Father’s Day 2024: Indian Chefs Share Heartwarming Food Memories
Image Credit: Chef Anahita Dhondy Bhandari/ Instagram, Chef Shivansh Bhasin

‘Maa ke hath ka khana’ - is not a mere phrase to refer to the satiating food that mothers prepare but most of the time there is an emotional connection with it. No matter where you are in the world and who cooks for you, comfort food is only prepared by moms. But, this Father’s Day (to be celebrated on June 16, 2024), Slurrp is glorifying ‘papa ke hath ka khana’ (food prepared by fathers). Why shouldn’t it be?

In most cultures, it is women who are in charge of the territory of the kitchen, but many fathers are exceptional cooks or at least can cook a bunch of dishes. In some households, fathers might not be involved in cooking directly, but indirectly, they make sure to participate in the kitchen by purchasing grocering, helping out moms, and setting the table. 

Having grown up in a household where your father participates in cooking, even if that means making a cup of tea, omelette, occasional non-veg delights, or just standing behind the counter to help your mom once in a while, you start seeing the kitchen as a gender-neutral space. It is where you see bonds strengthening.

Slurrp connected with Indian chefs to collect heartwarming stories of their fathers cooking for them, going grocery shopping, or passing on a generational recipe. This Father’s Day, you can also strengthen your bond with your dad by cooking with them or building a stronger relationship with them over food.

Chef Velu Murugan

Image Credit: Chef Velu

“My father was a postmaster and prefers a vegetarian diet. He is into agriculture and used to love cooking with my mom,” remembers Chef Velu Murugan, Corporate Executive Chef At CGH Earth Experience Hotels. He says that his father makes delicious puttu, sambar, poriyal, and avail, but not without his mother’s help.

He jokes about his father cooking tomato rice for him as a kid when his mother and sister were not at home. “It is easy because you have to cook steamed rice with salt, tomato, chilli, and coriander,” he adds. He says that in most South Indian households, men don’t enter the kitchen. Similar was the case with his father, but his passion for food made him learn a few dishes. 

Chef Velu accepts that his father makes amazing tea. After retiring, his father opted for the life of a farmer. Living in Munnar, Kerala, he grows 30 varieties of fruits and helps other farmers as well with their produce. Chef Velu shares that whenever his father is expecting a visit from his grandchildren, he cooks tapioca, fish curry, sabudana kheer, rice-based dishes, and a few other delicacies that kids love.

Chef Anahita Dhondy

Image Credit: Anahita Dhondy/ Instagram

“My father loves making tea. He has a special chai mixture that we call Parsi chai blend,” says Chef Anahita Dhondy, chef, author, and consultant at The Parsi Kitchen. Reminiscing about her childhood, she shares that she grew up in a house where her grandfather, uncles, and father had always been passionate about cooking.

Speaking about the tea, she says that her father learnt to make the chai mix from her grandmother who used to drink 13-14 cups of tea a day while watching her favourite serials. “I have picked up the love for tea from her. She was my tea buddy,” adds Chef Anahita Dhondy while fondly remembering her grandmother. Her father makes this tea blend by combining four different varieties of tea, including mint and lemongrass. 

“My father does not cook every day, but he makes damn good caramel custard, mango jam, lemon barley water, and meat-based delicacies,” she adds. Laughing, the chef shares that her father makes delicious chakhna (jhalmuri) by combining puffed rice roasted in ghee, chana, and peanuts. 

Chef Samrat Banerjee

Image Credit: Chef Samrat Banerjee/ Instagram

“My father does not know how to cook, but he buys the best fish, meat, vegetables, and groceries in our house,” says Chef Samrat Banerjee, partner - ABV Hospitality. He says that his father’s knowledge of ingredients is exceptional. Whether he was visiting Europe or Southeast Asia, his father would always take him to a local market to explore fruits, vegetables, meat, and spices.

“My mother cooks but she also believes that he dishes taste good because my father gets the best produce. It is because of him that I learnt to respect ingredients even before I became a chef,” adds Chef Samrat. His father always suggests that he should buy produce that “looks like us.”

For example, the greens should flaunt the green hue that the surrounding trees have. The chef says that he uses a trick to differentiate between fresh and organic produce from chemically grown fruits and vegetables.

His father’s knowledge about the ingredients has inspired Chef Samrat to do regional food pop-ups around the world, and he makes sure to use only produce purchased from the local markets rather than big vendors delivering to doorsteps. 

“My father is like a shadow, he is also always the first guest to any restaurant that we launch. He comes and gives the most honest review about the food, which is very important for me,” adding, he says, “My father would always tell me to add that or this to amplify the flavour of a dish. It always comes in handy.”

Chef Shivansh Bhasin

Image Credit: Chef Shivansh Bhasin/ Instagram

“I remember as a kid, we had a ritual. On the night of December 31, my father used to make coffee for all of us. He used to mix coffee, water, and sugar and beat the ingredients until the mixture used to double in size,” shared Chef Shivansh Bhasin, Head Chef at Quarter Plate by Kunal Kapur

He admits that his father does not know the recipes of many dishes but his coffee is everyone’s favourite in the house. Talking about his childhood, he shares that he used to throw tantrums to accompany his father to the butcher’s shop where they used to get meat and clean it together to remove extra fat.

“During Covid-19, we had rice for lunch. Since we cooked a lot, we stored the leftovers in the refrigerator. In the evening, my father cooked rice with potatoes, jeera, garam masala, and a few other spices to make tikki. He shallow-fried them and served them with mint chutney,” shares Chef Shivansh Bhasin.

Remembering the first time ever he cooked for his father, Chef Shivansh says that paneer bhurji is the comfort food in his house. “If we struggle to decide what to make, we make paneer bhurji.” One day, he decided to try his hands at cooking and make paneer bhurji. “I was nervous if everyone would like it. However, I saw my father take the second serving, which is a gesture conveying that the dish had won his heart.”

Chef Atul Lahkar

Image Credit: Chef Atul Lahkar

Celebrity Chef Atul Lahkar, the owner of Heritage Khorikaa Restaurant and Vice President of the North East India Chef Association, lost his father when he was quite young, but as a single dad and a chef, he believes, “Working in the kitchen with my son is more than cooking, it is about creating lasting memories together… Each dish I prepare is a labour of love, tailored to my son’s taste.”

When his son Dion Lahkar was a school student, Chef Atul used to add surprise creations to his lunch box. He could not witness his father cooking but he made sure to inspire his son, who followed his father’s footsteps, completed studies in the hospitality industry, and is currently running a restaurant, Hurum - The Rustic Cafe. He added, “Our culinary adventures transcend mere recipes; they are a celebration of tradition, health, and the precious moments we share. Together, we explore the rich tapestry of our culture through dishes like Fish Tenga curry, pork with bamboo shoots, and comforting yellow lentil dal.”