Passion is an amazing thing. It can move people to do wonders. Chef Raji's passion for cooking took her across the globe and then made her start a unique home dining experience in India. With a stern belief that Indian authentic recipes should be preserved, Chef Raji talks to us about her journey till now
Home dining is still a developing idea in India’s culinary scene. While it has limited patrons, but it is something that is sure to take up a big space eventually because of the overall experience of home dining. We caught up with Chef Raji Gupta, who is the brain, heart and shoulders behind Beyond Dining Co. And she believes the biggest joy of cooking passionately is to see people bond over food and be happy. Here is an excerpt from the conversation.
Tell us about the beginning of your journey as a Chef. What prompted you to take up the profession?
The curiosity to learn and enhance my culinary skill was a motivation. I also received the necessary support and encouragement by my better half. Belonging to a family that celebrated food and some of the best critics on the dining table further bolstered my belief in following culinary arts. The beginning of the journey was purely inquisitive but now it’s my passion what keeps me going.
How did getting training from chefs in Europe contribute to you becoming the professional that you are today?
I have had my own journey of learning my way through innumerable hurdles. There have been a lot of challenges and I believe that the lessons that my failures taught me made me come out stronger to celebrate the successes that followed. I strongly believe everything you learn in this journey contributes to your growth. Failure and success both are the faces of same coin.
You seem to be fond of cooking traditional Indian dishes. What do you think is the scope of experimenting with the cuisine?
For me, my comfort food is not one but many traditional Indian dishes. It is the belongingness that it makes me feel like at being home while actually being away from home. My comfort foods helped me through my upskilling journey overseas. With the influence from the west, India currently is left with limited documented recipes and only a few ambassadors representing the age-old authentic goodness of the traditional recipes. It's become a trend to deconstruct and present Indian cuisine. I personally don't encourage deconstructing authentic recipes.
Tell us a little about the home dining experience that you provide. How did the idea strike you?
I have always loved hosting and entertaining at home that has been always appreciated. Having hosted and cherished some treasured memories over sumptuous food with the family and friends, I decided to open my doors for patrons to indulge in a first-of-its-kind dining experience. That’s how Beyond Dining Co. was founded. The idea behind the concept was not just to showcase exceptional hospitality and good food, but a wholesome, sensorial experience that includes the fragrance, flavours and visuals of the food and the warm, cozy, homely ambience.
What do you think is the scope of this niche home dining space in the culinary world?
Home dining as a concept is about creating unique experiences. The clientele for home dining is completely different as compared to that of a clientele at an eatery. It is quite niche which makes it exclusive like a gem of its own kind. For someone eyeing to start home dining as a business avenue will require the support of cashflows coming from other business channels like outdoor catering. Home dining individually cannot survive.
What advice would you like to give to young girls and women who want to make a name for themselves in this profession?
To cook with passion and watch your patrons savour every morsel of it is a feeling that cannot be mentioned in words. It is an out of the world feeling. You need to have the passion for food to dive deeper into knowing the unique ingredients, their innate flavours, how to preserve the delicate flavours after cooking, how much time to cook them to bring out the ideal recipes, etc. One must be truly immersed in knowing food inside out to thrive in this field. To survive one needs to keep trying. To the young aspirants trying to contribute in the culinary sphere, I would advise, do not give up.
What do you like to cook for yourself on leisure days, just to relax and unwind?
As stated earlier, my favourite foods are several and not restricted to one or a handful recipes. It could be anything simple like Khichdi or something Continental like pasta. I also love having soup when I feel like feeling satiated by relying on fluid diet. One of my personal favourite is chicken curry too which I prepare more often. It all depends on what satisfies my soul.