Hindi film food doesn’t usually stretch beyond paani puri, jalebis and the occasional wedding buffet. Raja Krishna Menon’s Hindi remake of the Hollywood comedy Chef, however, aims to whet viewers’ appetites with a much broader menu.
Menon’s father-and-son food truck entrepreneurs, played by Saif Ali Khan and Svar Kamble, dish out rotza, crispy whole wheat rotis filled with mozzarella and savoury mixture of meat, paneer or vegetables. Other dishes seen include ela ada (rice pancake stuffed with jaggery and grated coconut) and avial (a vegetable dish with cucumber, brinjal, drumstick and grated coconut) from Kerala; prawn curry and rawa fish fry from Goa and kachori chaat from Delhi.
For authenticity, Menon roped in Sandhya C. Kumar, a chef, food stylist and food and beverage consultant in Kochi, to cook the dishes. A graduate of the Institute of Hotel Management in Kerala, Kumar worked at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai for almost eight years before moving to Thiruvananthapuram to start her own company,
Indulge-In, which helps set up restaurants and revamp existing menus.
Menon’s a fan of Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Italian and French cuisine, too. But he wanted Kumar to focus on traditional and authentic Indian food. “He didn’t want anything out of the blue,” says Kumar. “The idea was to show food that audiences can relate to and that also establishes and builds the father-son connection.” Kumar and Menon decided the menu in advance and Kumar’s team cooked and tested the dishes before the shoot to avoid last-minute glitches. And Kumar made sure everything looked gorgeous without resorting to artificial colouring or preservatives.
Food is a catalyst and not simply a visual ingredient in Chef, says Kumar. The film highlights the important role that food plays in Indian culture. “Our hospitality is all about what we serve our guests to drink and eat—even if it’s a funeral, food is involved.” Will her dishes look as mouth-watering as the street food seen in Angamaly Diaries? That remains to be seen. But Kumar is certain of one thing—the movie will inspire viewers to try the regional classics it showcases.