Meet Rishabh Pant's Malayali chef

Pant & Jithin
Rishabh Pant with Jithin Raj

Being a personal chef of an athlete is not an easy job. Apart from satiating the taste buds of the client, the chef needs to help the player optimise his/her health with the food choices.

For the past few months, Jithin Raj, a native of Unnichira near Edappally in Kochi, has been working closely with Indian wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant to develop a healthy meal plan that aligns with the cricketer's dietary objectives and lifestyle.

Jithin was part of Pant's personal staff when he played for Delhi Capitals in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 and during the recently concluded T20 World Cup in the USA and in the Caribbean.

Passion for cooking

Jithin learnt his first culinary lessons as a child watching his parents T R Saji and Rathi, who used to run a hotel in their native place, cooking. After completing Plus Two, he pursued a degree in Culinary Arts from Manipal Academy of Higher Education. After returning home, he set up a tea shop in the locality. It was then Jithin received a job offer from Neat Meals, a Mumbai-based company offering fresh and healthy meal services to celebrities.

Neat Meals is engaged in providing personal chefs to Bollywood celebrities and top cricketers. The company's clientele includes star batter Virat Kohli and actor Vicky Kaushal.

The 25-year-old Jithin got an opportunity to be the chef of IPL franchise Delhi Capitals, which was captained by Pant, who was making a comeback after the horrifying car crash in 2022.  

Diet is sacrosanct

According to Jithin, Pant loves good food but he insists on sticking to strict diets. "He prefers a higher-protein, lower-carbohydrate energy-restricted diet. He is fond of Kerala cuisines too. His favourite dishes include traditional Kerala-style chicken curry with coconut milk, Varutharacha chicken curry (chicken cooked in spicy, roasted coconut gravy), and crispy appams. Although he loves butter chicken, dieticians have asked him to avoid high-fat food like butter," Jithin said. 

Memorable trip

Jithin spent over a month with Team India during the T20 World Cup. "To be able to interact with cricketers whom I idolised since childhood was like a dream come true for me. I have cooked food for other Indian cricketers too. I was also lucky to be in the stadium to witness the final between India and South Africa," Jithin added.

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