India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Wine & Dine
November 25, 2016

5 Culinary Entrepreneurs On Their Ideal Wedding Menu

Text by Simone Louis

These pioneering women owner-chefs give you the dos and don’ts for your big day…

Nira Kehar
Chez Nini

Whether in Montreal, where she was born and raised, or in Delhi, where her award-winning brasserie sits, the stylish chef’s love for gastronomy has always run deep. She came to India to chase her passion about eight years ago, after leaving behind an engineering career and having trained at the esteemed ITHQ (Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec). In 2014, she introduced unusual combinations like oysters with charred onion petals, tamarind puree, and rose vinegar when she became the first Indian chef to be invited to host a solo dinner at the James Beard House in New York City. Also presented there was her very own coffee-table book called Eating Stories, packed with charming visuals, tales and recipes.

In pursuit of narratives
“I am studying Ayurveda so, at the moment, I’m inspired by the knowledge and intuition which comes with that, but otherwise I completely live for stories. Those of the people around me — of spices, design forms, music, traditions, history and anything else I feel connected to.”

Culinary muse
“I truly believe that nature is perfect, so I feel privileged to use the ingredients that it provides, while adding my own hues, aromas and combinations…it feels like I get to play endlessly every day.”

After-work indulgence
“My favourite places to eat at are Cafe Lota and Carnatic Cafe in Delhi, and Betony and Brindle Room in NYC.”

Dream dish
“This salad I created called ‘secret garden’. It’s so beautiful to look at and has such a unique spectrum of flavours…all while using only the freshest, most natural produce to create something completely magical.”

Reception blooper
“Most people make the mistake of over-complicating the menu; having too much diversity and quantity. Wastefulness isn’t a good way to start a life together.”

Anjali Pathak
Flavour Diaries

A third-generation entrepreneur from a highly distinguished culinary family, she runs a thriving studio in Khar where state-of-the-art cooking stations and dining tables allow her to conduct a variety of workshops and sessions. Her grandfather is remembered as the man who migrated from Africa to London to found the brand that brought curry to the people of the UK — Patak’s. She took over as brand ambassador, having trained at Leiths School of Food and Wine and taught at one of Jamie Oliver’s schools in London. What’s more, Pathak is also the author of Secrets From My Indian Family Kitchen, a cookbook comprising 120 Indian recipes, published last year in the UK.

Most successful experiment
“When I was writing recipes for my cookbook, I had to test some more than once to ensure they were perfect and foolproof. One of my favourites was my slow-cooked tamarind-glazed pork. I must have trialled this recipe at least six times before publishing it, and after many tweaks I have got it to be truly sensational. It’s perfectly balanced with sweet and sour both.”

Future fantasy
“As strange as it sounds, I’d love to cater my own wedding. You want all your favourite recipes and you want to share this with your guests. I could hire a caterer to create my ideal menu, but I’d much prefer to finalise and finish all the dishes myself so that I’m supremely happy with the flavours I’m serving to my loved ones.”

Fresh elegance
“I’m in love with microgreens for entertaining and events…although not a new trend, they still carry the delicate wow factor and are wonderfully subtle when used well. I’m not into using foams and gels and much prefer to use ingredients that are fuss-free.”

Lolita Sarkar
Desi Deli

This advertising professional first tested her one-of-a-kind amalgams at The Lil Flea, a popular local market in BKC, Mumbai. Her Indian fusion hot dogs, named Amar (vegetarian), Akbar (chicken) and Anthony (pork), sold out quickly and were a hit. Today, these ‘desi dogs’ are the signature at the affable home-chef-turned-businesswoman’s cafe-cum-diner in Bandra, alongside juicy burgers, a fantastic indigenous crème brûlée, and an exciting range of drinks and Sikkim-sourced teas.

Loving the journey
“The best part of the job is the people I meet; the joy I get to see on their faces as they take the first bite. The fact that this is across all ages and social or cultural backgrounds makes it even better. Also, I can indulge a whim — whether it is about the menu or what I can do for a guest — without having to ask anyone. On the flip side, I have no one to blame but myself if the decision goes wrong. And, of course, I can’t apply for leave!”

Go-to comfort meal
“A well-made Bengali khichri or a good light meat curry with super-soft chapattis.”

What’s ‘happening’
“This is a very exciting time in food and entertaining — the traditional and ultra-modern are moving forward together. Farm-to-fork is very big; food is also more cross-cultural, and there is a huge effort to make your guest feel special. Plus, ‘Instagram friendly’ has become key…if it’s not on Instagram, it never happened! But essentially, a party works when everyone is comfortable and happy.”

A word to brides
“Let others plan your menu. You relax and look gorgeous!”

Alyssa Chesson
Bono Boutique Ice Cream

This Le Cordon Bleu graduate really knows her way around aromas that warm the heart. On returning to Mumbai from London, she began to experiment with making small-batch ice creams for family and friends. Now she churns out those ‘cheeky’ creations from a tiny kitchen in Bandra, where customers must ring a bell to get a taste of dark chocolate with Italian truffle oil, salted caramel, milk chocolate and bacon and her signature (a must-try) — blue cheese and honey.

The extra mile
“I’ll never forget the time I created three massive croquembouche towers (choux buns filled with assorted flavours of pastry cream, held together with caramel) for a wedding, and had to deliver them to Thane!”

Menu vision
“For a wedding, I would want to serve something light and fresh to start with, like seared scallops with fresh oysters and uni (sea urchin). For mains, I would serve something hearty and warm — roast duck and foie gras in a red wine jus. Dessert would be individual mini croquembouche!”

Aarathi and Pooja Arambhan
The Captain’s Table And Mesohappi

Having been raised by big-time foodie parents, the strongest motivation for their decision to take to this path came from their mother, who had two much-loved restaurants of her own while the sisters were growing up — Vandana in Mahim and Bandra Fest on Carter Road. Following the success of the first MeSoHappi in Khar, Mumbai, the duo known for wholesome cooking opened another outlet of the quirky gastro-bar adjoining The Captain’s Table — one of the city’s favourite seafood haunts — in Bandra Kurla Complex.

Chef’s own
AA: “We were the pioneers of the South African bunny chow in Mumbai and, even now, it remains one of my all-time favourites.”

On wedding catering
PA: “The most memorable for me will always be Aarathi’s high-tea bridal shower. I planned a floral-themed sundowner at our home in Cumballa Hill; curtains of jasmine, rose-and-wisteria lanterns and marigold scallops engulfed the space. We served exotic teas, alcoholic popsicles of sangria and mojito, and dishes like seafood pani puri shots and Greek spanakopita with beetroot dip, while each table had bite-sized desserts like mango and butter cream tarts and rose panna cotta.”

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