Chefpreneur, Restauranteur and Consultant Ajay Chopra is a name to reckon within the Indian culinary universe for the past three decades. His work repertoire grew from being a chef to coining flagship associations in the corporate, e-commerce and restaurant spaces. An acclaimed culinarian and a household name after he co-hosted and judged the popular show, ‘MasterChef India’ Season one and two on Star Plus, Chef was also the face of many thematic shows like ‘Hi Tea’ on Food Food channel for tea-time snacks, ‘Veggistan’ for exclusive vegetarian recipes on NDTV Good Times India, and ‘Northern Flavours’ (Season 1,2 and 3) culinary journey broadcasted by Living Foodz across the Northern states of India, ‘India’s 50 Best Dishes’ and ‘Papad Pickles aur Pyaala’ by Zee Zest brings out tips and tricks for a wholesome gastronomic experience and the most recent ‘The Big Daddy Chef’, a progressive and much-needed concept of encouraging fathers to step in the kitchen and experiment with culinary skills for their children. As the Managing Director of Zion Hospitality Pvt. Ltd, incorporated in 2014 chef has accomplished projects like the ‘Pandora- Gastronomy + Bar’ in Pune, ‘The Indus Club’ in Mumbai and many more. The revamping of ‘White Charcoal’ at The Empresa Hotel in Mumbai, Creaticity-Pune, and ‘IRAA’ in Bilaspur are some of his ongoing restaurant projects within the country. He has also undertaken projects overseas like the ‘Le Noir’ café in Abu Dhabi. Under the able leadership of Chef Ajay Chopra at Zion Hospitality, 30+ restaurants were designed and conceptualised with detailed menus curated in the past 4 years. The best way to describe these end-to-end services provided by Zion Hospitality would be ‘bringing the plan of a restaurant to life’.
“Food is to me what a camera is to a photographer”. My journey in the kitchen commenced at an early age. Being a child of a working mother, I began experimenting with my half-baked culinary skills. My passion, drive and dedication have led me to be the professional Chef I am today. Although not completely a new phenomenon then, a boy taking interest in the culinary arena was still not accepted wholeheartedly. Currently, both my children Ashish and Akshat have seen their father ace in the kitchen and find it absolutely normal, a rare occurrence in a normal Indian household.
Speaking from my own experience, the three women in my life; my wife Amrita, my mother and mother-in-law have been my source of inspiration. I draw a lot from their cooking.
Back in the day, it was always a special occurrence in my household when my father cooked, a feeling of picnic and excitement. Since last few years, I have been encouraging dads to come to the kitchen as there is no written norm that only mums must cook or even do all the chores. Many FMCG ads have shown us that husbands need to share the load. Cooking is an essential part of every home but it could also be a very enjoyable part as the process of cooking is calming and enjoyable. Dads make a note – Cooking is also very machoistic. Most men believe its feminine but it’s the other way round.
I found my niche in innovating and transforming typical dishes into new-fangled flavoursome dishes that are loved by my audience. With the current fast paced living of Indians, instant foods are gaining momentum. It might not be as openly expressed but fathers care for their children beyond just bringing the pay check home. The concern for good health is equally on their minds as much as the mothers. And what better way of monitoring the child’s health than providing a healthy and nutritious diet? From my standpoint, nothing compares to a healthy yet delightful dish prepared at home from scratch and adding to the excitement would be the father preparing the dish.
The covid pandemic had brought a halt to our fast lives and had us confined to our homes, proving to be a watershed moment in our lives; when most men stepped into the kitchen for the first time, I accomplished my long pending dream of penning own cookbook for men who will make their grand debut in the kitchen. The book titled ‘Big Daddy Chef’ is a compilation of some of eclectic restaurant style recipes and its main driving force is to motivate fathers to not shy away from the kitchen. The growing culture of gender neutrality in our society, encourages men to take initiative in the kitchen too. While the situation of lockdown is oscillating between normal and new normal, let’s hope the perception of ‘only mothers making the food’ is forever changed.
While women have already been playing a dual role of achievers at work as well as home, we would love to see a transition phase for both the genders where men too pull off the same at both ends. Hence, with changing times, the mindset and culture passed on through generations would be challenged and reformed. As a community, fathers need to express their love through various gestures and there cannot be a better one than making food that their kids like to begin with!