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Food Escapades with Thomas Zacharias

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fwd life Food Escapades with Thomas Zacharius 1

The story of how and why Thomas Zacharias became Chef Partner at The Bombay Canteen

Words by Rheanna Mathews    Photographs from The Bombay Canteen

To hear him talk about his life, kismet seems to have had an active role in guiding his choices. Or perhaps he was just dealt a particularly good hand, since he didn’t have to go on that agonising search for a vocation that most of us are cursed with. Thomas Zacharias always knew he wanted to do what his ammamma did; he wanted to see people’s faces light up when they ate his food. And so he became a chef.

Retrospective advice

Having been cooking in a professional kitchen only for ten years, Thomas has been executive chef at a renowned restaurant in Mumbai, The Bombay Canteen, for three of them. But the speed with which he rose to that height is something he doesn’t like to dwell on. “I should have worked in other kitchens, under other seasoned chefs,” he insists. “If I could go back, I’d choose to gain a lot more experience before helming my own kitchen.” An alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America, New York, you get the idea that Thomas, known fondly as Thoma, despite what he says, must have shown potential early on, routinely inspiring others to place their faith in him. Soon after his return to India, chef Manu Chandra, also an alumnus of the CIA, suggested that he become sous chef at The Olive, Mumbai, and a scant three years later, the offer to be head chef at The Bombay Canteen came his way.

The journey to the top though, did in no way come easy. As a chef, one needs to constantly reinvent oneself; having learned the basics of cooking at Manipal, the finer aspects of it at the CIA, which were then honed at Le Bernardin, the French Seafood restaurant where he worked for a year, Thomas went on a four-month jaunt through Europe, enticed from one point to the next by the promise of exceptional food experiences.

An Italian epiphany

One such experience in Modena, Italy gave him the epiphany that then dictated the course of his career. The chef patron at world famous restaurant, Osteria Francescana, Massimo Bottura, remarked that though he cooked modern Italian food, his inspiration came from his grandmother’s cooking. “That struck a chord in me,” says Thomas. “This was in 2013 and I’d been cooking professionally for a while, and I realised then that I’d forgotten where I’d come from. I had been making food as it had been taught to me at school. I suddenly wanted to look into creating Kerala inspired food and putting my own spin on it. When Bombay Canteen came my way, and told me of their concept to create modern dishes with locally available produce, my mind was blown. Yet, I only saw it as a segue into what I eventually wanted to do, until Bombay Canteen became way bigger and more than any of us ever expected. For me, then, it became about Indian cuisine as a whole.”

fwd life Food Escapades with Thomas Zacharius 2

Thomas’ quest to explore Indian food at the Bombay Canteen thus saw him travel like he did before, but this time, he was exploring the native cuisines of his own land. He began to define his style of cooking as “an essential reimagining of Indian food, making it more fun, more approachable. At the root of it, food needs to taste good, has to be something people would crave and come back for. Everything else is really secondary”. Though his vision of food had expanded to include the tastes of the entire country, he had by no means forgotten his own enterprising Malayali roots. The Bombay Canteen routinely serves

up Kerala-inspired dishes like their famous Meen Pollichathu that sustainably uses local fish instead of the karimeen we are familiar with, the KFC or Kerala Fried Chicken, and the olan inspired soup they currently have on the menu. Favourite ingredients, however, are a rarity, as he appreciates whatever is in season. Driving to the market to check out the winter vegetables that would have just come in, while having our conversation, he enthusiastically called out the names of the produce he expected to buy – fresh toor, hara channa, mango ginger, green garlic, moras bhaji, ponkh – the few names I caught.

Tasting throughout the day

When it comes to eating food himself, however, Thomas is prey to what most professional chefs suffer from – the inability to have proper meals on time. Even though in his blog, Memoirs of a Chef, he has exalted the need to have proper sit-down meals, he admitted that it hardly ever happens. How then does he survive the strenuous work day of a chef? He explains, “One thing I’m really particular about is tasting. There’s a Mallu inspired chutney which we serve with our most popular dish, Eggs Kejriwal. From when we began serving it, till now, for around two and a half years, I still taste that chutney every day. That’s just an example”, he laughs and goes on, “I keep tasting everything throughout the day, and that sort of fills me up.” But one meal he makes sure he has is the duck curry his grandma used to make, with puttu, every time he returns to his hometown of Cochin – “my perfect comfort food”, he says.

Thomas strikes you as quiet and mild, yet fun loving chef, a far cry from the mercurial chefs one has heard about. When the difference was pointed out, he said, “I’m actually a strong proponent of the opposite. I’m well aware of the stereotype and also aware that’s how a lot of kitchens here in India and abroad are run. It need not be that way.” He then outlined the unusual policy he follows, “In my kitchen, there’s a super positive environment where people learn and grow and have fun. This might be more challenging than the other route, but the results can’t be denied – happy cooks make better food.”

He went on to clarify that even when it came to hiring, he places more weight on attitude – even hiring career changers and newcomers – rather than experience. “You can teach someone how to cook anything, but you can’t really change their attitude. So, I find people who are positive, driven, passionate, and want to learn.”

“Being a professional cook is a thankless job if you don’t have a passion for it. But if you do, and you thrive on the energy and the pressure, and the excitement that comes out of seeing people enjoy your food, then it’s incredible.” And where does this passion come from? From experience collected throughout his life, the most resilient – and perhaps most poignant – of which is perhaps that of ‘Pazham peechi day’. “My cousins and I used to spend our evenings after school at ammamma’s house and she’d make us something she called pazham peechi, essentially mashed bananas mixed with flour and sugar, and deep fried. We were so excited when it was pazham peechi day…I know it sounds corny, but I’m a chef because I get to be the person who brings joy to people’s lives. Like she did.”

Well, Thoma, Ammini would be proud.

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Food

This Christmas try some irresistible delights by Meera’s Kitchen

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Find out the journey of Meera’s Kitchen from being a homemaker to a professional baker

Text Credits: Shibul Pavithran                         Image Credits:  Meera Manoj

Meet Meera Manoj, a graduate in economics and a professional baker. She never dreamt of being an entrepreneur and her ambition was to do higher studies in management. She got married and went on to build a family. Meera always had a passion for cooking and used to experiment with her culinary styles. Most of the people who tried her food really appreciated the taste and her cooking skill, which gave her the encouragement to explore further. She remembers herself as a perfect hostess as she took great pleasure in entertaining guests and serving them with a creative menu.

It was at that time that Meera ventured into baking. She was an amateur at that time and knew just the basics of baking. Her mother-in-law used to bake cakes on a small scale and it was from her that Meera imbibed the passion to bake. Initially, Meera’s friends tasted her cakes and in turn, she received good feedback and it was through word of mouth that she started receiving orders. It was then that she chose to become a baker and finally did a course in baking, with an aim of becoming a professional. She puts her heart and soul into whatever she creates, making every bite irresistibly tasty. “Life has taught me that there are no shortcuts to success; you have to walk the tightrope to reach the destination. Love, trust, and reliability are the only ingredients needed to climb uphill in any profession,” says Meera.

How did you get into professional baking?

I was inspired by a few of my friends who were into baking which led me to learn it in a professional way. I have completed almost all the levels right from basics to advanced courses in baking from the best baking school in Cochin – Manna the Cookery School – run by the pioneer baker Anitha Isaac.

What do you think are the most important skills one needs to have as a baker?

The most important quality in a baker should be patience. She or he should also have the willingness to learn the latest techniques, as well as possess creativity.

Which is the best product by Meera’s Kitchen and how is it different from others?

The most popular item is Ultra Moist Carrot and Dates cake which almost tastes like Royal Plum cake but without any trace of the ingredients, once baked. It’s butter free and completely healthy, being made of vegetable oil.

What do you love about your work?

I feel proud when I’m able to accomplish a design exactly or even better than the requirements of the customer. Since it’s my passion turned profession, I love each and every moment working on a designer cake. Each new design is a new lesson for me.

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Food

‘Selfieccino’ – Your face on your coffee!

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We all love to have a hot cuppa coffee. And what’s better than a hot cuppa with some cool latte art on it?

Text Credits: Nimisha S

Most of you would have seen the latest coffee trend that took Instagram by storm. It’s 3D latte art!!!To add on to this trend, A cafe in London is taking barista art to a new level by giving customers the chance to sip on their own self-portraits.

Source: japantimes

Following the viral sensation that was the Selfie Coffee café in Singapore, which digitally prints out customers’ headshots and selfies on foamed milk and whipped cream, London has opened its own version of the “Selfieccino” café.

Patrons send their headshots via an online messaging app to the barista and are given the choice of either a cappuccino or hot chocolate as their canvas.

 


The image is uploaded to the “Cino” machine while the drink is placed in position. The picture is then scanned and reproduced onto the froth using a flavorless food coloring.

Source

Coffee-lovers in London have yet another reason to go for their customary cuppa at this London cafe.

Want to get your face printed on a hot cuppa coffee, check this place out!!

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Entertainment

Fun things to do if you are alone this Christmas!

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What do you do when, by choice or chance, you are one of the millions of people around the world spending Christmas day alone?

Text: A.Ankitha

It’s natural to feel a mix of emotions around the holidays. But, even if you are by yourself, you can still enjoy every minute of it! You can be just a little selfish and experience a celebration of your independent self. We at FWD tell you just how!

‘Surprise’ yourself with a present!

Image Source: Giphy

 

Yes, yes! Buy a gift for yourself this Christmas! After all, you’ve come so far this year and you deserve it! Love that bright orange lipstick you saw online? Or did you see a book that you badly wanted to buy? Go ahead and splurge on a ‘surprise’ for yourself and happify yourself!

Dress up and get going!

Image Source: Giphy

 

Being alone doesn’t mean you have to sit at home and be glum. Wear your favorite red dress (Festive spirits, you see) and a pair of high heels and go to your favorite restaurant and treat yourself! Don’t forget to try out our list of restaurants at Wtzup City!

Binge watch your favorite Christmas movies

Image Source: Giphy

 

Remember that movie you watched every Christmas with your family? How long has it been since you watched it? This Christmas, bring back your childhood memories with your favorite movies and that mug cake!

Psssst! Here’s a list of our favorite Christmas movies for you to choose from (You’re welcome)!

  • Home Alone
  • A Christmas Story
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Love Actually
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas

For more such movies you can binge watch, click here.

Drink away!

Gif Source: Giphy

 

Cant’t you just smell that yummmmmy wine from the kitchen next door? Too shy to go spend Christmas with them? Order your favorite wine this Christmas and savor the lingering taste while reading your go-to book on the couch.

Grab that phone!

Gif Source: FWD Life

 

Festivals are the days when you call your friends and family whom you haven’t called in a looooong time (Mostly, since last Christmas). Grab that phone and make the calls! Spend some time with them, even if not physically.

Bake the easiest cake possible!

Since you’re alone and probably wouldn’t want to bake an entire cake (I won’t judge if you want to), try baking this simple mug cake, that’d take only minutes to cook! Okay, so you’re probably so over mug cakes and you’re probably rolling your eyes at me right now, but STOP! I promise you this isn’t like any other mug cake out there. This is the moistest (Yes, not spongy, but moistest!) mug cake ever! Go on, give it a try.

Image Source: Table for two blog

 

Here’s what you need:

  •  1/4 cup maida
  •  tablespoon cocoa powder
  •  1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  •  tablespoon sugar (you can add 1 tbsp. more if you like it a bit sweeter)
  •  A pinch of salt
  •  1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. milk
  •  tablespoon vegetable oil
  •  tablespoon chocolate spread

How to make it:

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  2. Mix in the milk and vegetable oil until all ingredients are combined and batter has no clumps.
  3. Pour batter into a microwave-safe mug.
  4. Add 1 tbsp. of chocolate spread in the middle of the batter.
  5. Place a paper towel into the microwave and set the mug on top (this is to catch any batter if your mug cake overflows).
  6. Microwave mug cake for 70 seconds on high
  7. Carefully remove from microwave and enjoy!

Do let us know how it tastes in the comments section below.

Indulge in a 3 course Meal

Image Source: Giphy

 

If you’re craving some scrumptious meal instead, let the chef in you come out and cook the yummiest meal possible! There is nothing better than food! We have suggested a couple of 3 course meal ideas for you to try this festive season.

Appetizer

Cucumber Avocado Caprese Salad, 15 minutes. Caprese sounds fancy but is secretly effortless. For this recipe, slice, mix, and admire your work.

Beer Cheese Dip, 15 minutes. You can’t go wrong with beer and cheese.

Main Dish

Baked Herb Fish Fillets, 15 minutes. This recipe is easy to customize – simply use whatever white fish you find at the grocery store (salmon would work too), put the fish in the oven, and stir up a 2 minute herb sauce.

Creamy Avocado Pasta, 15 minutes. If you can make pasta, you can make this dish. It’s vegetarian, vegan, and can easily be made with gluten-free pasta.

Dessert

Healthy Strawberry Frozen Yogurt, 5 minutes. Do you have strawberries, honey, yogurt, and lemon in your fridge? With these four ingredients, you can create fruity magic.

Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge, 10 minutes. You need a food processor for this recipe, but if you have that tool, the fudge only takes a few minutes to make.

Pamper yourself in a homemade spa

How often have you wanted to take a break and just unwind in a spa? This Christmas, make your very own home spa and indulge in the goody goodness of various exotic ingredients like coffee, cocoa powder, or even some berries and fruits! We love you too much and so, here’s our favourite coffee facial recipe for you to try!

Image Source: My beauty gym

 

Coffee, Oatmeal and yogurt face pack

Coffee and oatmeal both have exfoliating properties, yogurt and oatmeal also soothes and softens skin.

  1. Take one tbsp of coffee and add in 1 tbsp of powdered oatmeal powder and yogurt.
  2. Mix well, you can add honey also.
  3. Apply on face and neck, keep for around half an hour and rinse off.

We wouldn’t judge if you lick some off the side of your lips *yummm*.

So now you know what to do this Christmas to make it your best one yet! Go on and tell us your favorite things to do on Christmas in the comments section below.

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