In an exclusive interview, celebrity chef Tara Deshpande opens up about her journey, the roadblocks and the success.
Tara Deshpande is an MTV VJ, a Miss India finalist, writer and actress. She is the author of four published works - including ‘Fifty and Done’ (Harper Collins) and ‘An Indian Sense of Salad’ (Penguin). She collaborated with Adobe to write India’s first E-book, ‘The Motive’, in 2002. Her story, ‘India the New Junk Food Frontier’, was featured in the HarperCollins Anthology of Food in 2015. In 2003, Tara moved to Boston and started Azalea Catering LLC. She studied at the French Culinary Institute (now International Culinary Institute) in New York. She offered classes at culinary institutes and programs throughout the US, including the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York. Her cooking feature ‘Great Chocolate Cooking’ was aired on PBS. She does food history episodes for Tara’s Time Machine Cookbook. Tara is an avid collector of rare and antique cookbooks.
What is your childhood memory of cooking?
My maternal grandmother tried to teach me to roll a chapati round, but mine ended up like a map of the former Soviet Union, and my paternal grandmother sat on the floor making dinkache laddoo.
Share some quick munchies to prepare for a movie night with family and friends
Bhadang, a classic Maharashtrian trail mix that's light and easy, crispy pakoras and chilli cheese toast.
What made you pursue cooking?
I come from a family of skilled home cooks, and my dad and granddad were inveterate travellers and bon vivant.
What is your biggest takeaway or lesson as a chef during the lockdown?
Cooking is an invaluable skill. It is also a positive mental exercise in creativity.
Tell us about the journey, the roadblocks and the success
My dogs have taught me that you are already successful if you can enjoy the ride and not overthink the destination.
What is your favourite comfort recipe or food that you repeatedly cook?
Varan bhaat and vaangi che kaape.
The pandemic has profoundly impacted the F&B industry. How has it affected you personally?
Many events were cancelled. For months we were isolated; we couldn't work or socialise. But I had it easier than many people, and I am very grateful. I think all of us have learned to be thankful for small mercies. We have also known that we survived as the human race because we cooperate, adapt, and never give up. The f&b industry is a fraternity, and we must build back up together.
The pandemic also led to many food trends. Did you try and see any of them becoming prominent shortly?
I think the love for sourdough blossomed during the pandemic, and it is here to stay. So the average Indian family will now be baking a great deal more, which is just fantastic.
This is a wonderful appetizer when you're serving cocktails or when your main course is a light salad and soup. It can be made entirely vegan by omitting the prawns, and it tastes equally delicious.