Food is more than just a combination of flavours and ingredients; it is something that unites people and is a cultural symbol too. While some people eat to live, some others live to experience the wonderful flavours in the world of cuisine. Suresh Kumar, the executive chef at O by Tamara in Thiruvananthapuram falls into a third category who cooks food to fill not just the tummies but also the hearts of others. He enjoys preparing food that is equally appealing to the eyes and the taste buds too.
For Suresh, a native of Angamaly, cooking was just a profession and nothing more, when he joined the hotel management course. However, the intense training had brought out the talented chef in him. More than a career, cooking became a passion for him. The training days were hard as he had to suffer physical and mental hardships. However, that didn’t deter him from becoming one of the most sought after chefs in Kerala.
After completing his training, chef Suresh began his career at Ernakulam Taj Gateway. Later, he moved abroad to head the kitchens in many prominent restaurants around the world. Chef Suresh recalls every moment that he had worked as a chef, with pride and joy. He says that he values dearly even the smallest appreciation that he receives for a dish. One of the proudest moments in Chef Suresh’s life was when he was selected the best chef of India, in 2014, by the Sarovar Group of Hotels that owns around 86 hotels around the country.
Suresh has always had an affinity to authentic South Indian dishes, even when he was working in hotels abroad. All the dishes that he makes bear a unique signature of the talented chef. He was much appreciated when he experimented with South Indian flavours and dishes. Be it the regular tapioca and mushroom or the classic pidi and kozhi (rice balls and country chicken curry), chef Suresh makes sure to elevate it to the gourmet standards. Mushroom ‘kuzhal vismayam’ or fresh mushrooms and pasta cooked in creamy coconut milk is one of his signature items. The aroma and flavor of the ginger, garlic and green chilies add more depth to the dish. Finally, some mozzarella cheese is grated on top of the hot dish to make it look and taste perfect.
Cassava cake, dal chavl aranchini and tandoori dim dim are some of the star items in the chef’s list of fusion dishes. The names of the dishes like the tandoori dim dim and the mushroom kuzhal vismayam are so unique that the customer is curious to try these dishes. Even when chef Suresh loves experimenting with ingredients and flavours at the hotel kitchen, a special mutton curry is the real star at his home.
“One need not be a good chef just because he/she had studied hotel management. You need to be passionately in love with cooking to become a good chef. Cooking is not as easy as other jobs. A dish wouldn’t taste great, even if it is payasam, if you cook it without any real interest,” says the chef.
Chef Suresh has been a pillar of support for O by Tamara since the day it opened. Suresh says that the last three years at Tamara have been an incredible opportunity for him to grow as a chef. “In many hotels, we have to cook by staying within the guidelines of the institution or the management. However, things are different here. I am free to experiment with every aspect of cooking. This freedom is what a chef desires the most,” says Suresh.
Chef Suresh has a word of advice to the youngsters who wish make a career in cooking. “A chef’s profession is not as easy as it looks from the outside. It is a physically demanding job and you have to be patient, hard working and dedicated to be successful in this field. Instead of serving the food that we like, you have to understand the customer’s likes and preferences while cooking for them. Only then would their tummies and hearts be filled. Try adding a bit of love too with every dish that you prepare,” chef Suresh says.
“Be pleasant and cook; serve love”, chef Suresh has a very special motto for success.
Check out the recipe of pomfret - gooseberry fry shared by chef Suresh.
50 gms brined gooseberries
4 green chillies
25 grams garlic
25 gms ginger
50 gms shallots
25 gms curry leaves
15 gms pepper
Salt as required
50 ml coconut oil
Grind the brined gooseberries, green chillies, ginger, garlic, shallots, curry leaves, pepper, coconut oil and salt into fine paste
Marinate the pomfret with this special marinade
Keep it aside for at least 15 minutes
Grease a hot plate with coconut oil
Place the marinated pomfret
Grill until both sides are cooked nicely
Serve the fish with a refreshing salad on the side.