DUM MAARO DUM
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”