Celebrity chef Maria Goretti on being in love with food and winning big at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2017
Dancer, model, VJ, actress, food blogger and now author – my journey has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, and I still consider myself a student of life! New to the universe of cookbook authors, I am acutely aware of how inexperienced I am, and I can’t wait to glean more lessons and insights as I continue along the path I’ve chosen. Imagine my surprise, then, when I was told that my debut outing as a published food writer, From My Kitchen To Yours, was one among a bevy of books that represented India at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2017, and won first place in the category of Best Television Chef Book in English! As many as nine other books by Indian authors or on Indian cuisine have also won titles at the event held in China this year.
The fact of actually having won still hasn’t sunk in. I was on a vacation with my husband Arshad (Warsi) and our two children when my publisher, Ajay Mago, called and broke the news to me. He said I’d won, and I remember being in a space of disbelief for some time. Did I expect the book to do so well? Not at all. I am new to all of this, and am still learning – there are so many far more established people whom I really look up to, that having won anything at all in the field feels surreal. The entire experience of putting this book together has been an enriching process for me, even after all the heartening feedback began to come in.
BEGUN BY CHANCE
I remember From My Kitchen To Yours began with a happy coincidence – I met my publisher in Bhutan, where I was attending a film festival with Arshad, and when
he asked me to write a book, I really thought he was just making polite conversation. It was only when he called a few months later asking for a progress update that I realised he was serious! First published in December 2015, the book is a compendium of some of my favourite recipes from across culinary genres, including some of my mother’s traditional East Indian spreads.
EAST INDIAN, BOMBAY STYLE
As a cuisine that’s seldom found in mainstream food writing, East Indian fare occupies a special place in my heart, as it does in my book. For those who think East Indian cuisine is, literally, cuisine from East India, it’s actually not! East Indians were the original inhabitants of the seven islands of Bombay, or Mumbai, as it is known today. I belong to this community, and it originally consisted of landowners, farmers and fisherfolk. Our cuisine entails a lot of fish and vegetables, and has a distinct flavour that makes it our own. Every East Indian family has something called a “bottle masala”, made with roasted and pounded masalas, for which each has its own secret recipe! I use my mother’s bottle masala, and that defines my version of East Indian food.
Besides embracing my roots and indulging freely in my love for cooking and eating, my journey with food has taken me to quite a few places, beginning with formal training at Tante Marie Culinary Academy in Surrey, the UK. I went to Tante Marie in 2011 and the reason why I could do it was because Arshad stayed home and looked after our kids Zeke and Zene, who were both very young at the time. It was truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I fell in love with food all over again and my mind opened up to so many new things! Since then, there has been no looking back for me and I am excited to see where I go next!
– As told to Nandini D Tripathy