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Achieving your dreams is not a cake walk

19/11/2019

 A conversation with Kerala’s first female chef. 

You are Kerala’s first female chef, how difficult it was for you to convince your family for the same.

Chef Latha K:- Hailing from an orthodox family, it was not at all a cake walk. Becoming a chef was something I always dreamed about but was unheard of woman adorning the chef cap. It was tough to convince my mother who believed that it was a man’s world but I was determined and persistent. The support I received from my father and husband helped me convince my mother. 

We are in an era when it is quite difficult to get original ingredients. You have grown up witnessing your mother and grandmother cooking organic foods. What are the main differences in the organic foods of that time and organic dishes of the present time?

Chef Latha K:- Food miles, or how far the food has travelled plays a vital role. The ingredients, during my childhood days, were fresh from the garden and brought to our plates. It was rich in nutrition. Nowadays, most of the veggies are sourced from neighbouring states and we are not sure about the quality. At Malabar Café, we strive to keep the food miles less by procuring vegetables from the local market and organic spices from local spice estates. 

How do you manage to interpret traditional recipes without hampering its original essence?

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Chef Latha K:- Masalas are ubiquitous in Indian cuisines. The hand-ground spices at Malabar Café are loved by our guests – the process is tedious, but it’s healthy and authentic.

For a chef how important it is to stay connected with the roots to curate the authentic dishes?

Chef Latha K:- Food history is uniquely complex involving various influences and adaptations through decades. It is vital to connect with the people and communities to know and learn authentic cuisines. In the era of Google, chefs prefer seeking information from the internet but it won’t help in teaching them the science of cooking. 

Being true to one’s roots, in both ingredients and processes, has been a cornerstone in my culinary journey. Interaction with elderlies on recipes has helped me a lot to revive the authentic dishes. I relish cooking those dishes at Malabar Café.  

You follow a principle that ‘if you are not in a good mood, then don’t cook. At work how you manage to cook in an unfavourable mood?

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Chef Latha K:- Being in the hospitality industry, it is not just the food but we also bring warmth and affection to the table. So, it is better to avoid cooking in the unfavourable conditions. 

You have exceptional hands in diet foods and Ayurveda. In the present scenario, what is hindering the growth of Ayurveda cuisine at the global level?

Chef Latha K:- In the modern day, people are more concerned about calorie intake and the nutritional values of food. Herbal cuisines has the power to control various diseases including the stress. Hotel industry play a pivotal role in promoting ‘Good Food’ concept. You can find some herbal recipes, such as the gruels and the traditional soups, in the menu here. 

What are the specialities of the in-house masalas of Hyatt? How they provide a unique culinary experience to the guests?

Chef Latha K:- In-house masalas offers a distinct aroma of spices from live kitchen, authentic delicacies and unique dishes. Our patrons and guests commend the team on the nostalgic recipes that we have brought to the table. 

What role Hyatt group has played in your career and how it helped you to grow personally as well as professionally?

Chef Latha K:- Hyatt was altogether a new platform. Executive Chef at Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty, Chef Hermann Grossbichler gives me the creative freedom to excel in the kitchen. His 30 years’ experience across the globe lends itself to our workspace dynamics. 

Message for aspiring and emerging chefs of the industry.

Chef Latha K:- Cooking is an art and pursue it with passion. Each dish is unique as are the ingredients that go into them. 

Please share your experience of being selected as the best South Indian restaurant by Travel + Leisure India and South Asia’s delicious food awards 2019.

Chef Latha K:- This is the first award the restaurant has won nationally and it is a notable achievement for the team. 

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