Each of our lives constitutes certain events that we realize are life-changing only in retrospect.
At the age of thirteen, after enduring several years of misery in a school I felt offered me nothing substantial, I successfully persuaded my parents to transfer me. I'm glad I did because I would probably have remained a shy, introverted, dispassionate fellow otherwise.
In high school, when I decided to I wanted to become a chef, several people including some from within the restaurant industry advised me against it. They warned me about the long hours, the high levels of stress and the fact that I would be giving up any chance of a normal life. I remained persistent.
Just weeks into my six month internship at a five star hotel in Bangalore, I was kicked out by a ruthless manager because of an unintentional and harmless error on my part. At eighteen, I was crushed, but came out stronger and ready to take on the world never once looking back.
When all my batch mates found jobs after graduating Hotel Management, I decided I needed to learn more and applied to the Culinary Institute of America. This eventually helped me get a position as a line cook at Le Bernardin, one of the finest restaurants in the world--a more than ideal start to my career.
Upon my return to India from New York, I waited several months and turned down several mediocre job offers because I knew the right one was out there. It was. And I got it.
However unlike the life-altering events of my past, I am quite aware of the one that lies around the corner this time. Just four years after losing out on the Kopf Scholarship, I am on the verge of embarking upon a three-month, culinary journey across Western Europe.
This is the fruition of many years of yearning to visit the same countries whose cuisines I’ve been cooking for close to a decade. As a chef, nothing can replace the experience of observing the landscape of a region, interacting with its indigenous people and being exposed to its distinctive food and wine.
This trip will involve me traveling to over three-dozen towns and cities, visiting local farmer's markets, dining in family-owned as well as avante garde restaurants and drinking my way through the finest wineries.
From sampling balsamic vinegar in Modena to munching down tripe panini off a street cart in Tuscany; from scarfing down escargot in Paris to relishing an authentic bouillabaisse in Marseille; from savoring jamón ibérico de bellota in Sevilla to tasting a true Valencian paella, I will have done it all by the end of this trip. Working short stints at restaurants in Rome, San Sebastian and Lyon is part of the itinerary as well and I hope to bring a plethora of recipes and cooking techniques upon my return to India.
So if you're up to it, join me on my travels and live vicariously through the eyes (and belly) of a chef.