The Chef behind planning the IPL Menu – Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji
Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji: As a Kid I have grown up seeing my mother cook the most delectable cuisines for the entire family. That gave the first click in my mind that, Yes food is such an interesting and enormous art. I guess that I have got it through my genes.
Chef Sanjay R. Ghokshe, who has mentored me to hold my Chef Knife , to cook and to take up challenges as I very well remember that I was very scared of Blood , and what he did to ensure that I face it is he put me on my first Training at the Leela Kempenski , Mumbai in the Butchery. That day & today I can Slaughter a Lamb LOL, though I am a pure vegetarian. I remember him tell all the Students in my class that she might be the shortest but I measure her height from her brains. Yes Chef I have made you proud.
Turning Point to select this profession: Also I remember when almost all my relatives were strictly against my joining the Hotel Management, the person who stood like a pillar were and are my parents. The myth those days was that this profession is just not apt for girls.
I owe all my success to my Mom, Mrs. Manjit Arora and my Dad , Mr. M.S.Arora, who supported me right from day 1. And now supported both by my parents and my husband my soulmate Uday Kugaji, who is indeed my strongest support to always encourage me to give my best at all times.
I received the certificate of merit and medal for dedication in academics from Dadasaheb that is onorable Dr. D.Y Patil Sir, former Governer of Tripura , Bihar and West Bengal and Dr. Vijay D. Patil, the man behind the absolutely fantastic Stadium –D.Y.Patil Stadium at Navi Mumbai.
I have been into the menu planning and have prepared the most delectable and exotic cuisines for the Former Hon. President Of India Her Excellency Smt. Pratibha Tai Patil, “The God of Cricket”Mr. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, “The Great Wall of Indian Cricket” Mr. Rahul Dravid and various other dignitaries and eminent personalities. Intricately prepared cuisine designed to capture a delicious and exciting range of flavours, textures and aromas. Handled Special Food Preparations for IPL matches, T 20-20, International Cricket Matches at the D.Y. Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai. So I have cooked the most delectable cuisines for small to very large numbers.
With 20 years of experience in the world of culinary, I believe that food is like oxygen to me. Food for me is God. I believe that the food that I cook / prepare should not only touch the hearts but also the souls of the people relishing it.
I am privileged to be a Chef and a Mentor to thousands of budding chefs of tomorrow.
My achievements prove it all, my students (they are my kids) when excel in their careers I look up at the sky and thank God for his grace.
Making a difference in a positive way in so many lives and I am the chosen one makes me and my entire family so proud.
HospiBuz: The Chef is always related to kitchen; being a mentor could you please tell us what can chef do beyond cooking delicious food in the kitchen?
Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji: I am extremely proud for shaping the careers of thousands of Budding Chefs and students and witnessing them being so successful as Human Beings first then a Chef. As a mentor to them, I ensure that this quality of being extremely Humble and be proud of your roots is inculcated in my students, as I want them to be good humble humans first and then Chefs.
Mentoring of course, Inspiriting Culinary talent. As a Chef we owe to the generations coming in to bring back the Lost Recipes of India.
Research, Promoting Indian Cuisine, Being a Brand Ambassador for Indian cuisine, Food Styling, Food Photography, Food Author / Writer, Food blogger, Food traveler , Food anchor, Kitchen designer, Kitchen equipment manufacturer or consultant/ adviser and Menu designer.
HospiBuz: Ma’am, you have designed the menu for honourable people like Pratibha Patil, Godfather of Cricket Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid etc, what were the things you had to keep in mind before setting menu for them?
Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji: What I kept in mind was serving authentic traditional recipes with a perfect balance of nutrients. These people are pretty busy with their tight work schedules where there are times that they have to skip their meals, considering that fact my menu was 101 % a balanced meal. For Sachin Sir and Rahul Dravid Sir I considered the fact that a high protein diet menu needs to be planned and at the same time something very creative and innovative.
HospiBuz: A lot of people vegetarian people are hesitant to enter into hospitality and you are also pure vegetarian. How do you manage your task of cooking a Non-Veg food?
Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji: As my profession demands cooking and tasting Non-Vegetarian foods & in spite of me being a pure vegetarian, I perform my duties religiously as I understand the cause behind it is holy and noble. I profoundly believe that food whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian, if cooked with utmost love and positivity touches the heart of a person relishing it. So it’s all in our brain. When I taste non-vegetarian I feel that it’s what my job demands and I can never ignore the fact that I am a Chef and a mentor to so many students, If I be reluctantant and bind myself, my students who are pure vegetarians will never get the courage to explore different cuisines. So I believe in Practice what you preach.
HospiBuz: Planning and designing menu at IPL must have been one of the challenging jobs, could you please tell us how did you manage to set a menu, where you could offer both combinations of taste and health? Could you please tell us how different is the menu of a sports person as compared to any other professionals?
Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji: Energy and Protein Foods is a must in my menu for sports person. A good combination is a must. Spices need to be very mild. Inclusion of soups, salads and fruits in their diet is a must. Ensuring that the food given to them is not too heavy, lots of fluids, juices and shakes. Healthy , wholesome foods and energy filled snacks to fuel their performance. Menu should be carbohydrate-loaded, non-fat-filled meals. A balanced diet is a must.
HospiBuz: When setting the menu for the restaurants what key point you keep in mind so that you could blend budget quotient and emotional sentiment?
Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji: Quality comes first. Location of the restaurant, type of consumer Occasion / Theme , Equipment’s and skills at hand. We eat with our eyes first. Appearance, tastes, innovation, uniqueness, variety, nutrients, methods of production and the price.
HospiBuz: What do you think about food start- ups? Could you please tell us the key reasons behind the success and failure of a food start-up?
Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji: Definitely will think of start-ups.
Key reasons behind the success of any start-up is Conceptualization of an Idea, your Founders, team, thorough research of the market Growth Strategy i.e. execution, timing & marketing,Product. , Your Attitude and Funding Strategy.
Any failure of a start-up is because of customer not being their priority, Shortsightedness, arrogance, expanding too soon ,Hubris, Sloppiness, egotism, Inflexibility , imbalance, being underfunded or overfunded, heavy reliance on debt funding and poor strategic management.
HospiBuz: How has technology changed the world of culinary? Does it provide any convenience?
Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji: Yes it does matter and makes a huge difference, if you have a modern well equipped kitchen, it is pretty time-saving and facilitates ease in preparation of varieties of food in no time. Latest and sophisticated technology available at an arm’s length.
Only requirement here would be a complete know how abouts to the entire kitchen equipments.
What we thought technology was a long time ago??? Some of the most remarkable household appliances like blenders and mixers are now so humdrum that we rarely think of them as technologies at all.
Though a 101 % kudos to technology, no matter what kitchen you prefer the fact is the Brains that works in the Kitchen know how and what can produce / prepare a perfect dish which receives applauds.
HospiBuz: In your opinion, how do you think, how hospitality sector can and have empowered women? Could you also tell us about the campaign “Woman at work”?
Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji: Times have changed women have equal opportunities. Here what is considered is talent and not gender. We rock big time. If you are capable and have the caliber you are meant to stand out in the rest. Woman at work was a campaign initiated by Ms. Poornima Batish , the Founder and Editor-in-chief of the esteemed magazine “WOMAN AT WORK” where the exceptional work of women was appreciated and recognized. There were nominations and voting for the same. With the grace of God , I was voted the most as one of the winners of that campaign.
Woman at Work is a first-of-its-kind professional magazine for talented women at work in India. It aims to provide insights and avenues for women professionals – in corporate and non-corporate sectors, entrepreneurs, consultants, sportswomen, artists, freelancers- to continue or return to the productive workforce and excel in their field.
Woman at Work aspires to go beyond the conventional domains of home and family management and showcase multiple facets of a normal career woman.
HospiBuz: What message /preaching you want to convey to the people interested in the hospitality sector?
Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji: The only ingredient required for cooking is “Passion”, if you have it in you then you are at the right place. Be humble and proud of your roots. Rest all is your dedication ,commitment and destiny. Wishing you all Good luck and God bless !!!!
Would like to conclude with the Divine blessings of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba “Only a Great Teacher can mould a Great Student”.