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Indian Chefs as food writers (discussion)

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eGulleter Shagun started a topic about this and now I'm curious:




This is a general question to the readers to think and discuss why there aren't many Indian chefs pursuing the field of food writing whereas international chefs are releasing best sellers almost every year. 

Also if any change can be brought about by understanding the factors which are acting as barriers and obstacles for Indian chefs to pursue food writing alongside their primary careers. when we think of Indian chefs who have released books, there may be many, but only few come to mind, such as, Sanjeev Kapoor, Vikas Khanna, Madhur Jaffery etc. Again what I wish to know is that why is the  awareness level low in India as far as our own chefs are concerned?

with such advancements happening in this field, why is it that many chefs find food writing a challenge?





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 You say many Indian and overseas chefs have released books about food and their cuisine.But super-strong caveats have to be issued here. Most of these chefs employ cookbook ghostwriters to fill the pages - writers are wordsmiths and chefs cook superbly- these two domains rarely overlap, so chefs and their business machinery employ writers with an interest in cookery, to write these "cuisine" books. Here's a link to an illuminating article by Julia Moskin in NYT about this not-so-palatable issue -http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/dining/i-was-a-cookbook-ghostwriter.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0


I don't think we should push chefs to write. That is not their job. They are trained to cook excellently, while good writing from them can only be considered a pure bonus, not an associate duty. There are exceptions to this like the owner of this site- Suresh Hinduja who is a chef and cuisine consultant, and also writes restaurant reviews. But there is no need to create more chef-writers - the chefs who are inclined towards didactics and exposition will naturally come forward, what with the explosion of TV-based food talk. I saw top-chef Daniel Boulud do a cookery show- he was boring with negligible talent to involve the audience with words,then we have ex-glamour boy and elite chef Marco Pierre White who is underwhelming with what little gab he has, but NY seafood Guru Eric Ripert can do a good job of talking and taking us through his craft by employing a delicious French accent, while Michael Roux Jr. does an excellent professorial job in MasterChef UK. I am mixing aspects of speech here with considerations of writing, but i hope you get the drift.

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A name comes to my mind about such chefs of USA and partially of Indian origin.

Maya Kaimal name comes to my mind.


She penned out family recipes of her grand mom from Kerala into a big book. I am wondering about the whole thing.

Here I am cooking for over 45 years and still consider myself as a novice in cooking.

For the last two years, I am cooking huge amounts of curries and simmer sauces which such chefs would not have ..


I am also laughing at videos of say Harpal sokhi, "How to cut vegetables, How to make tomato paste, etc.


Videos have taken the place of books now.


But I would agree with you about employing ghost writers to do your work.

A Mrs. Dalal had approached me to do such a thing about seven or eight years back.

What a shame this field has come to?

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 Thank you both for your input, very interesting!


 "You say"


Someone else started this discussion on a different forum, I didn't say anything. I had never thought about this subject, but this got me thinking though. Not as much that chefs need to write book and such, which as much as I love cookbooks is not my opinion. It's more a wondering why things seem different. The question is not if they should be writing cookbooks (by themselves or with ghost writers), but why they are not. Is it about quality? Speaking of food terms, this clearly can't be it. When looking at presentation skills, perhaps. Over 30 years we have had a big evolution in cooking shows and books. Jamie Oliver grew up watching Keith Floyd and Delia Smith as examples. How is this in India? How long have cooking shows been aired and with what viewer audiences?

I don't have to dig deep to see that now there is an Indian Masterchef and celebrity chefs like Sanjeev Kapoor, Vikas Khanna, etc. But is this relatively new? I saw a bit of that young chef travelling and eating across India in less than a month or so. It seems that there definitely is an expanding market for this and then a budget to up to quality seems legit. I guess with that it's where ghost writers and media training come in. That cancels out boring presentation skills and badly produced shows, which doesn't attract enough viewers.


The topic on eGullet has gotten a few more posts, where the question/suggestion was raised that the business model differs from here in the west. Next to writing a book, one could have their own line of cookware, etc.

Also, the point was raised that Indian chefs who are based abroad are succesful in the cookbook scene (one mentioned Tarla Dalal), but no Indian chefs who still live in India. One wondered what the obstacles are that refrain them from being succesful in this particular line of business. Is it because The Lost Gourmet is turning down ghost writing jobs?

Or Is it for economical or cultural reasons perhaps? Are chefs considered less important than the food they cook up?


I don't believe that chefs are considered less important than their food. Sanjeev Kapoor comes to mind, among other celebrity chefs. Also I own a  publication by Taj Hotels, which features chefs from different Taj Hotel restaurants sharing recipes. Perhaps not celebrity chefs like our Jamie and Nigella, but they do get a spotlight. Or perhaps it's created for foreign tourists exclusively, hitting a different target audience? (Which I don't believe either).


So to rephrase the question: How come Indian chefs aren't as visible on the cookbook market as other chefs?

If it's not about the possibillities to being able to produce, what keeps it from happening?


Oh and ps, I enjoy watching a bit of Harpal for his happy vibe, although I'm not sure if I could watch an entire show. He reminds me a bit of Ainsley Harriot.

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I find this amusing. Writing is not easy, good writing is definitely much  more so. When we say Indian Chefs, are we assuming that chefdom has now moved to the exclusively communicating in English ? 


In my last trip to India, (Feb '13) I had an opportunity to eat a "royal" feast with a chef whose father used to cook for one of the princely household till the end of Privy Purse. Most of these chefs came from a lineage of chefs who served under the same estate/state/zamindars. Most were home schooled by the generosity of the Princes/Zamindars/Nawabs.  Today's generation of those family lineage chefs, run restaurants in many a palaces-turned-heritage-hotels.


So what do we expect them to write in ? Urdu ? Hindi ? Punjabi ? Bengali ? Who will be their audience ? So you see where I am going with this ? In India, written medium in the form of books or print articles is domain of a very small percentage, while visual medium (TV) is more wider in scope.


Of the many a good writings on food,  among my top five is Isabel Allende's Afrodita. It is from a very accomplished writer, who wrote this as an autobiographical memoir.  Her English translation also became a best seller. Ofcourse there are many chefs who have written best sellers, and not so great chefs that have written and spawned shows such as No Reservations (Anthony Bourdain) Emeril Live (Emeril Lagasse) 


I gather that in France,  Chefs are like rock stars. If one does not read or understand French, one is SOL.  Producing Cookbooks in my construct is not "food writing" 


More later....

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