Kochi is often touted as Kerala’s food capital where foodies from all over the state throng to taste some fabulous dishes. From the traditional dishes to gourmet meals, everything is cooked in the kitchens at Kochi. Meanwhile, 23-year-old Damien Jude Reynold is committed to serving authentic Portuguese cuisine to the food lovers of the vibrant city.
His ‘Project Portugal’ aims to introduce and popularize the unique dishes of Portugal and its erstwhile colonies here. It is quite a task to cook and present complex dishes like pastel de nata in its authentic form. Pastel de nata or the egg custard tart is one of the most popular dishes in the European nation. The crunchy and flaky puff pastry has soft and gooey custard inside.
The pandemic has marred Damien’s dreams to fly abroad to expand his knowledge and expertise in culinary arts. However, Damien was not ready to spend the lockdown days, sitting idle at his home. He learned about the latest trends in the food scene in Kochi. He realized that the people of Kochi loved trying out new and unique flavours in cakes and pastries.
He decided to try his hands in Portuguese – Brazilian cuisine as he wanted to do something different and exciting. Initially, he cooked only in small batches. However, soon, foodies began to come looking for Damien and his interesting recipes. Damien speaks to Manorama Online about Project Portugal and his love for the culinary arts.
After completing his graduation in Home Science, Damien enrolled at the MIT in Manipal to study about culinary arts. He then worked for a year at Boteco, a fine dining restaurant in Mumbai which serves the best Brazilian – Latin American cuisine in India. Fabulous service of international standard is the highlight here. Having realized the amazing scope of the culinary arts, he quit his job and was all set to fly to Spain. However, the Covid 19 outbreak pressed the brakes on Damien’s dreams.
Culinary art is an interesting field which offers excellent job opportunities both inside and outside India. From cooking to eating etiquette, all the factors involved in fine dining come under the culinary arts. One could take a degree in culinary arts to become a chef or a cook.
Every plate is a piece of art
It was his internship days at the Bombay canteen which helped Damien decide whether to stay in this field or not. The youngster says he had enjoyed the best working conditions there. He didn’t have to stand for long hours or endure harsh circumstances during the working schedules. Moreover, the interns would get a chance to do plating with the chefs if they are good in their work. Damien says it was from here that he learned to treat every plate of food as a piece of art.
Damien observes that though Keralites love trying out different cuisines, the portion of the food matters to them. More than the quality or the taste, Keralites see whether huge portions of food are available. The youngster believes that global cafes would be received well here. Damien plans to run Project Portugal until December. He is now busy preparing some unique delicacies to ring in Christmas in style.
Damien’s motto in life is to not repeat your mistakes again. So, he tries to be as organized as possible whenever he does something. Interestingly, he has prepared strict schedules to complete the preparation and cooking. He mostly cooks in the night after his mother completes her daily chores. From 11 in the night to next morning, Damien would do the prep for baking. Here is how he has planned out his schedule for each day.
On Tuesdays, he would evaluate the profits and loss of the week. This is also the day for shopping for grocery and other items that are required for the coming week. Damien cooks gluten-free cheese bread on Tuesdays.
Wednesdays are reserved for social media marketing of his weekend special recipes. Besides, he would do the prep for the sauces on this day.
On Thursday, he prepares the sauces that are required for a week.
Damien makes his masterpiece doughnuts on Fridays. He would also bake special pastel de nata on this day.
Saturdays and Sundays are sale days when he takes the freshly baked goodies to his customers. He takes the day off on Mondays.
Damien is eagerly waiting for the pandemic restrictions to be lifted so that he could fly to make his dreams of merging cultures and cuisines possible.