“Feed as many mouths as you can with food made with pure love and remember to stay forever hungry to learn each day.” This week we are presenting an interview with someone who believes in this ideology and operates his life from this space. Here’s presenting the head chef of Mumbai Local, the great Indian restaurant based in Vancouver.
Jaskaran, a culinary arts graduate, is now the head chef at Mumbai Local, which serves local street food eats from Mumbai in Vancouver. With two years in the restaurant, he moved on to being the head chef from line cook. He has been professionally cooking for over four years now. And he is just 23!
“My mother taught me how to cook and my interest grew in it when I observed that food had the power to bind the family together every night at the same table, sharing their daily happenings. The amount of joy food could bring to one’s day, inspired me to pursue this field.”
Born and brought up in Punjab, he was told to pursue business and study commerce just like everyone else around him. Further to fulfill his father’s wish, he attempted the Chartered Accountancy exam and even pursued Bachelor of Commerce, all to his own peril. All along he carried the feeling that he was missing something in the big picture of life. That something turned out to be – ‘The joy he experienced while cooking alongside his mother’ and he knew, this was perhaps the missing part.
So, after he finished his 12th grade, he applied to a university in Canada. Inspite of applying late, he got in because the University could see the passion that he had for the culinary arts. After one grilling year spent at the university, his dad received a call from the head chef of the university one evening. The call was to appreciate the dawn to dusk and back to dawn hard work, that Jaskaran was putting into the course.
What he loves about being in the kitchen
It’s the adrenaline rush in the kitchen! He elaborates saying ‘Your effort and learning is only as good as the expression on the customer’s face.’ And to him, when he sees their face light up – is the aha moment! Mumbai Local has an open kitchen. The customers can see the food being cooked and at the same time the chef can see the customers relishing the food – making this a two way experience!
How he spreads happiness in the kitchen
The 8 people working in the kitchen alongside him are more family than just co-workers. He cooks special meals for them during celebrations, cheers them up on a gloomy day with ginger tea, brings chocolates for everyone like a Santa in disguise. He delights his customers, by dishing out special requests. He remembers making ‘Dal Khichdi’ for a customer who wasn’t feeling too well. And believes that these small gestures go a long way in bringing a smile on someone’s face. This to him is what fulfillment at work looks like.
His idea of gifting
He loves the idea of gifting and feels that the value of the gift lies in the efforts one puts in. Can you recall that lovely t-shirt you received over 5 or 10 years ago? It may not be trendy anymore, may be washed out, or even worse, you may have outgrown it…and yet, you hold on to it like a prized possession. And you do this because it holds fond memories of happy times, don’t you? He says, ‘It’s not the monetary expense always that matters in a gift, but the whole intention and the efforts you put in to make someone feel special.’
The best gift he gave and received
With a bright smile he says ‘the best gift I have received is the art of cooking from my mom. Her constant love and support makes me stand tall with joy today.’ He is extremely grateful and feels no other gift can ever replace this one.
Our first salaries hold a lot of importance and we all want to do something special with it. This young chef gave a part of his first salary to his mom and dad, a part to the temple and the remaining money to the two little kids who lived next to his house in Punjab. He has been sponsoring the education of those kids since then. What a lovely thing to do from our first salaries. When we begin to make a living, we also begin to make someone’s life better!
His favourite memory from the kitchen
On the auspicious occasion of Diwali, he made a special dish in the kitchen of Vancouver. ‘Black lentils cooked with rich butter and cream and simmered on low heat for 48 hours for that unique flavour’, the dish was ‘Dal Makhani’. With this mouth-watering description, one can imagine the look on people’s faces when they tasted the first spoonful of it. One customer even came up to Jaskaran and said that this dish took him 30 years down memory lane when his grandmother used to cook the same for him. Simple compliments like this, are a pat on the back and make it all worth the while – the hard work, sweat and toil! And it is moments like these that continue to inspire him to dish up new recipes that create more delight.
Jaskaran says,‘Food has a lot of power. A well prepared dish vanishes very quickly once served, and the memories stay long after.’
As we come to the end of this gastronomical conversation he pauses and says ‘thank you for asking me these questions. They took me back to those initial cooking days and all the passion I felt doing what I love – cook, cook and cook!’ These days, he is so busy with the business side of his passion, he hardly gets any time in the kitchen. This interview reminded him of his true love for being in the kitchen amidst spices, vegetables, ladles, aprons, cooking range, and all the aromas! He hopes to spend more time there and to dish out many new recipes!