, with vegetarian substitutes and tips etc., but you also get to understand the language of the community. I hope it gives them a sneak peek and gets them excited about a regional Indian cuisine which is on the verge of dying.

What projects lie ahead for you?

I am working on a couple of things. I am working on a restaurant project coming in 2022. I haven’t been away from restaurants for too long. I want to work on my second book. I can’t share any details (laughs).

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Mission Indradhanush 4.0: Routine vaccines to kids, pregnant women in campaign mode

Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, on February 7, launched Intensified Mission Indradhanush 4.0 in a bid to fill gaps in the routine immunisation coverage of infants and toddlers and pregnant women ... Read more »

'GAY' code for Gaya airport inappropriate, make efforts to change it: Parliamentary panel tells government

The panel said the code name appeared inappropriate, unsuitable, offensive and embarrassing considering that Gaya is a holy city.(Image credit: www.aai.aero) A parliamentary panel on Friday said the use of ... Read more »

‘No hate can conquer this': Twitter reacts as Shah Rukh Khan reads 'dua' for Lata Mangeshkar

Shah Rukh Khan and his manager Pooja Dadlani paid their last respects to Lata Mangeshkar in Mumbai’s Shivaji Park. (Twitter: Aishe Ghosh) Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan paid his last ... Read more »

Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit becomes JNU's first woman Vice Chancellor

Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit is also an alumna of JNU where she did her MPhil and PhD in International Relations. (Image credit: All India Radio/Twitter) Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on ... Read more »

Smartphones launching this week: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, Redmi Note 11S, Vivo T1 5G

Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2022, where the South Korean tech giant will announce the Galaxy S22 series, will be hosted on February 9. The Galaxy S22 series launch event will kick off ... Read more »

Therapy for climate change: How 'eco anxiety' is affecting mental health

A placard with the slogan “1.5 Degrees Celsius = rich countries do your fair share” is seen on a replica of the Eiffel Tower during the World Climate Change Conference ... Read more »

Robness, the NFT artist who sold a trashcan image for $252,000

NFT marketplace SuperRare removed the image shortly after Robness created it. Marcel Duchamp scandalised the art world in 1917 by submitting a urinal as his entry to a prestigious competition. ... Read more »

'Didi and I': Asha Bhosle shares childhood pic with Lata Mangeshkar

Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle learned their craft from their father Deenanath Mangeshkar. Renowned singer Asha Bhosle on Sunday paid tribute to her elder sister Lata Mangeshkar after the music ... Read more »

IPL 2022 auction| Veteran auctioneer Hugh Edmeades to be face of mega event this year

IPL 2022 auction: Hugh Edmeades is a British fine art, classic car and charity auctioneer. Hugh Edmeades will return as the auctioneer for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 next ... Read more »

Nearly 3,000 people plan to throw rotten eggs at Jeff Bezos' superyacht. Here's why

Jeff Bezos’s gigantic, 430-million-euro ($485 million) yacht is too big for the iconic Koningshaven Bridge. Residents of the Dutch port city of Rotterdam are not pleased with the plan to ... Read more »

Top 5 Augmented Reality Trends for 2022

Augmented reality is clearly becoming increasingly popular. From just over 500 million mobile augmented reality users worldwide in 2020 to 810 million last year (according to Statista), we have seen ... Read more »

Opposites attract: The unusual pairing between Rafael Nadal and Richard Mille watches

Rafael Nadal can be quite charming off the court. He has only recently started spending in line with his earnings and wealth of roughly $200 million. (Image: Reuters) In the ... Read more »

Tahir Raj Bhasin on 'Looop Lapeta': Thematically it is 'Run Lola Run', but the treatment is very 2022 Gen Z India

Tahir Raj Bhasin as Satya in ‘Looop Lapeta’. (Image: Netflix) In 1998 a German film about a redhead running in loops and running against a clock to save her boyfriend, ... Read more »

When Lata Mangeshkar flew in to Chennai to hand over an award to MS Subbulakshmi

Lata Mangeshkar passed away this morning at the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai. (Photo: Facebook/s.aishwaryaofficial) Lata Mangeshkar, legendary singer and the ‘Nightingale of India’ passed away this morning after a ... Read more »

Winter Olympics 2022 | Well done, India. Time to play nice has passed

Many media organisations have banned their reporters from carrying their laptops and phones to Beijing so that Chinese officials can’t spy on their data. (Illustration by Suneesh K.) India has ... Read more »

Punjab elections | Bhangra beats on the campaign trail

The INC’s campaign song in Punjab extols the problem-solving abilities of Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi (File image) Apart from its hospitality and great food, the one thing that invokes ... Read more »

Lata Mangeshkar's inseparable connection with Jhumri Telaiya

Lata Mangeshkar passed away on February 6 at the age of 92 years. (File image) Jhumri Telaiya sounds familiar to music lovers? Nestled in nature’s lap in Jharkhand this quaint ... Read more »

Lata Mangeshkar said this about Meena Kumari, Sivaji Ganesan and Yash Chopra

Lata Mangeshkar records a song in a studio while late actor Meena Kumari looks on. (Image credit: @mangeshkarlata/Twitter) During her seven decade-long career, legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar had worked with ... Read more »

Renowned poet recalls how a custard apple variety got named after Lata Mangeshkar

Lata Mangeshkar was back on the ventilator on February 5 after her health deteriorated. She passed away on the morning of February 6. (File image) Renowned poet and farmer Namdev ... Read more »

The Great Indian Murder review: Much ado about nothing

Pratik Gandhi delivers an even, assured performance as a compromised CBI officer in ‘The Great Indian Murder’. (Image: screen grab/Disney+Hotstar) Towards the end of Tigmanshu Dhulia’s The Great Indian Murder, ... Read more »

Elizabeth II marks Platinum Jubilee with 'Queen Camilla' announcement

Queen Elizabeth II cuts a cake to celebrate the start of the Platinum Jubilee during a reception in the Ballroom of Sandringham House. (AFP) Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday became ... Read more »

Tamil film songs only: Born during the pandemic, this virtual singing competition is now in its second season

Each week, participants select a song based on a theme and record a 2-minute-plus sample to share with the programme organisers online. This might be part of the new normal, ... Read more »

Brothers Reuben: The super-rich, Mumbai-born entrepreneurs you probably haven't heard of

The Reuben Brothers grew their wealth trading in aluminium, but they have since diversified into racehorses, pubs, aerodromes, shipping, debt financing, and of course real estate. The even own a ... Read more »

In Pics | Lata Mangeshkar's top 10 actresses and the melodies she sang for them

Lata Mangeshkar sang for yesteryear actress Madhubala for several movies. ‘Pyaar hua ikrar hua’ was one of the evergreen songs Lata Mangeshkar sang for Nargis. Lata Mangeshkar sang the superhit ... Read more »

Madam Prime Minister review: An engrossing read amid a galaxy of others

Seema Goswami’s second novel, ‘Madam Prime Minister’, moves in and out of New Delhi’s power corridors. The political thriller Madam Prime Minister by senior journalist and novelist Seema Goswami is ... Read more »

When Lata Mangeshkar sang ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon' and moved Jawaharlal Nehru to tears

Lata Mangeshkar recalled singing the song in Nehru’s presence at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi, on January 27, 1963. (Image credit: @mangeshkarlata/Twitter) One of Lata Mangeshkar’s most popular songs ... Read more »

The nightingale is silent. Meri Awaaz Hee Pehchaan hai…

(from left) Lata Mangeshkar with Pakistani singer Noor Jehan and Asha Bhosle. (Image: The Express Tribune via Wikimedia Commons 4.0) From her first song ‘Chaitrachi Navalayi’ from the movie Pahili ... Read more »

When Lata Mangeshkar had 20 phone calls with author writing her biography

Two-day national mourning will be observed on the demise of legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, reported news agency PTI citing official sources. (File image) Lata Mangeshkar, legendary singer and the ‘Nightingale ... Read more »

Storyboard18 | Ad Safari: Big brands, new work and first salvos from the Super Bowl

Mumbai Police’s new film to stop harassment of women in public places is very well made. Pat On Your Back. A brand new year has blown in on the back ... Read more »

When Lata Mangeshkar said, 'It is a blessing that people like whatever I sing'

Lata Mangeshkar was admitted to the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai in January after testing positive for coronavirus. For someone who has spent seven decades as a professional singer, the ... Read more »

Veterans Unpacked | Narotam Sekhsaria: I would be on top of AI and data mining today

Narotam Sekhsaria is chairman of ACC Ltd, Ambuja Cements Ltd, and Ambuja Cement Foundation. He also manages the Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation, a philanthropic funding agency. Note to readers:How ​do corporate ... Read more »

Lata Mangeshkar, Queen of Melody, dies at 92

Lata Mangeshkar was back on the ventilator on February 5 after her health deteriorated. She passed away on the morning of February 6. (File image) Lata Mangeshkar, legendary singer who ... Read more »

Lata Mangeshkar: Awards and recognitions received by the legendary singer

Lata Mangeshkar had also received the Padma Bhushan, the Padma Vibhushan and the Dada Saheb Phalke Award. Lata Mangeshkar, who died at a Mumbai hospital at 92, was considered one ... Read more »

Lata Mangeshkar passes away: A look at major milestones in her career

Lata Mangeshkar, also known as the Nightingale of India, passed away on February 6. Let’s have a look at some of the major milestones of her life. Lata Mangeshkar, whose ... Read more »

Tribute: The queen of soul, Lata Mangeshkar leaves a legacy that is unforgettable

Lata Mangeshkar was back on the ventilator on February 5 after her health deteriorated. She passed away on the morning of February 6. (File image) It is impossible to write ... Read more »

Anand Mahindra plans to visit Amritsar eatery run by 11 and 17-year-old brothers

Anand Mahindra said the kids running the restaurant “are amongst the pluckiest I’ve seen anywhere.” (Image credit: @anandmahindra/Twitter) By Anand Mahindra’s admission, Amritsar may have the best jalebis in the ... Read more »

In pics: Music, film, politics, sports and Lata Mangeshkar

Lata Mangeshkar (C) is flanked by actor Amitabh Bachchan (R) and producer and director Yash Chopra (L) during celebrations for her 82nd birthday in Mumbai late September 28, 2011. Lata ... Read more »

9 game-changing titles from Westland Books

On February 1, 2022, multinational giant Amazon announced the impending closure of Westland Books – an Indian publishing company that it acquired from Trent Ltd. a subsidiary of the Tata ... Read more »

Get a lavish Valentine's Day dinner for 82% off with a Restaurant.com deal

NYPost Store Did your Valentine’s Day gift break the budget this year? If you’d still like to take your beloved out for a nice dinner, you can still make it ... Read more »

15% quota for women in J&K police jobs: significance, challenges and impact

Police training in Kashmir. (Image: AP) To improve the representation of women in its police force, the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) government last month announced a 15% reservation for women in non-gazetted police ... Read more »