A homely touch
THE WEEK|October 11, 2020
A homely touch
In the pandemic, home chefs have become a force to reckon with
RAHUL DEVULAPALLI, MANDIRA NAYAR, REKHA DIXIT AND POOJA BIRAIA JAISWAL

At almost 90, Krishna Sekhri, aka Krishna aunty, is easily the most popular resident of her leafy, green colony in Delhi. With a shock of white hair, a ready smile and free advice on anything from children to food, she is often spotted in the colony walking her Labrador. “Half my life has been spent sitting on the park bench opposite my house,” she says with a smile. There, Krishna aunty often used to sing to a smitten audience. The lockdown brought her life to a halt, until her family realised it was time for an intervention. It came in the form of her other passion— food. At ‘Aunty K’s Kitchen’, Punjabi recipes are brought alive with a dollop of warmth. The kitchen opens every weekend and sells out within minutes of the menu being put up on the colony’s WhatsApp group. “I do simple, slow cooking,” she says. “It is wonderful that people like it.”

Cooking is part of her DNA. Hailing from a large family, her mother would cook for everyone, including the seven dogs. Her food was the stuff of legend. “Even the tinda (Indian round gourd) tasted like mutton,” Krishna aunty reminisces fondly. “My father’s friends who stayed at the best hotels in Lahore always ate dinner at our house.” Krishna aunty herself, however, only learnt to cook after her marriage to an IFS officer. In the lockdown, she has brushed up her old skills. She spends her time reading cook books and planning the menu for the weekend. Now her palak chicken, parathas, chola, butter chicken and pickles have become as legendary as her mother’s dishes.

It is not just Krishna aunty. In the pandemic, the home chef business is booming like never before. Whether it is the Mumbai-based quartet sell ing burgers through ‘The Accidental Burger House’, or the chef behind ‘Mehfil Delhi’ who is introducing Delhiites to Kashmiri cuisine, or the ‘Curly Sue’ pork being sold by a couple in Bengaluru, home chefs have mushroomed across the country, quickly filling the gap left by people’s reluctance to dine out. It is generally perceived that food prepared by home chefs in small, curated batches is healthier and safer.

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October 11, 2020