Imtiaz Qureshi Was The Incomparable Master(Chef) Of His Domain
Image Credit: Padma Shri Imtiaz Qureshi. 1931-2024

IN THE CULINARY WORLD's vast and tumultuous sea, Imtiaz Qureshi stood as a lighthouse. He hailed from Lucknow, a city steeped in history and flavours. A man of the earth, he was once a wrestler, known in his youth for his strength and agility. Those days in the ring, grappling with fate and muscle, taught him discipline and the art of precision. These lessons he carried into the kitchens where his battles were with spices and fire, his victories served on platters.

Qureshi cooked with 'Andaz' — a term too shallow to encompass the depth of his intuition. His seasoned hands measured spices not by the spoon, but by feel. The heart, he believed, was the true measure of a dish's worth. His food spoke of places and people, of history and dreams. It was honest, like him.

The Kakori Kebab, a dish as tender as twilight, was his ode to Lucknow. At ITC Hotels, he became a beacon, drawing people to the forgotten art of Dum Pukht. With Jiggs Kalra, he ventured beyond the kitchen, their words and dishes weaving tales of Awadhi grandeur for the world.

His creations — the Tandoori Fruit Chaat, Warqi Paratha, Garlic Kheer — were bold and unapologetic. The Garlic Kheer, especially, was a rebel, defying norms, earning nods from presidents and prime ministers.

Qureshi was a man of few words, but his opinions carried weight. “There is no such thing as biryani,” he’d say, challenging purists, urging them to look beyond names to the essence of cooking.

Imtiaz Qureshi's story is not just about food. It's about resilience, about holding on to one's roots while daring to look beyond. In the kitchens of heaven where he now cooks, his dishes must whisper stories of a life richly lived, of battles fought with grace, and of flavours that linger long after the last bite. His legacy, like his spirit, is indomitable, guiding those who dare to dream, to cook, to create.

Imtiaz Qureshi, with his wrestler's build and chef's soul, navigated the world of spices and flavours with the ease of a seasoned mariner. The kitchens he commanded were his arenas, where he grappled with tradition and modernity, marrying them in a harmony that resonated on the plates he served. His was a dance of fire and ice, of robust spices and gentle herbs, performed on the stage of sizzling pans and simmering pots. Each dish was a testament to his journey from the dusty rings of Lucknow to the gleaming kitchens of five-star establishments, a journey marked not by the miles travelled but by the lives he touched through his culinary creations.

In the symphony of Qureshi's cuisine, every ingredient had a part to play, every spice a note to hit. His philosophy extended beyond the mere act of cooking; it was about storytelling, about weaving the rich tapestry of Indian heritage into a meal that spoke of bygone eras and whispered the secrets of royal kitchens. The Dum Pukht, a method steeped in history, became under his stewardship, a narrative of patience and passion, where meat and vegetables simmered gently to perfection, cloaked in their own aromas and juices — telling tales of the Nawabs and their love for gastronomy.

Yet, for all his accolades and achievements, Qureshi remained a humble custodian of his craft, a man for whom the greatest reward was the satisfaction reflected in the eyes of those who partook in his feasts. His legacy, etched in the annals of culinary history, transcends the boundaries of time and geography, inspiring a new generation of chefs to explore the depths of traditional cuisines with respect and innovation. In the silent, steam-filled corners of kitchens around the world, his spirit lives on, a guiding light for those who seek to conjure magic with their hands and hearts, just as he did.