August 1, 2013

The Asian Spice Girl

The Asian Spice Girl

A chef, notable food critic and writer, cookery teacher and consultant, Anjali Pathak, the bubbly ‘spice girl’ from Bolton is a true wonder girl. Torch bearer of the Patak’s legend, at the young age of 31 and part of an unforgettable creative history, Anjali confides in us how as a little girl she never realised that her family was different.

As an inquisitive and passionate learner, she started showing enthusiasm in cooking right from her childhood, picking up the little nuances from her mother and grand mother, that she treasures today. “When I was a little girl my grandmother bought me a little rolling pin and board so I could spend time with her in the kitchen rolling the chapattis for dinner.

I grew up learning as much as I could about spices and family recipes by floating around the kitchen, school books in one hand and wooden spoon in the other.

I didn’t realise I was a dab hand in the kitchen, until I left for university and I had to cook for myself in my student accommodation. A shopping basket brimming with fresh fish, herbs and vegetables, I would always whip up something tasty that would be much more adventurous than what my friends were eating. I suppose this is when I discovered I was a good cook.”

Anjali, whose grandfather Laxmishanker (popularly known as Lakhubhai), founded the Patak’s brand of cooking sauces and pickles with his wife Shanta when they moved to London in the 1950s. Anjali studied a business based degree in the esteemed Salford University, that integrated business, mathematics and computer science. While her mother and grandmother taught her the nitty gritty of how to cook a simple yet exquisite dish, her father Kirit, shared tales of the exotic business trips and his vision, ennobling Anjali with the best of both worlds – just around the family dinner table.

But cooking is not the only passion Anjali holds dear to her heart. Trained at the top chef school Leiths, Anjali also took took wine courses to widen her horizon of expertise.

“I enrolled in the world recognised Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) course for Intermediate study which then led me to study the Advanced qualification which I completed last year. It was much more difficult than I had prepared myself for and much to my delight I received a distinction. The blind tastings were the most interesting, as I felt it made me realise just how broad the subject of wine was. My next step is to do the diploma which is a 2 year commitment and will only leave me with the prestigious Master of Wine to complete. It is the pinnacle of professional achievement in the world of wine and there are only a few hundred in the world .”

Anjali wrote recipes for Patak’s for a lot longer than her age suggests and has contributed to their family recipes ever since she was young. After joining the board as a director in Culinary Development, she was asked if she wanted to write a book to celebrate 50 years of their business and she grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I worked tirelessly writing content and recipes, testing, and borrowing a few classics from my mum, Meena, who is my role model. Shortly after we launched it, we won an award from the Gourmand Cookbook Awards. I have never felt so proud of my achievement,” she added.

Anjali having changed the perception of Indian food to a healthy available option, she acknowledges that there are not many women working as a professional chef in the industry.

But how easy has the journey been for Anjali? She concluded with a smile- “I was brought up to believe that if you want to believe what everyone says about you, then you might as well live within the stereotypes that are set out for you.

There are few things in life that come for free and success is certainly not one of them.

Choosing to enter the same industry as my family was not a difficult choice. But with all choices come challenges and I knew to overcome these challenges I need to use all my resources around me. Learning from your peers is the only way to succeed in the future. And when faced with new problems, I know that I am well equipped to solve them!”

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