Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.
~ Henry Ford
It wasn't just the synergies and camaraderie between Suvir Saran, Ammini Ramachandran, Asha Gomez and myself that propelled this workshop towards success. We couldn't have done it without the foresight and vision of Ellie Scott and Ken Hause of Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, Boulder, Colorado.
It began with a heartfelt plea from me to Ammini to come to Colorado to teach Kerala cuisine. She and Asha had just completed a cooking tour of several Texan cities through Central Market Cooking School. Not one to pass up the magic of cooking with feisty women, Suvir insisted he wanted to be a part of the team. Who can resist Suvir's charm? Not that we would have said no to such a celebrated chef!
It finally came to fruition on a hot weekend in June, when the temperatures soared to over 95F in Boulder. Not many of the workshop participants noticed as they sat enthralled by stories that included memories, traditions, and regional diversity while we showed them, again and again, that Indian food is not exotic but very accessible. We cooked with as many local ingredients as we could. Dan Hayward of Savory Spice Shop sponsored all the spices we used for Culinary India, again underscoring the accessibility factor. And, contrary to what several cooking channels will have you believe, we did not use "curry powder" and used very little garam masala. Imagine that! Yes, it's true, we cooked Indian food without either of these two "essentials." Kelsey Nixon of Cooking Channel might have even learned a thing or three if she had attended Culinary India.
Ellie and her team managed the workshop so well that never were we without a tool that we needed or an ingredient. Or Suvir without his Coke! The Escoffier Home Cook Kitchen is like well-oiled machinery, working together cohesively toward a common goal.
The excitement started well before the workshop actually began—at the airport, in fact. I drove Ammini through a tornado! It was rather bizarre as I have never been in any kind of tornadic activity before. But according to many of Suvir's friends, that was just a precursor to the real storm that awaited us!
The real tornado unleashed itself on us later that morning in the form of Suvir, who is like Passion & Charm Central, which softens his sometimes hard-hitting, irreverent humor.
From this group of chefs and instructors, only Ammini and Suvir had ever taught or cooked together. I was meeting Ammini, Asha and Suvir for the first time, having had the longest relationship with Ammini online—over 7 years. Yet it was rather amazing how well we all worked together, bouncing off each other, assisting each other, even disagreeing with each other thereby highlighting regional differences. There was no ego. There was just one goal: teaching homestyle Indian food, made richer by stories and traditions, not heavy cream and grease.
Our participants made this workshop even more enjoyable. There was a young man who drove all the way from Montana for this class! My friend Lee cut short her vacation to attend! A casual yet structured workshop allowed for a lot of interaction between the participants and the instructors. Clearly, this audience was engaged!
Ammini made her delectable okra kichadi
I made Simply Spiced Kohlrabi
It was two days of learning, for the participants as well as us. Asha made her first ever roti and watched it puff up magically on the flame! Ammini taught us all about the benefits of coconut oil.
As for Suvir? He just stood there oozing charm. Of course, I'm kidding! Once in the kitchen, Suvir's mastery over his trade is very obvious and he moves with great confidence, directing when needed and assisting when required.
The feedback ranged from
These last two days completely changed my perception of Indian food. Thank you!
I used to be intimidated about cooking Indian food at home. This, I think I can do!
That, by itself, made the months of hard work worthwhile.
This workshop is just the beginning of taking homestyle Indian food to a wider audience. The regional breadth of Indian cuisine makes it the most versatile cuisine, whatever one's dietary preference, from gluten-free to vegetarian to an omnivore's diet.
This is the only picture I have of the four of us. If you attended the workshop and have a picture of all four of us, I would love it if you could send me a copy by email: indianfoodrocks at gmail dot com.
Allan Parr is writing a three-part review of Culinary India, the first of which is already available on Eat Drink Boulder. Part 2 will focus on Escoffier's Home Cook School and in Part 3, Allan will share recipes from Culinary India.
I have more pictures in my Culinary India set on Flickr or if you prefer Facebook, the same pictures are in an album here.