A new chef on the block

Amrita Prasad
Monday, 19 March 2018

Chatting up First Year student of SSCA, Swarali Dhumal, who won the Veeba Cook-Off Challenge on Food Food Channel

This youngster’s dream is to make Indian food more popular globally and she’s already embarked on her journey. A First Year student of Symbiosis School of Culinary Arts, (SSCA) Swarali Dhumal, has made her city, institute and parents proud with her recent victory. Dhumal, who participated in Food Food Channel’s Veeba Cook-Off challenge, emerged the winner of Saturday’s episode and received the trophy from celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

Veeba Cook-Off challenge — an 11-episode series by the professionals, for the professionals — is a high-octane show with an adrenaline rush for cooking enthusiasts. In the 30-minute episode, contestants have to beat their peers showcasing their creativity, skills and determination, and push their limits. One winner is announced in every episode, and each episode features a new set of young and talented to-be-chefs chosen after an intense talent search from India’s popular culinary schools. The show is  judged by Sanjeev Kapoor and hosted by Amrita Raichand.  

Ask Dhumal, who loves Indian cuisine, to pick any one dish and she  gets stumped as her love for the desi fare is deep and profound. But ask her about her favourite chefs and she promptly says Sanjeev Kapoor, Shivesh, Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal. Here’s chatting up the young chef. 

What does cooking and gastronomy mean to you?
Cooking to me is an emotion —  be it the feasts made during Diwali, Eid, or other get-togethers. Cooking is a way to celebrate life, relationships and create something that you can share with others. Gastronomy is the very essence of civilisation. According to Egyptian mythology, the vital essence of life is sustained through food and drink.

How was your first brush with cooking?
I don’t exactly remember when I started cooking, but all I can recall is that it started with me playing my mom’s assistant and troubling her in the kitchen to let me do something. I remember asking her to allow me to roll out roti and it would turn out to be a random map. But everyone appreciated it and made me practise harder.

Tell us what you felt after winning the cook-off challenge, and how did you prepare yourself?
I was rather shocked when I was declared the winner as both my competitors Burhanuddin and Mihir are my seniors and possess a vast knowledge. The competition was very impromptu, so I stuck to the basics as basic skills determine your foundation. I feel hard work, passion, dedication make us outperform ourselves. I would like to dedicate this victory to my teachers and mentors in college because it wouldn’t have been possible without them.

What are the dishes that you prepared at the challenge?
In the first round, I made Quinoa Upma flavoured with Veeba Sweet Onion Sauce on a bed of crispy fenugreek accompanied by Beetroot Coconut Chutney, served with discs of salami topped with chargrilled cherry tomatoes and burnt garlic. In the final round, I prepared Phirnee with Cinnamon Custard on a bed of crushed cookies and walnuts to make it a little crunchy accompanied by Stewed Berries.
How was the experience of being mentored and judged by Sanjeev Kapoor?
Sharing the stage with chef Sanjeev Kapoor was like a dream come true. He was very supportive during the competition. When I was confused about an element he guided me. There is a lot to learn from him.

How do you think this victory will help you shape your career and fulfill your dreams?
Any victory is a learning in itself and raises expectations. It also helps you discover and carve your niche. This win has kept me self-motivated to fulfill my dreams and life goals.

What is your inspiration while you are cooking?
My faculty, who motivates me, guides me and makes me improve when I’m going wrong, keeps me inspired. And my Baba is my greatest inspiration.

How do you think you can help make Indian cuisine more popular globally?
Indian cuisine is all about culture and diversity, and our recipes have been passed down from generation to another. For instance, from grandmothers to grandchildren or from guru to shishya. Through my travels I plan to give the best knowledge of our cuisine and culture to the rest of the world.

What is your take on Instagram food trends?
Instagram is the best platform to promote new ideas about food. It is helpful as it keeps you updated about culinary trends. The platform allows you to understand food plating ideas, new tableware and various crockery which improve presentation value. Also, knowledge about ingredients around the world and new combinations of flavours can be easily shared through this platform.

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