A week ago, JW Marriott Pune had a special culinary demo planned and the big-name at the get-together dedicated to Pune’s diverse food blogger groups was Chef Ajmal. After what seemed like an overly long break, I returned to catch a bloggers event. The thrill of discovery, of finding new possibilities and the chance to be part of something new made me grow excited.
Chef Ajmal launched a book “Secret Recipes” in March 2014. What we were going to witness here at JW Marriott Pune were three delectable recipes that held prime space inside Ajmal’s eye-opening book. Farrah from JW Marriott welcomed us to the wonderful setup they had going for them where a certain talented chef was going to take us deep into his world of food.
Chef Ajmal looked as excited as any of us did that day. This was what made the special, that a chef of his caliber can feel so involved in a typical food-blogger event. The demo began after a mini-rendezvous where I ended up meeting new bloggers and other friends.
I was overjoyed to catch sight of fresh colorful ingredients spread out like something in a dream. The recipe-list handouts gave us some idea of the three dishes that Chef Ajmal was going to create for us, a demonstration so to speak. There were detailed recipes involved as well, making our understanding even more expansive. The cherry on this demo-cake was that each recipe had a special tip tagging along. They placed these tips below each dish recipe with the intention to help everyone get the recipe right the first time round.
First stop on the demo-train was the Southern Spiced Fried Chicken in need of marination. A healthy-fruity Summer Salad Special with Arugula followed this with the king of fruits present, namely Mangoes; perfect for the season. Last but not least came divine goodness and it was called The Mango Chiffon Cake. This light and soft mastery of confectionery turned out splendidly and the tricks to perfecting it came after the demo was done.
Chef Ajmal not only makes the art of cooking look easy he has quite literally conquered it. His imagination’s the limit from here. Ajmal as a person is a fun-loving guy and enjoys interacting with new people. This is what helped him gather so much know-how on all sorts of topics over the years, mostly food, making him a good friend and an even better chef. He shared with us a couple of episodes from back in the day, when he was enrolled in culinary school. He mentioned how things were quite different in those days; I agree with him on this one, everything was indeed different just a few years ago.
When the curtains closed on a very educational demo, we were treated to a sumptuous lunch. During this time, someone had been smart enough to offer a tasting of the just-demonstrated recipes. They held this side-treat at their popular Spice Kitchen, which is also where we were slotted for lunch.
Trust me, I’m not exaggerating when I say Spice Kitchen has a ginormous lunch buffet spread. The dessert section was as enchanting as it was enticing. The Live Salad section musn’t be missed. For those who have no idea what a ‘live salad’ section is, it’s where trained professionals make you a salad of your preference right there on the spot. The other day I passed this idea by a friend and, since he had no idea about these kinds of things, thought live salad meant living vegetables that moved like something out of imagination. We had a good laugh, me especially so.
Spice Kitchen’s staff was courteous and attentive to our every need. They managed to do this without undue intrusion. Now, that’s class hospitality. It ensured us bloggers had a great time.
It was amazing meeting Rupika Vatnani from Food Bloggers Association India (we chatted over the phone a few times before today). Aditi from Aditicooks added to the day’s illuminating experiences. I was catching up with my friend Sneha Mittal from GenesRecoded after a rather long time. When friends like us come together, there’s destined to be a conversation over what’s in and what’s not. It was so much fun.
Aside from an outstanding demo and a delicious lunch, we were also given something that made our day truly memorable. It was a fresh copy of ‘Secret Recipes’ by Chef Ajmal autographed by the man himself. There are no words to describe the words in this book. It made me feel like floating, I was that happy. I can’t wait to start exploring the knowledge in these pages.
My day at JW Marriott Pune has opened me to an experience few people get. I was part of creation, the making of good food. This, in my opinion, is the very spice of life.