It’s nearly lunchtime, stomachs are rumbling, and Jyothi is cooking in the kitchen. She adds a little salt to one dish and then turns around to stir the pot bubbling with rasam on the other side. It is just another usual day for the 37-year-old homemaker but there is a slight difference—the ones waiting for lunch to get ready and be served are not Jyothi’s family members but guests at a five-star hotel in Bengaluru.
In this exclusive conversation with The Better India, Jyothi shares her journey to becoming a chef, her passion for food, and a recipe, especially for our readers.
Journey to becoming a chef
Jyothi shares that she did not receive any formal training in the culinary arts, but her talent was spotted purely by chance!
“My husband was a wedding caterer and I would go along with him to the choultry (wedding hall) and help out in the wedding-food preparation. This continued for a while, until a person at one of the weddings ate the food and asked me if I would be willing to work at the Taj hotel in Bengaluru.”
Six years ago Jyothi walked into the Taj unaware of how a professional kitchen functioned, how food was plated and served at an upscale hotel.
She says, “Initially it was very difficult. I knew nothing but wanted to continue working here.”
“I make the same food that I would at home, the only difference is the portion sizes,” she says with a laugh.
When asked what all she makes, pat comes the reply, “Akki roti, Ragi dosa, Bissi Bela Bath, different types of saaru. I also make sweet obbattu and various other kinds of traditional sweets and savouries.”
Jyothi’s work typically starts at noon each day and goes on till 10.30 every night. “I enjoy what I do and do not look at it as a job,” she says.
The thali that Jyothi serves the Taj clientele has 10 different traditional delicacies. It includes –
· Eeruli bajji
· Enne Badanakai
· Soppin saaru (veg) / Mamsam Saaru (non-veg)
· Steamed Rice
· Kumbalkayai Majjige Huli
· Dal Thove
· Maddur wada
· Plain curd
· Elaichi banana
What keeps Jyothi motivated is the number of customers who ask for her to compliment her on the food that she prepares. “I feel very satisfied when a customer comes and tells me that they enjoyed their meal. This is exactly what I am cooking for,” she says.
Having lost her husband a few years ago, Jyothi, whose daughters are now married, lives with her mother and son.
Sous chef speaks
Tushar Kumar Das, the sous chef at the property says, “Regular chefs come straight from catering colleges and have a tendency to make fancy food.”
“Most of the chefs we have with us are like that, including me. We are taught to make and plate food a certain way. What Jyothi brings to the table is rather unique.”
He goes on, “We wanted to do something different and serve actual home food to our customers. It was an experiment to begin with, but one that has been rather successful.”
If you, like me, would like to attempt making akki roti in your home then this is Jyothi’s recipe for the same.
Akki means rice in Kannada and roti is the flatbread cooked on a griddle.
Akki roti is made with rice flour and is an everyday food for those from Karnataka. It is usually served with chutney and is eaten either for breakfast or lunch.
• 1 cup rice flour
• 1 small onion chopped very finely
• 3 tbsp coconut fresh grated
• 2 green chilli deseeded
• A few sprigs of coriander leaves
• ½ tsp cumin
• Salt as per taste
• ½ tsp ginger grated
• water as required to knead
• oil as needed
1. Begin by washing and finely chopping the onions, chillies and coriander leaves.
2. Take 1 cup of rice flour in a large bowl, to this add salt, cumin, and all the chopped ingredients. Mix it all well.
3. Add the freshly desiccated coconut to the mixture.
4. To this add water gradually to make a soft dough. This dough should be similar to the dough used to make regular wheat roti.
5. Divide the dough into small portions and roll them into balls.
6. If you can get banana leaf then grease the same and tap the rolled ball onto it to make a circle. You could also use parchment paper.
7. As you are rolling it out keep some water close to ensure that the dough does not crack at the edges.
8. Once done cook it on a griddle on medium flame and ensure that both sides are cooked well.
Enjoy this with a chutney of your liking!
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)