Chef Anahita Dhondy Shares Her Idea Of ‘The Last Supper’
- IWB Post
- August 28, 2019
As I am writing this, I am hogging on a tiny tub of double chocolate ice-cream. My love for food has existed for as long as I have. I remember how a few years ago, my father was looking at my Kundli. I kid you not, it read, ‘She will be an extreme foodie’.
And this love for food has pulled me to Anahita Dhondy. Now the chef-partner at the iconic Bombay Irani Cafe and Bar, SodaBottleOpenerWala, Anahita started off with icing her first cake at the age of 10.
It was her mother’s passion for cooking that instilled in her the interest to follow in her path and make a career in the field. Cooking from a very early age, the success she enjoys today wasn’t without its share of hardships, but giving up was not something that Anahita even saw as an option.
Were you ever a picky eater?
My mom told me that I used to have one bite of food in my mouth for hours and yes, I did trouble her. But as I grew older, I started experimenting quite a bit, ate all veggies and meats.
What vegetable did you remove from your food in your childhood?
Training if not difficult is not a proper training. I used to travel from Grant road to Andheri every day by the local train and work for about 12 hours every day. It was hot, humid and rainy in Bombay and work was super hectic. The traveling bit also gets to you.
My training in Taj was very good because other than the entire day of cleaning of fridges, dishwashing, and organizing when they see you are hard working, they do teach you a lot. And it’s so important to go through that grind.
How do you maintain the authenticity of Parsi food?
I do have authenticators other than myself. I involve people from the community to come and taste. Also, we make sure our recipes are standardized and the same all through the country.
Best cooking tip for a novice in the culinary world?
Start with the basics, don’t take shortcuts.
One chef you look up to?
What do you think is the most challenging ingredient to work with?
The Banana flower was by far the hardest ingredient to work with for me.
What do you like to eat when you’re at home?
If I’m back home after a few days of travel I crave aloo parathas with dahi and achar, a plate of mutton dhansak with kebabs and kachumbar. My favourite comfort food is dhan-dar-patio which is simple tur/arhar dal tempered with cumin, garlic and ghee with steamed rice and an instant tomato gravy with prawns.
What is the most exotic ingredient you had ever used?
Frog legs, I cooked them in London and they tasted like chicken and were very soft but I still couldn’t get that hopping frog out of my head!
We often end up with a lot of leftovers. Can you give us a recipe on how to use leftover chapattis or any other food?
An excellent way to use leftovers is something called “Par Eeda” which means putting egg on top. Parsi’s do it with all kinds of leftover sabzi or meats. Whip up eggs and pour on top on the leftovers in a frying pan and then bake. It’s excellent as a quick dinner or even a breakfast dish.
What are your views on kitchen waste management?
Cook only that much as can be sold. We check our spoilage daily and don’t let it go over a few grams. It saves costs and you don’t end up wasting.
What was your biggest kitchen disaster?
When I forgot to line a cake tin properly and my cake broke once it came out of the tin. It was for an exam, and I was terribly sad. Lesson learned: grease your cake tin properly.
Your idea of a healthy breakfast?
A bowl of yogurt, chopped fruits, homemade granola, and honey. Also, boiled egg with a glass of banana milkshake.
What would your ‘Last Supper’ be like?
A bowl of dal chawal, dahi and achar, a glass of beer and mint chocolate chip ice-cream.
Would you rather eat chicken or cake for the rest of your life?
Your favorite food-based movie?
Are you a solo eater or a group eater?
I have always been a group eater. I like trying bites of other people’s food combination. Also, you can order many different things in a group. I rarely eat alone.
Your Instagram is very aesthetically pleasing. Can you give us three tips for food Instagrammers?
- Take pictures in natural light.
- Keep it authentic.
- Let your personality shine through, don’t imitate or copy someone else’s style. Do what you like and put up pictures of the things you would eat/cook.
Lastly, what advice do you have for women on how to break the glass ceiling in a male-dominated culinary industry?
I would like to tell them to be passionate! It is what will take them forward; it is what will help them grow. And obviously, the most important thing is to not give up! It’s a tough road, less traveled, with many bumps, but keep going, learn to fight it out in this big bad world, otherwise you’ll get left behind, and so will your dream to become the best chef! So don’t stop believing! Give it all you’ve got, and keep going on.