Born in Chandigarh and brought up in Mumbai, Chef and Mentor Reetu Uday Kugaji has created a niche for herself in the culinary world. With over 20 years of experience in this industry, she believes that food should not only touch hearts but also the souls of people relishing it. She is a chef who simply loves experimenting with food, food styling and loves food photography. A Punjabi by heart and married to a Maharashtrian, she thanks her family for supporting her during her career and helping her reach the peak of success.
Get to know the success story of Chef and Mentor Reetu Uday Kugaji in her interview here.
Tell us something about your family and their support towards your career.
I belong to a very broadminded Punjabi family, but opinions of relatives mattered too. I remember when almost all my relatives were strictly against my joining Hotel Management, the people who stood like a pillar were my parents. The myth those days was that, this profession is just not apt for girls. I owe all my success to my Mom, Mrs. Manjit Arora and my Dad, Mr. M.S.Arora, who supported me right from day 1. I made sure to make them proud by receiving the Certificate of Merit, thus kick-starting my journey into the world of food. I received the certificate of merit and medal for dedication in academics from Dadasaheb that is Honorable Dr. D.Y Patil Sir, former Governor of Tripura and West Bengal and Dr. Vijay D. Patil, the man behind the absolutely fantastic Stadium –D.Y.Patil Stadium at Navi Mumbai. I am also blessed to have such a supportive and motivating husband and my soulmate, Uday Kugaji who supports, encourages and motivates me in my growth and success at all times.
Can you tell us about your current work portfolio?
I am presently working as a Hospitality and Food Consultant, Specialty Chef and Food Author at www.plattershare.com, Chef Consultant and Culinary Expert at “FITMAG” http://www.fitmag.in/, Specialty Chef with www.Percept Knorigin.com , www.cinecurry.com , Oxygen Infotainment and www.chefsutra.com and as a Food Author with www.pioneerchef.com , theurbanspice.com ,www.pinksworth.com , www.tanyamunshi.com, http://www.mangobunch.com/ and, Chef, Food Author & Food Expert at http://womenpla.net/ , Food Author & Food expert at http://www.mangobunch.com/.
What has inspired you to become a Chef and when did you know you wanted to become a Chef?
All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. As a kid I have grown up seeing my mother Mrs. Manjit Arora cook the most delectable cuisines for the entire family. That gave the first click in my mind that, yes food is such an interesting and enormous art. I guess that I have got it through my genes. My mother is my inspiration and I knew that her fantastic cooking inspired me and her experimentation in food dishes always surprised me. As a child I knew I wanted to be a chef. I would also like to thank my role model Chef Satish Aroraji, a chef extraordinaire who has always been a constant source of inspiration for me. He has made our nation proud – a big obeisance to him.
What cuisines do you specialize in?
Indian and Continental Cuisines are what I am very fond of. Our rich Indian cuisine, the unbeatable flavours, the history and the method of cooking appeals to me and makes me a Proud Indian Chef. I also love doing a lot of research on Lost Recipes of India. As chefs and mentors we owe this to the generations coming to bring back the lost recipes of India. I believe that Indian cuisine has gone a long way, may it be in creativity, food plating or food presentation.
Your message for fellow Chefs that could inspire them.
Never Give Up. You are here for a purpose. I believe we are the blessed and chosen ones. Make a positive difference…. Be humble and kind….. Follow your dreams and you will achieve your Goal.
What’s your philosophy on food and cooking?
Real Chefs share and teach. Just a few decades ago, the recipes and methods of cooking them were kept a secret. Now has come an era where we as chefs believe in sharing our knowledge, creating more quality chefs and passing the vast knowledge to the generations. Taking immense pride in being their teachers, role-models and Mentors. A bow down in respect to all the Chefs. Respect to all the chefs!
What challenges have you faced to reach this position in your life?
The major challenge is that that our work is both very demanding and requires constant change in this world of culinary. I have learnt a lot from every one I came in contact with. For me, it is very essential to keep learning and experimenting with food. Accepting the change and moving forward with it and of course never let your passion for curating food dishes die. The only Constant in Life is CHANGE.
Have you served any power icons or celebrities during your culinary career?
I have intricately prepared cuisines designed to capture a delicious and exciting range of flavours, textures and aromas. I have been into menu planning and have prepared the most delectable and exotic cuisines for the Former Hon. President Of India Her Excellency Smt. Pratibha Tai Patil, ‘The God of Cricket’, Mr. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, ‘The Great Wall of Indian Cricket’ Mr. Rahul Dravid and various other dignitaries and eminent personalities.I have also handled special Food Preparations for IPL matches, T 20-20 and International Cricket Matches at the D.Y. Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai.
What trends do you foresee in the near future that would change the way the culinary world operates?
Food trends are changing largely. Organic Foods are now preferred to a large extent. People prefer eating food which is healthy. Chefs nowadays not only concentrate on flavours, appearances but also on nutrition. People still expect food which is more comforting like Ghar Ka Khanna, but if age groups are to be considered then the youngsters would love to go and experiment foods which have an innovation in it. On a global scenario Technology has played a big role in bringing different cuisines on one table.
Can you draw some light on your role as a food author, a mentor and a consultant?
I try to share as much knowledge I can through my writing. You never know what difference it makes in the lives of others. I believe in being updated and writing on what would help the generations to come. A proud Indian Chef Mentor like me would only say that I am immensely proud to be born in a Country like INDIA , where we all consider food to be GOD. A country of culinary delights, cooking techniques, methods and authentic recipes passed from generations to generations are our treasure. As a Program Head- Culinary Arts, Chef and mentor to thousands of budding chefs, I have tried my bit of introducing the lost recipes of India in our Queen Margaret University module known as Culinary Concept Development and Production where I have encouraged students to bring back the lost recipes of India.
This not only creates awareness among the budding chefs but when they go ahead with their extensive research, they are facing mind-boggling facts like what a vast and rich treasure we have in Indian Cuisine. Positively the coming generations will bring back the lost recipes of India, the authentic flavour’s and fragrance as India’s colonial legacy is food.As a consultant, I ensure that the organisations that I work for get my genuine work and advice. Ensuring that not only they but their customers are benefited too.
What’s that one dish that brings a smile to your face?
Punjabi Pakorewali Kadhi prepared by my mother, I miss her as she is no more with us, she rests in Heaven.
Coming out from my memories, this Punjabi dish / recipe is immensely close to my heart and makes me nostalgic, as my Late mother Mrs. Manjit Arora used to prepare it especially for me. I loved the Pakoras she prepared with the secret ingredient called her Love. Nothing can beat her preparation of this divine Punjabi Pakorewali Kadhi. She would prepare it in the rainy season, where our entire home was filled up with the aroma of the pakoras being fried and the tempering that she gave to the Kadhi was simply mesmerizing. Maa Ke Haath Ka Khana, her love and pure heart made this kadhi more scrumptious.
What qualities define you as a chef?
Patience, Perseverance and being very Optimistic. Learning is an everlasting process. I learn from everyone, even from my students and from every person I know or I don’t even know. I pick up the positives and drop the negatives. Upgrading oneself must be constant, be it skills, training, technology or recent trends in Culinary and Hospitality. On the Job I do a lot of experimenting with food and off the job I ensure that I attend a lot of workshops or seminars which relate to the culinary world. I keep myself updated with the latest trends of the Hospitality Industry by attending Faculty Development Programmes. I have trained extensively at The Leela Kempinski, The Ambassadors Sky Chef and The Trident, Mumbai in the Food Production Department. In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different. It is very important for the modern chef to be known for the work that has been put by him/her. Through undying passion, dedication, hard work and being innovative, one can stay on the top.
What’s your favourite cuisine and why?
Without any doubt Indian Cuisine is my favourite as it is indubitably unbeatable in preparation, flavours its methods of cooking. I simply adore the combination of different herbs and spices and its subtle flavours. A perfect blend of different cultures and ages. Fragrance, aroma and the smoky flavour, Indian Cuisine has it all. I would be short of words if I start expressing why Indian cuisine is my favourite. One word describes it all “DIVINE”.
Your Signature Dish that would like customers to try out from your recipes.
Paan Shots - https://youtu.be/n9JwDgkmLt4
My Recipes on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCObvXKU0HTYjegIxq6-UEbA
Kadha Prasad- https://youtu.be/JZVDtKiBJhQ
Anar Raita- https://youtu.be/AnWK8VK3PB0
Murgh Methi Malai Kabab- https://youtu.be/YOda6l2Tkw0
Khubani Ka Meetha- https://youtu.be/GLFBNmVfpjg
Chicken Spinach Salad- https://youtu.be/YIzHHJMIVDU
Beer Battered Fried Fish- https://youtu.be/lHHHQByKRcA
Your thoughts on Your Chef Story.
The first ever Fantastic platform where the Founder and Storyteller Karishma Ahuja, herself wants to thank chefs for all their contributions towards society by featuring their success story on her esteemed website. What an initiative, I must say that there are very few people who understand the hard work and skills of Chefs, I appreciate you and your team to bring this humble gesture to bring our talent and skills in front of the entire world. I am Humbled and Honoured .A big thank you to Your Chef Story. More success and power to you. Kudos!!!! A big pat on your back ….Way to go……..
You could know more about Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji here:
Website : http://www.chefreetuudaykugaji.com/