A Man of many Legacies

Last Updated: Wed, Jun 05, 2019 23:15 hrs
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No one has single handedly changed the culinary landscape like the legendary Jaspal Inder Singh Kalra or more famously addressed as Jiggs Kalra. As we mourn the passing of this culinary icon, here are a few gems that the man has left behind as heritage.

Jiggs Kalra. The name meant many things to many people: for some, he was the ‘Guru of chefs’, the czar of the Indian culinary world, a culinaryencyclopaedia; for others he was India’s finest food writer, a dazzling TV host, author and historian unparallel. For decades, this name stood synonymous to ‘excellence’, ‘pride in one’s culture’ and ‘futuristic outlook’. His work on Indian food remains unparallel, and his contribution to the culinary industry a wonderment. It was his zeal that saw not one but two profession – that of a chef and a food writer – turn respectable and glamorous.

As the industry mourns the passing away of one of its keynote figures; here’s a look at some of his beautiful legacies that has changed the way the world (and India) viewed its own rich culinary heritage. A feat that is as rare as the man himself we call JIGGS KALRA.

ROCKY MOHAN, FOUNDER GOURMET PASSPORT
“He gave Indian cuisine the International recognition”
“One of the biggest trends internationally today is Indian cuisine. And somewhere that credit goes to Jiggs Kalra. With his books, articles, shows and even forums, Jiggs had worked tirelessly to catapult Indian cuisine to the top pedestal where chefs across the world took notice. Thanks to him, we lost the tag of Balti cuisine long back. His restaurants became an epicentre that presented Indian cuisine as one of the most progressive, complex yet beautiful food culture to the world. He has somewhere been the main reason that today we can stand high and take pride in our own culinary diversity.”

CHEF ABHIJIT SAHA, CHEFPRENEUR, FAVA
“He brought structure to Indian cuisine”
“Cookbooks have always been a larger part of a chef’s learning, including yours truly. But what set Jiggs Kalra, class apart, was the way he presented Indian cuisine. He was the first person to givestructure to Indian cuisine, and even bring legitimacy to the profession of chefs In India through his pioneering work as a food writer with his famous tome, Prashad Cooking. In fact, the book remains a bible to most chefs I know and have worked with.”

CHEF SABYASACHI GORAI, CHEFPRENEUR, LAVAASH BY SABY
“His documentation on Indian food”
“The legendary Jiggs Kalra has always been ‘Chef Kalra’ for me. And the respect stems not only for his rare ability to bring Indian food to the forefront but his brilliance in documenting Indian cuisine. It takes a person of outstanding calibre to not only research Indian cuisine, but to go through the painstaking work of vetting each information – no matter how small or big - before putting it on paper. This perhaps explains why many like me turned to Indian food. His zeal of putting Indian cuisine on the global map was infectious – and it just grew every time you met him.”

CHEF MANISH MEHROTRA, CORPORATE CHEF, INDIAN ACCENT
“Hisfine knack of rethinking food”
“The mark of a good chef, the legend had once said, is his ability to recreate a dish in seven different styles, each without losing its soul. It was one of my big takeaways from all his books, especially Prashad Cooking, which was a culinary bible for me as a young chef. In fact, it was this book that helped us get our basics right – and gave us the ability to create our own Indian food story. “

CHEF SHARAD DEWAN, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, FOOD PRODUCTION, THE PARK KOLKATA
“The affable style of story-telling that made each Indian food culture, fascinating”
“My introduction to Jiggs Kalra was with Prasad. It was one of the few cookbooks that played a significant role in shaping me as a chef. This may be because while reading the book, I could meet him regularly thanks to the hotel I was posted then. But over the years, I have come to admire the way he wrote his book. Much like his cuisine, they were futuristic in their appeal: the style, the information, the little tidbits made each of his books a priceless possession. Even today, I can give PrashadCooking to any of my young chefs and it becomes a bible for them. Clearly, he made cultures and food come alive with his writing.”

CHEF PAUL KINNY, CULINARY DIRECTOR, ST REGIS HOTEL MUMBAI
“He mainstreamed lost cuisine”
“Thanks to his tireless documentation, we today vouch to know many cuisines, even those that were once not part of our curriculum – or not thought of as part of commercial cuisine. But the legendary Jiggs Kalra wasn’t just good at recording our rich culinary history, he also ensured that it became main stream enough for people to enjoy it. And that is exactly what he did with his numerous consultancy projects – including some of the restaurant that were based on his menus and research. And that ability to discover lost cuisine, standardise it and then make it mainstream dining is what made Jiggs Kalra, such a culinary personality, and legend.”

CHEF RAJIV MALHOTRA, CORPORATE CHEF, CHORBIZZARE
“His ability to tutor you into excellence”
“I have had the opportunity to work with Jiggs Kalra, and I remember how he would gently stir you into a new zone of thought but cajoling you to think differently. It was those lessons that I was taught as a young chef that helped me create my own style of Indian cooking, and later aided me in creating a team of young chefs who find joy in exploring the finer aspects of Indian cuisine. Clearly, he was the “Guru of Chefs”.

CHEF SRIJITH GOPINATH, EXECUTIVE CHEF, TAJ CAMPTON PLACE, SAN FRANCISCO
“His book,Prashad Cooking”
“For me and lot of other chefs, Jiggs Kalra was the guru who taught us the basics of Indian cooking with his epic tome, Prashad. It was my go-to book whenever I had a query concerning a certain practice, technique or even a dish. In fact, he was my Google back in the time and the influence that tuned me into an Indian chef.”

Chef Vikas Seth, Culinary Director, Embassy Group
“The art of telling food stories through food”
“I consider Prashad Cooking one of my all-time favourite books to read. Everytime you flip through it, there are little nuggets that you come across that changes the way you think about not only Indian food, but food at large. But when it comes to legacy, I consider Masala Library to be one of his biggest living, breathing heritage. Here you get a chance of not only seeing how the legend thought and worked, but also experience his vision of recreating classic dishes into modern masterpieces without losing its soul and the story.”

SUBRATA DEBNATH, BUSINESS HEAD AND GM, RAAJKUTIR
“He brought the spirit of Indian food, alive”
“It is said, for a culture to survive you need to make it relevant to times, but without losing the soul. If there is one person that has effectively done it, it has to be Jiggs Kalra. In my years working as a chef, I have seen him work tirelessly to bring back Indian food to its glorious best – and in doing so, he ignited the spirit that had once made the cuisine one of the most fascinating food culture in the world.”

CHEF MIR ZAFAR ALI, EXECUTIVE CHEF, THE LEELA BENGALURU
“He paved the way for chefs to step out”
“A few can emulate the way Jiggs Kalra went about documenting cuisine – pouring through books, talking to experts, collaborating with chefs, testing each dish to ensure it is right. But his finest giveaway to the community is the format in which he introduced chefs to the world – by showcasing their food. That one initiative paved way for generations of chefs to step out not only of their kitchens but also off their comfort zone to create a style they are most known for. And the choice of cuisine was Indian. That in itself is an achievement.”

CHEF CHETAN SETHI, CHEFPRENEUR, USTAADI
“He brought you closer to your food roots”
“We all tend to take our legacy for granted, and this includes the food we have grown up with. It was a realisation I had when I began working on my first Indian restaurant – incidentally, it was my very owned place. It was while researching that I would refer to the many Jiggs Kalra book written on Indian cuisine, and gradually I realised how easily he connected me to my own food roots. Since then, his book has been my biblical road to culinary nirvana.”

CHEF NISAR AHMED, CORPORATE CHEF, MAYFAIR HOTELS
“He changed the thought process”
“His biggest legacy. I feel, is the way he changed the way we approach and think about Indian food in India. Today, chefs take a certain pride in being an Indian speciality chef – it is the goal for even those who had initially chosen to be known for the international cooking skills. His restaurants are a living proof of his vision and how one can take a good old tradition and make it relevant. He is the reason that chefs are celebrated people today. He is the real Food Personality of Indian cuisine.”

SAKET GUPTA, SALES AND MARKETING, WATERSTONES’ HOTEL
“He made Indian Cuisine more marketable”
“For me, the biggest legacy of Jiggs Kalra is making Indian food more marketable thanks to his unique approach to food – the way it is cooked and presented. His food always had this mass appeal, which was key in breaking the preconceived notion of Indian cuisine being too spicy, and only curries. Thanks to his work in the field, today Indian chefs internationally have been able to take the many flavours of Indian food to a global audience. “

CHEF AMNINDER SANDHU, EXECUTIVE CHEF, ARTH
“He paved way for millions of us”
“To think of a concept like Arth would have been such a huge success four decades ago would be anyone’s wild guess. But today, not only such a concept exists in India, but is hugely appreciated, loved and acknowledged. And somewhere I owe all this to the legendary Jiggs Kalra. Had he not started documenting Indian cuisine, not worked to get them to the forefront or giving our food the global recognition, an Arth today was unlikely. A big thank you, sir!”

CHEF ANIRBAN DASGUPTA, EXECUTIVE CHEF, HYATT REGENCY
“Positioning of Indian Food in the global map”
“When it comes to taking Indian cuisine to global arena, few have excelled the way the legendary Jiggs Kalra has. In fact, none have. The penchant with which he worked to making Indian food and Indian chef known to both national and international audience was praiseworthy. It is to his work that today we have his renewed pride in our food culture. And India has become a culinary research centrepoint.”

CHEF VINEET MANOCHA, VICE PRESIDENT, CULINARY, LITE BITE FOODS
“His encyclopaedic knowledge – and the willingness to share it with everyone”
“There was a time when a chef’s most valued possession was his recipes, his research and the little tricks (practiced a thousand times) that gave him/her the edge of doing a certain dish with exceptional finesse. Enter Jiggs Kalra, a charismatic personality and a prolific writer, and changed everything. Here was a person, who invested his all to research and document Indian food culture, and then put it in books that anyone could read and be inspired. He gave many a chef the opportunity to learn, be inspired and excel with Indian food.”

VIJAYAN GANGADHARAN, GM, COURTYARD BY MARRIOT BHOPAL
“He taught us how to market our cuisine, in its traditional best”
“As a seasoned F&B, I have always admired the marketing mind of Jiggs Kalra. Not only has he documented Indian food in a manner that makes it look regal, in all his initiative to promote Indian food, he ensured that there is a certain kind of royal mysticism to it, which made it both exotic yet attractive. The way he catapulted Indian cuisine at global platform will remain a 101 guide on culinary marketing.”

SUJOY GUPTA, EXECUTIVE CHEF, TAJ BENGAL
““He taught us the virtue of having a wide range”
“One of his finest legacy is his work on not only the North Frontier cuisine, but other food cultures across India, for which, he collaborated with numerous chefs, researchers and even writers. A facet that showcases beautifully in Masala Library, where the dishes find their inspiration across the length and breathe of India. In fact, one of his biggest lessons to us, aside his well-researched books that are akin to culinary bible, is the fine art of changing with time and adopting new things. Range, he had once said, is the fine line between a chef and a masterchef."

CHEF NEERAJ RAWOOT, EXECUTIVE CHEF, SOFITEL BKC
““His futuristic outlook on food concepts”
“His finest living legacy is Masala Library. The kind of interesting take it does on traditional classics has been a canvas for many chefs to start rethinking Indian food with. In that sense, Jiggs Kalra did revolutionise the Indian dining space. Even while behind the scene, he has in many way influenced how Indian food is viewed, and will be viewed in the coming years.”

DHARMESH KARMOKAR, CO-OWNER, THANGABALLI
““He remains the best source on Indian recipes”
“I personally loved his sense of humour, and the knack of making any conversation around food super interesting. But the one thing I, and the rest of the fraternity, will always bear our allegiance to him is for devising the formula that could help standardise Indian recipes. And of course, those little hacks that made cooking each of those recipes, an absolute joy. In fact, his books were our foundation in college – and played a significant role in shaping our careers. He was (and will remain) the Robin Hood of Indian culinary space.”

ZAMIR KHAN, INDEPENDENT BRAND MAVERICK
“Immortalising Indian Food on a global platform”
“From singlehandedly digging up gems of Indian cuisine from history, revivinglost recipes, putting the limelight on chefs and generational khansamas, documenting Indian food to authoring numerous articles and almost a dozen and half books extolling the finer aspect of Indian cuisine – Jiggs Kalra has done everything that a food culture needs for its survival, relevance and appreciation. And that has been his single most significant legacy – and gift to the industry.”

NIVEDAN KUKRETI, SEASONED HOTELIER
“He was a game changer”
“I think his finest legacy is to create these culinary centres where you could go and experience his passion. Masala Library being one of the finest examples. The restaurant created culinary history with its ability to connect traditional classic with modern India by making the food more exciting but without losing the soul. The second legacy was Papaya, which was a fresh take by him on Asian cuisine. Until thenmost Pan Asian places stuck to the tried and tested formula.”

RAJU BISHT, EDITOR, MW
“Changing the face of food writing in India”
“Let’s face it: When it comes to Indian media, food writing wasn’t a beat till Jiggs Kalra began writing food. He was the first one to not just review places, but also write these in-depth stories on food – minus the heaviness. Jiggs Kalra may have singlehandedly inspired many to take up writing food, even as a second option. But it was his creations that pushed food into one of the key beats of feature writing. So much so that today we look for writers who excel in food writing and have a forte.”

DEEPALI NANDWANI, INDEPENDENT FOOD AND LIFESTYLE COLUMNIST
“HE WAS THE ORIGINAL ‘TRENDMAKER’ ”
“I met Jiggs Kalra briefly several years ago, but followed his work for years after that. His legacy looms large over the Indian culinary history. He ferreted out India's lost recipes much before it became fashionable for Indian chefs to do so. He was a joy to read as a writer and while I may not eat any meat, I read with fascination his insights into Indian culinary history. He discovered little known chefs and khansamas from the bylanes of Indian cities and towns, and not just shone the limelight on them, but also the food they cooked with so much passion. Not many know that he began his career as a writer for The Times of India, before moving to work with The IIlustrated Weekly. Writers today can do good by borrowing a leaf or two from his beautiful writing on India's complex food heritage.”

NEELAM SINGH, EDITOR, MAXPOSURE MEDIA GROUP
“He walked the talk – and how!”
“If you ask me what Jiggs Kalra’s legacy was, I would have to say his restaurants. They weren’t just great places to experience the nuances of Indian food, bask in a genius’ futuristic vision, but also marked the full circle of MrKalra’s food journey that began as a food reviewer under the prolificKhushwant Singh. These restaurants and the way they are created are the finest testament of this larger-than-life culinary icon. “

CHEF GAURAV RAGHUVANSHI, CORPORATE CHEF, MOVIETIME CINEPLEX PVT LTD
“His Infectious love for all things food”
“As part of the Farzi Café team, I had the fortune of not only meeting him, but also conversing with him, time and again. And each time I met him, the topic was food and food stories. Even at the age of 69, his excitement to learn new things, experiment and even create fusions was infectious. He shared his knowledge like a toddler giving away lollipops on his birthday, and his memory about food was sharp. He could take a bite of a dish and tell you where you have gone wrong – and the trick to correct it. It left many of us gaping in wonder.”