Shilarna Vaze, Gaia, Mumbai, A former restaurateur and caterer, 30-year-old Shilarna Vaze runs a gourmet catering service called Gaia with her Swiss-French husband Christophe Perrin. Vaze trained at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu, while Perrin acquired his culinary chops from his father, a retired chef in the alpine village of Leysin in Switzerland. As Vaze’s longstanding grouse goes: her husband learnt his skills incidentally while she had to go to school for them.
Though the core of Gaia’s cooking is classic French (think mushroom pâté and Dauphinoise potatoes), it’s far from the fussy, formal reputation the cuisine has picked up. “I serve the kind of food I like to eat myself, so there are touches of modern gastronomy in it” she says. So while her beef rendang, chicken khao suey and prawn green curry patently advertise their provenance, the crab quinoa salad with wasabi soy dressing could be from anywhere. Two items in particular have proved especially popular: the maki sushi and the steak with morel and brandy sauce, both arriving on the menu via two different continents.
Vaze takes all of her cooking equipment along for her catering gigs, including accessories like spatulas and wooden spoons. “You’d be surprised how many people don’t have basic equipment in their homes,” she points out. And she needs a wide array of them, because she does cook the occasional regional Indian dish as well coastal Maharashtrian fish curry provides an exciting culinary detour. As a chef with many tastes, she’s confident that slipping in a regional dish or two won’t typecast her as a caterer of solely Indian food.
QUE VIVA MEXICO
Candice Lock Mirchandani, Chinita, Bangalore. No matter what definition you use, Candice Lock Mirchandani, 34, is most certainly a citizen of the world. A Malaysian of Chinese ethnicity, she moved to New York where she lived for over a decade before she and her Indian boyfriend got married and shifted base to Bangalore. She calls herself a compulsive cook, and her catering outfit Chinita specialises in Mexican food, which she acquired a taste for in New York. Mirchandani says that while she’s raring to go classic and do moles and stews for her catered parties, her customers can’t get enough of her tacos, quesadillas and burritos.
Having drunk from the well, as it were, Candice knows authentic Mexican food and doesn’t attempt to dumb it down. “The one thing I don’t do is Tex-Mex,” she says with some asperity. So the hot, spicy, sour flavours of Mexico come gloriously alive in your house, washed down with a special margarita mix by Chinita. Typically, the salsas and burritos are prepared in her kitchen and brought, ready to serve, to the host’s house. And she’s particular about making everything from scratch, whether it’s the tortilla chips or the sour cream. The partners Candice and her brother-in-law Sameer are always at hand to serve, and a small counter is usually set up in one corner of the entertaining space. “It’s possibly the interactive nature of our limited menu and the cuisine that makes our service so popular,” muses Mirchandani about the exponentially growing interest in her service. Tel: +919008976699
TASTE OF ITALY
Ritu Dalmia, Diva, Delhi Popular restaurateur, TV show host,author and relentless traveller, Ritu Dalmia, 40, ventured into the catering business because of a gap she spotted in the market. Either you and your domestic help slaved away in the kitchen, or you copped out and called a wedding caterer. “Either way, the dinner party for a dozen odd guests where you showed off your best tableware and had scintillating conversation never entered the picture,” she says.
Given Dalmia’s association with Italy (she has been there, for a variety of reasons, about a hundred times), Italian food is what she is best known for. But it’s not the only cuisine she offers for intimate soirées: there’s also what she calls modern world cuisine, in which a single salad could have ingredients that come from three different continents. This has become Dalmia’s trademark as well as the basis of the menus at her many South Delhi outposts. She likes to have European, Lebanese and Southeast Asian cuisines mingling effortlessly in the same dish, so that it doesn’t come across as fusion (a much-maligned word, she insists) or pretentious.
“The first thing I ask a customer—besides finding out whether there are any vegetarians or guests with food allergies—is the food preference of those invited. I could make ravioli filled with smoked duck, but my customer and her guests may be more comfortable with penne in Amatriciana sauce.” Once commissioned, Dalmia goes ahead by chalking out a couple of menu options and sharing it with her customer. And while the menu is being sorted out, she and her team make a recce trip to the host’s kitchen.
“There is no reheating in Italian cuisine. The mise en place is done in our kitchen; the final cooking in the host’s residence. So figuring out what equipment we need to carry with us is paramount.” The guarantee is that her customers will have a meal that stands out from anything they’ve had at home before. Tel: +919910064569