The F Word

Cooking Up A Storm

We get chatting to superchef Anahita Dhondy about life in a male-dominated kitchen and her recipe for success.

Tell us a little about yourself?

Parsis are known to be eccentric and my family is nothing different. I’ve been cooking since the age of ten and I’ve always been mesmerised by it. I completed my schooling in Delhi, and then went to IHM-Aurangabad to pursue my B.A. Hons in Culinary Arts. After working with popular Hotel chains like the Taj and Marriott, I went to Le Cordon Bleu, London and that's when I realised my love for Indian food, in particular the love for my own home cooked food – Parsi cuisine. 

 

You've been associated with SodaBottleOpenerWala for many years now. What has changed?

My journey with SBOW has been an exciting one. I’ve been associated with the establishment since its inception in 2013. Over the years, the brand has maintained its core essence but at the same time, we have integrated more layers to it by collaborating with other brands. We have constantly innovated, experimented and grown. We are now a chain of 9 outlets pan India and also serve breakfast in some of our outlets.
 

The Big Bawa Breakast - a signature speciality served at SodaBottleOpenerWala.


What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

As any other young person (not only a young female), I’ve faced my share of challenges and roadblocks too. At a very young age, I was lucky to be at a position where decision-making for the organisation was imperative and in my hands. This was challenging, exciting and difficult at the same time. For example, I’ve had situations where people older to me have had to work under my supervision - this doesn’t go well with a lot of people. There are times when people try to demotivate you and question your knowledge because of your age, but what really counts is your experience, determination and hard work.
 

As a chef, how do you manage to strike a balance between original recipes and the constant need for innovation?

With the evolving F&B sector, keeping up with newer trends and innovating is an inevitable factor for any restaurant. One of the most important elements to keep in mind while innovating is the visual aesthetics of the food and keeping the authenticity of the original recipe intact. 

It’s the right balance between these two things which sets any chef apart from their competition.

In a male-dominated industry, how can more women be encouraged to enter the profession?
Almost every industry was male-dominated at one point of time, but things have changed now. As a passionate woman, you have to make way for yourself and break barriers. Whenever a woman makes a choice, she should be paramount for herself and nothing else. Ultimately wherever you go, your job responsibilities will be there, gender bias will be there but you have to stand up for yourself. A lot of women are now changing the scenario.

 

Who's your role model?

My father. His dedication towards his work and his personality is something I look up to and seek inspiration from everyday and in every situation. My parents have completely moulded me into the person I am today.

Your 5 top recommendations from the current menu?

Our Big Bawa Breakfast is something which you can’t miss. It captures every essence and flavour of Parsi food. My favourites are the Parsi Poros which are flat Parsi wholesome omelettes. I also love the traditional Egg Akuri (Love eggs, can’t help it). Also, if you are visiting SodaBottleOpenerWala for the first time, Berry Pulao should be on your list. It is an ageless dish with wonderful flavours. Vada Pao is the quick fix for people on the run (along with the fried green chilli). And the weather definitely calls for some of our cold brews.
 


The classic Vada Pav is one of Anahita's top 5 recommendations from their menu.

 

Which are your 5 favourite food accounts on Instagram?

@shivesh17

@reneredzepinoma

@tastyjapan

@antonio.bachour

@chefstalk

 

A food trend which is totally bizarre?

Breast milk ice-cream.

 

What's the dream? What are your future plans.

The dream is to always be involved with food. It can be teaching, writing, cooking or more. But it will be always something to do with food. The plan is to dedicatedly work towards it and do something good for myself and for the society.

 

An advice you would give aspiring young female chefs?

Your gender doesn’t matter, your hard work and commitment does. Don’t ever give up on your dreams!


 

Photo Courtesy: Ananhita Dhondy; SBOWIndia/Instagram

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By : Nimerta C Sharan

After graduating in BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism from London College of Fashion, Nimerta Chawla Sharan worked with the India Today Group for 3 successful years. Today, she uses her love for spotting trends, creative collaborations and technology to think of new ways of making this community grow everyday.

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