India Today - - LEISURE - —Moeena Halim

Af­ter hav­ing spent close to 40 years at the ITC chain of ho­tels, chef Im­tiaz Qureshi an­nounced his re­tire­ment as Grand Masterchef on his 82nd birth­day on Fe­bru­ary 2. He be­gan his culi­nary jour­ney at the ten­der age of nine, and by 15, he was cook­ing sheer­mal, taaf­tan, ko­rma, gi­lauti ke­babs and shahi tukda for 10,000 peo­ple at a time. Qureshi has been cred­ited with bring­ing Awadh’s in­dul­gent menus to the cap­i­tal at ITC Mau­rya, and sub­se­quently to the rest of the coun­try through ITC’s Dum Pukht brand. “But the de­lights of In­dia’s most deca­dent dishes,” he says, “con­tinue to be re­served for the elite.” For his next act, he aims to bring the lux­u­ri­ous cui­sine of In­dia’s royal courts to the masses—per­haps via a cookbook, one that would con­tain recipes that are be­tween two and two-and-a-half cen­turies old. Cred­ited with the re­vival of the ‘dum’ style of cook­ing—a tra­di­tional method of cook­ing us­ing steam—he’s most proud of in­tro­duc­ing the sin­gle-por­tioned Dum

Biryani, which al­lows for a dish to be pre­pared in as lit­tle as 15-20 min­utes. Just last year, Qureshi be­came the first chef to be awarded the Padma Shri in the culi­nary cat­e­gory. He has cooked for some of the big­gest names in In­dia, from Jawa­har­lal Nehru and Indira Gandhi in the ’60s, to the Am­ba­nis and the Goenkas and even Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi. A butcher’s son, Qureshi be­gan his ca­reer al­ready well-schooled in the art of choos­ing the per­fect cut of meat for a par­tic­u­lar dish. How­ever, what makes him re­ally stand out is his in­no­va­tive use of veg­eta­bles in place of meat—such as in re­plac­ing chicken with jack­fruit, or fish with bot­tle gourd.

“The de­lights of In­dia’s most deca­dent dishes con­tinue to be re­served for the elite”

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