There is no sincere love than the love for food,” said George Bernard Shaw.
The year was 2011, I had just moved into the National Capital Region (NCR) and one of the most exciting things about this city, was the food. The associations that you make with food last a lifetime. One of the first few restaurants that I visited in this city happened to be Punjab Grill, a venture by J Inder Singh Kalra, popularly known as ‘Jiggs Kalra’.
The taste of the dal makhani was so distinct, that even today, almost nine years later, it takes me back to that lunch.
On 4 June 2019, Jiggs Kalra passed away in Mumbai, aged 71. With many monikers to his credit, the one that perhaps captures his essence is ‘Czar of Indian Cuisine’. Clearly, he played a crucial role in getting Indian cuisine a place in the sun.
Known for reviving age-old delicacies, like the famous Galouti Kebab, Kalra believed in cooking for the soul.
Having started his career as a journalist, Jiggs Kalra worked with The Times of India and The Illustrated Weekly.
Subsequently, he started writing a food column in 1970, a time when food writing wasn’t even a big deal. It was his passion for food that made it a success!
Moving from one medium to another in the 1990s, Kalra was a part of India’s first television show on food called Daawat, which would be telecast on prime time every Sunday.
According to a report, it was The Maharana of Mewar who asked Kalra to manage the Shiv Niwas Palace in Udaipur, thus beginning his foray into the world of managing and running a restaurant.
He made us all proud when he became the first Asian to be inducted to the International Food and Beverage Gourmet Hall of Fame.
He has authored 11 titles of which Prashad is considered to be a bible for all chefs. He has had the privilege of serving Princess Diana, Prince Charles, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Bill Clinton, among the long list of personalities.
Pawan Soni, Founder and CEO of Indian Food Freak, a robust online food community, had the privilege of meeting Jiggs Kalra on a few occasions. Speaking to The Better India, he shares, “The most obvious things that come to mind when I think of him would be food and following close behind are the recipe books he has authored.”
“He had a plethora of knowledge when it came to Indian cuisine. If not for his failing health he would very much still have been in the kitchen whipping up the delicacies,” says Pawan.
In Kalra’s own words, “I can’t think of even one other thing that I could have done, if not this. This is what I was made for and it was the Lord’s will; I’m only executing it.”
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)