In the world of food, Pathak wears many (chef’s) hats. She’s the face of Patak’s, a global brand that sells Indian curries, sauces and spices. She’s a cookbook author, having recently released ‘Secrets From My Indian Family Kitchen.’ She’s worked as a teacher at Jamie Oliver’s Recipease and, most recently, is the force behind Mumbai’s new culinary studio; Flavour Diaries.
The Flavour Diaries’ Story
Located in an expansive space in Khar, Flavour Diaries is a studio which will give customers the chance to learn how to cook a variety of international cuisines, browse through a library of global culinary and recipe books and enjoy a high tea (with traditional English scones).
“I came to Mumbai a few years ago to understand the food scene,” she says, explaining the origins of the venture. She saw that the Indian food scene was rapidly ripening and sensed an opportunity to introduce it to a unique cooking school, an idea that had been inspired by her days working at Recipease. She also talks warmly about being inspired by her mother, Meena saying (of her involvement with Patak’s) “she managed to take Indian food to the world. I wanted to come back to India and bring back something that I had learnt.”
Bringing back something she learned was one reason she decided to teach international cooking at the studio, as she became well-versed with international cuisines throughout her culinary career and taught international cuisine at Recipease. Additionally, she saw that not many people in India had enough options when it came to international food; “I thought; I wonder if there’re other people who feel like they’re missing out on international food. People are always telling me that they’d love to cook Italian food at home…We all want something different in our diet.” Through Flavour Diaries, therefore, she aims to help people bring the deliciousness of international food right into their kitchens.
Students at Flavour Diaries can sign up for Italian, Mexican (which Anjali tells us has been quite popular), European, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine classes.
Anjali’s Food Philosophy
What can one expect from Flavour Diaries’ classes, aside from recipes and ingredients? A refreshing, fun approach to cooking which embodies Anjali’s food philosophy. “I want people to have confidence while working in the kitchen. I want people to empower themselves,” she says, adding that she would be perfectly happy and comfortable to allow students to customise her recipes and instructions to suit their own tastes. “Cooking shouldn’t really be strict. People tend to get really worried about those moments when we’re not as organised as we should be. Food shouldn’t make you stressed out; cooking shouldn’t make you stressed. We should all be able to chill out and have as much fun as we can…It’s all about enjoying your time in the kitchen,” she explains, again confirming that it is this approach that students can look forward to in her classes.
When asked about ‘cooking quirks’ (hey, we all have them!) that students can expect to see in her kitchen, Anjali laughs and reveals that she loves listening to music as she cooks; “I have a little bit of a thing for Taylor Swift. I also enjoy American country music and artistes like John Denver; it calms me. In fact, cooking calms me; cooking is like my yoga,” she says laughing, sharing a cooking gem that we’re sure to carry with us when we next step into the kitchen.
A Life Full of Food
Indeed, Anjali has had her whole life to develop her food philosophy and unique quirks. Having grown up in a family that was greatly involved with food, she recalls many days spent with her mother and grandmother in the kitchen creating and perfecting recipes.
Recalling her earliest food memory, she says “I have a vivid memory of my first encounter of cooking food. Every night at home that we’d be having Indian food, my grandmother would be making chapatis while my mom would be making vegetables or sabzi. I was always constantly in the kitchen, asking a lot of questions. My grandmother bought me a small rolling pin and rolling board (I have no idea where she found such a small set) and I started to roll chapatis with her.
Every time we’d be having Indian food, I’d be rolling chaptais. My grandmother would always cook my chapati first and made sure to eat it first. She made me feel like I was good at cooking as a three-year- old, and I love her for that,” she ends fondly.
As an afterthought, she adds, laughing “My grandmother would always tell me that if you can make your chaptatis round, you’d get a good husband. Now, it seems like a bizarre thing to say; why would a ten- year-old care about getting a good husband?” When we ask whether her chapatis are round today, she happily confirms that they are indeed perfectly round and uniform.
Along with the ability to make round chapatis, Anjali has a diploma in nutrition, a distinction from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and makes appearances on food channels like the BBC Good Food Show,London, and Good Food & Wine Show in South Africa as a part of her culinary achievements.
On Mumbai and Missing Marmite
While adding Flavour Diaries to her repertoire, Anjali has also dealt with a variety of challenges that Mumbai manages to throw at every newcomer (Anjali grew up in Britain). However, before the move, she was familiar with Mumbai; her mother was born and brought up here and the first stop for the family on trips to India was always Mumbai.
“Of course, India has its challenges. It was quite difficult at the beginning, trying to work with the ingredients locally. You can’t get all the international ingredients here,” she says. She reveals a particular longing for Marmite, a British food spread, saying “Marmite is iconic in England; I grew up loving marmite; when I moved here, I didn’t know where to get it.”
However, she has found a few shops that stock international ingredients in Bandra and also enjoys exploring the local produce. “I love the local markets – Pali Market has got all these wonderful things and it’s a lovely place – it’s very well laid out.”
In fact, Anjali appreciates the food scene in Bandra in general saying “Bandra has really changed over the last ten years. I consider Bandra one of the best foodie places in Bombay. There’s always new restaurants popping up.” Some of her favourite destinations in Bandra so far are The Fatty Bao and Elco for its chaat.
As Anjali explains how the food scene is changing in Bandra, Mumbai and across India, we find ourselves agreeing, and also thinking about how Flavour Diaries will be another propeller of the change, as it’ll instil a knowledge of international flavours and cuisines in home kitchens.
As we ponder over that, Anjali signs off saying she has a Flavour Diaries related meeting and we bid her goodbye and good luck, excited to think about how her venture will possibly be another stepping stone in India’s culinary adventure.