An Interview with Chef Pallavi Nigam Sahay
Having received her earlier education in Economics field, Pallavi with a happy accident decided to switch careers to become a chef. She has also published around 50 articles and shot over 30 recipe videos for the Times of Oman as their Recipe Developer & Food Columnist. Today due to busy schedule, working women are facing difficulties in managing work and home. Through her cooking, she wishes to introduce recipes that can be prepared in less time without compromising its taste and nutritional value.
Check out her journey to becoming a chef in a candid interview with Bachelor Recipe:
1. Few words about your background, family and you
My family hails from the heart of India – MP and I spent a lot of my childhood days in this state. My father, a banker by profession, loves to travel and wouldn’t let either me or my younger sister spend any time at home during the summer holidays. We travelled and travelled and saw new places and this is how I guess I got so much attracted to different cuisines and dishes being prepared and served across the country. Since those days I have always loved cooking and never shied away from experimenting in the kitchen. It was this constant urge to learn and explore more and more about the culinary world that helped me to switch careers from being an Economist to a Chef.
2. How do you describe your style of cooking?
I like to prepare simple and quick recipes that are healthy and easy to prepare by home cooks with ingredients that are readily available in your nearby grocery stores.
3. Where and how were you trained?
I completed my culinary education at ICIF in Italy where I received my culinary diploma. I did my culinary training at Grand Hyatt Mumbai in the Italian kitchen Celini.
4. Which is the dish you call your Signature dish?
My most favourite and signature dish is Spaghetti Aglio aglio olio. It is super quick to prepare even after a long work day and is absolutely delicious.
5. Is there a secret ingredient that you love to cook with?
There are no secrets in cooking. These days almost all commonly prepared recipes are available online and almost anyone can prepare the same.
The real secret ingredient is in the Chef’s love for her work and her determination to learn about different cuisines. If she is passionate enough any ingredient can make any commonplace dish exotic and full of wonderful flavours.
6. Was being chef your original dream?
Not at all. Since childhood, I always loved cooking but had limited understanding of pursuing it as a career. That’s how I ended up studying economics. A bit later in life, I realised that cooking, above all, gives me a big opportunity to be creative and innovative, as I always hated routine and mundane tasks. In the world of food, there’s so much to learn, so many different cuisines coming from different cultures, each having its own unique blend of spices and cooking methods and that made me more and more curious about food, also I am always at my best whenever I am in my kitchen and that adds to the flavour.
“Food for me is a sense of freedom, with innovation and creativity being at the helm of it. It is not just the taste buds that inspire such thoughts but also the aroma, the desire and the romanticism that’s associated with the greatness of culinary arts, something that can transform a number-cruncher into a passionate cook”.
7. Is there a Chef you truly admire and why?
My childhood inspiration was Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. I cooked his “mutton dum biryani” as a gift to my parents for their anniversary when I was in class 10th. He has brought great recognition to our field and his Padma Shree speaks manifolds about the legend he is for the culinary world.
Apart from Chef Kapoor, I absolutely love & adore, Chef Atul Kochhar and Chef Vicky Ratnani. They are simply superb.
5. What is your favourite meal?
Anything and everything my mom makes. I simply love and adore it. Whenever I am back at home, I gobble my mom’s smoked Lamb curry. Another of my all time favourites is my mom in law’s Litti Chokha from Bihari cuisine – My husband’s native place.
Why don’t you try delicious recipes by Chef Pallavi Nigam on our platform?
6. Do you have a guilty food pleasure?
Tiramisu, I believe there’s nothing quite as satisfying for your taste buds as a delicious (and I might add fairly large) serving of Tiramisu.
7. How do you see the food scene changing in India?
Over the past 15 to 20 years, the ready availability of global ingredients through our supermarkets has opened a new world to the home cooks of the country. Adding to this the easy availability of recipes and related videos online over the past decade. This has given everyone a lot of options to explore beyond their regular traditional cuisines. It’s good for new Chefs like me and at the same time very challenging as we are now competing on a global stage and not just within the country.
8. What are your future plans?
I have two key goals. The first one is to popularise more and more regional cuisines from my native place M.P and from my husband’s native place Bihar. The second one is to help and give access to Indian youth to recipes that are quick and easy to make at home with ingredients that are readily available. For a healthy lifestyle and greater longevity, we need to be very careful about what we eat. And for this, we need to start pretty young. Our bodies are our greatest assets and we need to make sure whatever we eat is worthy of this asset and helps it to nourish and grow.
9. Any message for women who want to be in this industry?
The culinary industry is dominated by men. When I was training at Grand Hyatt I was the only female chef in my kitchen among 20 other male chefs. Quite a paradox isn’t it as most of us remember our best culinary experiences to be around those meals that were cooked by our mothers, aunts and grandmothers.
I guess women, in general, have been sceptical about work hours and working environment in the kitchen. But I can assure you that if you love to cook there’s no better place to be than in a professional kitchen. There’s so much to learn that you will be absolutely spellbound. You just need to pick the right restaurant for yourself so do a bit of research about the place before applying for a position.
You might also like: An interview with Chef Ripu Daman Handa