You guessed it!! On 11 August 2012 we completed our 1000th class at nilgiri’s.
While it has been a lot of fun and informative, and that is how we always wanted it to be, honestly it has been one hell of a FUN ride!!
The classes started because we just wanted to tell everyone that Indian food is like any other cuisine and different to the average person’s view of what comprises Indian food.
As you all know, and as I tell everyone, Indian food is full of colour, it is tasty, it is musical, it is great when you ‘hold’ it and last, but not least, it is full of fragrance!!
Easier said than done, friends.
What started off as being ‘something to do’ on a Saturday for lunch at nilgiri’s as there was no one eating out (and certainly no one eating Indian food after a big night out on a Friday night!!), has now become a Saturday institution and one definitely well spent!!
So, to get over this quiet period I started the cooking classes at nilgiri’s.
I still remember my first class at the restaurant when we got six participants out of a proposed 12 who ‘promised’ they would come (but, I guess, the other half-dozen who didn’t show up must have decided to spend their time and money somewhere ‘better’, or at least ‘different’ and I bet I’m right on that score!).
However, I’m never one to be daunted by things and so we were very happy with the six participants who did show up; after all, the glass was half full, wasn’t it?, and for someone who was not expecting anyone to turn up, it was very encouraging!
I still remember Bill, Roger Jamieson, David Sommerville, and the three others.
The class started with an introduction about spices and herbs, as I knew them. I described them as the ‘nuts and bolts’ of a machine called ‘Indian food’. I carried on in this vein, revealing how each ‘nut’ had a particular role to perform as did each ‘bolt’ and that they cannot be interchanged.
Well folks, I knew that then and I know it to this day. I wholeheartedly believe in this philosophy!
I also said something along the lines that cooking Indian food was like a game of Shatranj, or chess, as it is called in the western world, where every move you make has a purpose or else it is a wasted move.
Ask V Anand, the world champion, and I am sure he will agree with me!!
There is no point in constantly stirring your dish as it does nothing to the ‘nuts and bolts’ in the pot. I often see my friends, or at my classes, constantly going to the pot and stirring it, like they’re worrying they’re going to somehow ‘lose control’ of their dish. But no friends, resist! Slow cook your ‘nuts and bolts’ and gradually ‘stir’ (I call it ‘fold’) at regular intervals, to caramelize your dish. I still believe in this process.
Cooking Indian food, like chess, is done with care, with a measured step and not a kind of ‘hurling the pieces around any which way’ in the hope that by doing this you’ll somehow be able to say, “check mate’!!
Cooking desi khana, for example, is also like cricket. Well, of course folks, you know me by now, I couldn’t describe cooking without mentioning this beautiful sport!
This wonderful game has a knack of being a great ‘leveller’. It can make you look like a hero with a ‘century’ today and a ‘zero’ the next with a first-ball duck!!
But it is still a great game, just like cooking Indian food is, and I do believe that people should not judge you on ‘one performance’ only; we all have our good days and bad days just like in cricket!
One bad performance is no reflection of your talent or potential to score just as one rather dud dish doesn’t mean you’re a bad cook. We all need a second chance. Again, this is easier said than it done!!
Anyway, back to the classes. Time moved on, as it is wont to do, and with each year that passed the classes got bigger and better.
From 26 classes a year in 1998 we are now performing 100 plus classes a year in 2012. Not bad for something that was begun to ease those quiet Saturday lunches!
We then added diversity to the types of cooking classes we gave.
“Kids in the Kitchen” began in 2007 with my son Aniruddh and his friends who were then around 9 years old. I did a class with them and then I’d climb up the stairs to do a class with their parents in parent and child classes. We now do a few of these mixed adult/child classes each year.
Then enter the corporate world of “Team Building” classes.
It had to happen, didn’t it?
With the GFC hitting every corporate business, and with corporate functions now an obsolete word, at least in my business, we had to find a way of getting the corporates back. Team building classes were a result of this and believe you me, this is now a very good business as long as you are able to deliver to the teams, as that is what they expect.
Well, deliver we did and we now do a fair few of these corporate classes every month. Great fun!!
Nothing succeeds like success.
In 2005 we were approached by the Sydney Seafood School, a highly recognised and well-regarded place to fine-tune your skills in cooking seafood, and are very happy to be associated with it. We also go interstate to The Essential Ingredient CS, in Melbourne, which has become a regular feature on our calendar, since 2011.
In 2008 we added a new feature to our classes, they were given a new name, “The Art of Cooking” and a new feel.
From ‘demonstration only’ the classes are now ‘hands on’ where participants get to cook one dish from start to ‘plate’ [serving] and everyone is a winner. There are no evictions!!
Cooking is not about ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It is about following a process, or a path, to get to your destination. It is about understanding the ‘why’ and ‘how’ and not so much about ‘how much’. This is what we wanted. My food is not about quantities but more about healthy eating and comfort cooking just like Italian food is!
In 2010 we started working with many of the local schools and guess what, they are a big hit!!
2011 saw the addition of cooking Indian food and serving it in a thali, the traditional “Indian Plate”.
This year the mission has been to demystify this wonderful cuisine and to tell participants that Indian Food Is No Cu..y In A Hu..y !!!
In 2013 we will. . . (well folks, you’ll have to stick around to find out what we’ve got planned for next year but it’ll be good, I can assure you)!!!
Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!!