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Cooking for Celebs - A make or break affair for Chefs

Cooking for celebrities always gives chefs a chance to exhibit their creations to the world. Irrespective of the challenges that come along with cooking for VIPs, most of the chefs aspire to cook for public figures. Kathryn B K speaks to few chefs to know about what it takes to cook for a celeb and the pros and cons that come along with it.

Monday, June 12, 2017, 16:31 Hrs  [IST]

Chefs of Heads of States at The Imperial For Le Club Des Chef Des Chefs General Assembly in India

Justin Bieber’s recent visit to India had garnered everybody’s attention not just because he was visiting India for the first time, but more because of the list of his unending demands. Many were amazed by his demands, at the same time there were some who were of the opinion that it justifies for someone of his stature to have all his demands fulfilled. Amongst many of the Canadian pop star’s demands, what caught my attention the most was that there were top culinary experts to cook and supervise the gourmet being served to him during his entire stay in the country. I was wondering how the chefs must be constantly under the spotlight. Though cooking for celebs gives wide range of visibility for the chefs, they are also under great pressure to deliver the best. Preparing meals for celebrities does not come easy. Lot many things goes into cooking exclusively for a VIP/ high profile celebrity.

Chef Ranveer Brar

There are immense opportunities on the palate when it comes to cooking for a celebrity. Fame, visibility and stature in the society are among a few of them. If a chef has to serve a foreign celebrity then the chef also has an opportunity to showcase Indian classics which is among India’s largest treasures.

Opportunities are immense when it comes to cooking for public figures. I would love to cook for Modiji for instance. The opportunity and challenge in that would be to create or recreate something vegetarian and showcase that talent to the world., says Chef Ranveer Brar. “Another aspect is the confidence boost that such opportunities give. For any artist, including chefs (for I believe chefs are artists too!) appreciation and positive feedback is the ultimate reward.”

Cooking for VIPs brings along an opportunity to showcase the chef’s best dishes, especially those which are culinary treasures from lesser known Indian locations, says Chef Arun Sundararaj, Executive Chef, The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi. “We combine authenticity, excellence in service, artistry and innovation in cuisine together to create a dining experience that our guests will remember and hopefully come back for more.”

It is a matter of pride for Vishal Atreya, Executive Chef at JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu to cook for a figure that is adored and idolised by many. He adds that it also acts as a status symbol for the hotel to showcase itself as a place which has housed celebrities and VIPs.

Chef Arun Sundararaj, Executive Chef,
The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi

It is a fact that there are a plethora of opportunities for chefs when it comes to cooking for celebs; likewise it has got its own share of challenges and difficulties. Cooking for a VIP or a celebrity comes with a lot of responsibilities. It may be a dream for every chef to cook for a famous personality, but nothing comes readily on the plate.

Chefs are under scrutiny all the time especially with social media being a major influencer.

If your end product is not up to the mark then you know for a fact, that the person, who is of high repute, will pass on the word that may damage our reputation, says Manav Koul, Executive Chef, Sofitel Mumbai BKC.

Most of the high-profile celebs are well travelled, they know many things and so their expectations are very high, says Chef Shagun Mehra.

Various things need to be taken care of while cooking for celebrities and public figures. Their likes, dislikes, diet schedule, preferable food, allergies to any kind of food ingredient etc.

There is a high amount of security, sampling, product testing which takes place before a dish is served. We need to be well informed about any allergy or distaste for a particular ingredient or dish, which the guest might possess, shares Chef Sundararaj.

Vishal Atreya, Executive Chef,
JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu

Coping with the demands
Since most of the celebs are frequent travellers and are habitual to certain types of cuisine, at times chefs may have to go out of their way to fulfill the demands of celebrities.

Sharing his experience Chef Brar says, “I prepared this 17-course meal for a famous basketball player in Boston to represent 17 years of his relationship with his girlfriend, to whom he was going to propose that night. So I sat down with him, understood the journey of his relationship and created a menu that stood for that journey. Public figures and celebrities I have cooked for so far have definite tastes, they know what they want, but at the same time know when to leave it to the chef to interpret their tastes.”

Manav Koul, Executive Chef, Sofitel Mumbai BKC

Coping with the demands
Most of the celebs requests are centered around specifications on food as per the guests’ dietary requirements or cultural differences.

Whenever His Holiness Dalai Lama visits the hotel, we present him with a culinary experience comprising simple, wholesome food with less spices as that is the kind of food he prefers eating. On the other hand, when Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook, stayed at the hotel, we served him food which had a diversity of flavours as he was keen to experiment with Indian spices and ingredients, said Chef Sundararaj. “The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, is a tribute to timeless hospitality and is well known for its impeccable and legendary service. The staff at the hotel ensures that all reasonable and realistic demands made by the guests are taken care of in a timely manner.”

 Chef Shagun Mehra

Some celebrities are very friendly and approachable and share their expectations with the chefs. Since they travel a lot, they relish things, events and dishes that give them a homely feel.

Chef Koul has come across celebs who dine alone who often asks for creations that are more home styled, such as a chicken curry or something as simple as a bhindi ki sabji and phulka. While travelling with a group or in someone’s company, then the preference shifts to fancier options.

Chef Atreya has served celebrities whose demands range from extremely rigid diet schedules like ketogenic diet and kosher to one of the simplest home cooked food. He says that it gives him immense pleasure to serve guests and he makes sure to provide a memorable experience in whatever way possible, even if sometimes it may require going out of the way too.

But Chef Mehra would beg to differ because at times the last minute demand or a demand at a very short notice is sometimes difficult to deliver. “I say that I won’t be able to because I don’t want to risk my reputation by doing a half job. There are times when I have actually declined and apologised.”

While cooking for a VIP or a high profile celebrity brings appreciation, fame and visibility and the chef moves a notch higher in his career, it also has its own share of challenges, struggles and risks when it comes to creating an impression on the celeb. What seems to be hunky-dory is not the real picture and it is the chefs’ rigorous hard work and passion for the work they do that actually pays off.

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