The Pink Room: Conversation with Chef Varun Inamdar who urges people not to wash off hands from responsibility

11 months ago  |  1.1M
   
The Pink Room: Conversation with Chef Varun Inamdar who urges people not to wash off hands from responsibility
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For the foodie community, Chef Varun Inamdar is more familiar as the ‘The Prince of Chocolates’ and ‘The Bombay Chef’. With a vast digital following, Varun has been teaching India how to eat right and has been the chosen Chef for several Presidential and Prime Ministerial visits to India including Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Nicholas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin, to name a few. 

He says, the COVID-19 enforced lockdown period has given all of us an opportunity for introspection. “This is reboot time for all of us who have been aimlessly running. All over the news, we have been hearing about washing our hands and keeping ourselves safe. This made me wonder: What about the ones who do not have a roof or a morsel of food or a drop of water? They need us today, more than ever before. That’s where the idiom ‘wash hands of’ started spinning in my head.”

The campaign started by Varun was a reminder that in these difficult times, we have a responsibility to support each other. “Many societies in Mumbai were like a fort, nobody was allowed in or out. However, I spread the word around my home that we would have food stocked in our home at all times. So, nobody has to go to sleep without food. Anytime, we are literally ready to serve a good 100 souls who could come knocking by the security cabin at the entrance. I am a chef. My job is to feed people without discriminating. And I would do so not no matter what. It is the reason for my existence,” he says. 

The lowest point during the lockdown was the migrant workers’ exodus. People walked miles risking life because the society they nurtured didn’t show enough empathy and support them through a tough time. At the same time, there were also reports of people taking up the lockdown period to host get-togethers exploiting legal loopholes and using their ‘connections’. “Pandemic is not the time to Romanticize the situation. The world is made up of extreme wallets, we cannot be ‘enjoying’ while others are struggling to secure one square meal. We cannot be splurging and having a feast on our table. Donations are a personal choice, and I am no one to advise anybody on the subject. But even if we could cook one extra meal and hand it over to someone, it is enough,” he says.

The following day of the government announcing a country-wide lockdown, Varun who has served many elaborate dinners for leading names of the country wore his Chef’s hat for a new task: Cooking three meals a day for people on the street, car washers, security guards, ATM guards, street vendors and a lot of people who did not know where to get their one square meal from.

If you ask anyone who knows Chef Varun, his ability to make people in good spirits is one of his most exceptional qualities – of course, secondary to his culinary skills. Yet, during this interaction, there was a sense of pain in his voice. It reveals how much has changed in him during this time. “I started conducting live seminars and masterclasses to collect monies to support NGO’s in reaching more people. It feels so warm to see people on the streets eat their hearts out. As a chef, that’s the least I could do. I have cooked for some of the most powerful names on the planet, but this global lowdown connected me back with the real me,” he says.

Varun admits it was an uphill task, “Initially with a complete lockdown and then the odd-even pattern it was nightmarish to get produce, fuel and packaging material but that’s when the connects that I made over the years came to our rescue! Things are relatively easier now.”

His Quaran-Dine with Varun Inamdar, a unique series of food recipes launched on social media, has been receiving a warm response. “It was a book in the making with a different name... but I thought this is the time when the people at large would need ideas to churn around simpler things from their existing pantry. Considering a lockdown and limited resource, this was the need of the hour. So I started releasing recipes and photographs from my unreleased book under this name. I am extremely thankful to my dear friend and photographer - Piyush Singh, who gave his consent so that I could use our collaborative effort to the benefit of the ones who would be following me. Those who love cooking are constantly on the search for quicker, simpler yet tastier food combinations, hence the thought of the book and to present it to them is the best a chef can be put to use,” he shares. 

As the Ganapati celebration begins in the country, Varun reminisces, “As a child, I would sit in the pandal and distribute sweets. Those were the years of innocence before festivals became all about dance and music. Festivals are far from that. When I got married, we moved out of our parent’s home and made a home for ourselves. There on we decided to celebrate every festival at home to keep our traditions, our culture and our rituals alive be it Eid, Diwali, Holi, Christmas and any other day of religious importance. We cook dishes that are traditionally made that day and follow the practices so that we keep the excitement and fervour going. Ganeshotsav, of course, has been the most favourite of them all. Both our families come together, friends come over, we cook, we decorate, we celebrate, and we have fun!” 

“Many years back, I created the first-ever chocolate Ganesha, everyone was astonished because I brought a religious idol and an impulsive sweet together. The issue was about its immersion. We made it an enjoyable kids activity: We dissolve it and drink it up! Over the years it kept getting misconstrued, and the milk chocolate became a prashad. Every year, just before Ganeshotsav, I urge people to stop doing this, as it could be potentially hazardous. Making an idol, housing it for days and then dissolving it could get harmful as it would have vermillion, turmeric, pollen, dust, etc.! People have now become conscious about such ill-practices. Thankfully, my voice is reaching the people,” he adds. 

This year, at his home, Varun has brought an eco-friendly Ganesha made of local red-mud and decorated it using paper and fresh fruits and flowers. Eventually, the immersion would also be at home in a tub full of water and flowers! Adhering to the social distancing norms, he has not invited friends or extended family. “All Pujas and Artis would happen over video conferencing, and lunch packets shall be sent out as prasad to every one, since they wouldn’t be able to join us. The excitement every year is something else, this year, it is going to be crazier since we would be digitally connected,” he concludes.

Also Read|The Pink Room: A conversation with a police officer who is fighting to keep his jurisdiction healthy

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Anonymous : exciting tips
REPLY 2 11 months ago