Jasmeen Dugal  (click here to know more about this blogger)

''What inspired me to pause a successful corporate career and shift base to Goa? I was so tired of the rat race and the shallowness of life in the big cities. My search for meaning and purpose, combined with my desire to pursue the food business, brought me to Goa'' says Chef Sangy, whom I've always known as Sangeeta Kuriakos; CEO, Clea Public Relations; Managing Partner, Zzebra Sports; Managing Director, The Specialists India, she had an illustrious corporate career before she shifted tracks to travelling chef. Over to her.


''Cooking didn't start as a passion though I come from a rich tradition of Syrian Orthodox cooking and food. However I haven't  studied cooking so my career trajectory began as a home chef in New York; I was a student and my Indian friends, who were away from their homes for long periods of time, would ask me to cook. It started there and ended where I am today! And, like I said earlier, I moved to Goa with a strong desire to launch a restaurant. The challenges were many and restaurateurs I spoke to weren't encouraging. Somewhat disappointed that my dream had died a quick death, I decided pop-ups were the way to go — business wise. In addition, I started my catering business. Now, I guess what I am is, a caterer and a traveling chef.  Both these keep my passion alive and I'm a happy bunny. Which chef is my role models? Anthony Bourdain. I want to be him- travel the world, explore, learn, discover and cook!


It was a major life decision but I can't really think of a food related catalyst that made the decision for me. I had created a Tapas menu exclusively for TabulaBeach Café but I like the idea of Tiffin instead of big meals. Foreign influence have played a key role in bringing together different cultures and religions in Kerala. Muslims to Syrian Christians and Hindus developed their own cuisine and style of preparation. The Moplah cuisine of the Malabar region has a distinct flavour, borrowed from traders who regularly visited the region. The 'Sadhya', served originally only at Hindu festival Onam, consisting of boiled rice and a host of vegetarian dishes on a banana leaf, is now a mainstay of most Kerala restaurants. What's common among all three cuisines is the careful use of Kerala's varied spices that include black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, garlic and ginger and coconut. I try to tell a culinary story that weaves each of these cuisines together with a curated menu named 'Travelling Tiffin' — The tiffin, in South India, is referred to a snack or light meal.


People have often wondered how I co-relate South Indian cuisine with tapas. Now, while Tapas has its origin in Spain, what it translates to is 'Small Plates'. I like the idea of being able to order five different things on the menu so as to try more than just the standard starter and entrée. A Tapas menu offers you so much more to choose from and enjoy. I wouldn't say I added a creative twist. What I did was merely convert side or main dishes from Kerala and serve them up as Tapas. For vegetarians, 'Urlakizhanghu Mezhukkupuratti' i.e. 'Potato Fry' which is one of the side dishes in a Kerala menu is served as a tapas with either a dosa or Malabar Porota. For the non-vegetarians, I did the same with Kheema. At TabulaBeach Café, the weekday menu was just this — a variety of side and main dishes served as small plates with Dosas, Iddiappams or Porotas. That is standard. Many chefs try changing their menu every few months. I would imagine the weather is a parameter. Add to that, it would also keep the menu fresh. As a caterer, I have a list of options and my customers are free to pick what they want at any time of the year. For my pop-ups, it's the restaurant that decides what they want from the trials. I only make recommendations. but I was clear I wanted to name cocktails after South Indian film stars. Noah Barnes agreed so we looked for names North Indians could relate to as well. Silk Smitha was my suggestion and the rest came from the head of my creative agency, Aparna Kakrania and PR agent Malvika Singh. What a hit cocktails "Disco Deva"-  "Bahubali Prabhas" - "Mmm Madhavan" were!!!


What's imperative in this biz? I think keeping calm is important in a kitchen. It can get rough at times and keeping your wits about you is key. I think I do a decent job of that. The other, and perhaps the most critical aspect of cooking, is to be consistent about the quality and taste of my cuisine. At pop-ups, I'm a guest chef and I always remember that there is a Chef who already runs that kitchen. Keeping him or her on your side is critical. The rest of the staff, you laugh with every opportunity you can. When it's time to cook, we are a team. In my own kitchen, once the prep is completed, I prefer to cook alone. That said, it’s a tough business with several variables. I would just say, ''if it's what you want, do it. Take the leap and figure it out as you go along.'' It's what I did.  Looking ahead... I will launch my chutneys and pickles under the 'Southern Connection by Sangy' umbrella. Add to that, I'm traveling overseas with my pop-ups. And what I really want to do is study Food Art, take some time off and undertake a cooking holiday in Sicily. It's exciting times for me and I can't wait to see my plans unfold. Wish me luck!''

Sangeeta Kuriakos Sangeeta Kuriakos

Sangeeta Kuriakos Southern Connection By Chef Sangy



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