Suman Kaul’s journey as a chef started 12 years ago in Hyderabad. “I used to write recipes for a daily newspaper. In 2006, ITC noticed my work and I got a chance to work as a chef with ITC Maurya in New Delhi,” she shares.
Chef Suman Kaul at ITC Kakatiya, Hyderabad. Photos: Ch Prabhu Das
Chef Kaul is not a trained chef and she cooks no other food besides that of the Kashmiri Pandit community to which she belongs. She and her family settled down in Hyderabad where she was living when she was spotted by ITC. She has moved into full-time employment at an age (she was 50 years old when she joined the group) when most other people look forward to hanging up their boots, but the palpable enthusiasm among the dining public every time she holds a festival is enough reason to go on, she says
She says her inspiration is her grandmother. “She used to tell me - concentrate on what you are doing, forget about other things. And Chef Manjit Singh Gill is my favourite chef because he recognised my work.” She explains the reason she chose to cook only Kashmiri Pandit cuisine, “This cuisine is not known to the masses. I belong to the community and hence know about it. The next generation of Kashmiri Pandits too are forgetting it. Hence, I thought that I will make it popular.”
“The key difference between Wazwan the other popular Muslim cuisine of Kashmir and the Pandit cuisine is the food does not contain onion and garlic. Some of the main ingredients of are Kashmiri chilli powder, aniseed (sauf powder), saffron, asafoetida (hing), dry ginger powder, pure ghee or mustard oil and hung curd and most of the preparations are cooked using the slow simmering technique, and we use lamb in Kashmiri Pandit cuisine.” “Mutton yakhni is my favourite dish; this is yogurt-based lamb preparation,” she reveals.
Today Suman Kaul actively travels to all ITC Hotels across India to cook Kashmiri delicacies and her energy comes from the satisfied smiles of the guests who relish her food. She is currently holding a food festival at ITC Kakatiya hotel in Hyderabad between July 20 and July 29.
Amidst the busy schedule, the Hyderabadi, who is settled in Delhi makes it a point to visit Chilkur Balaji temple and taste the Hyderabadi Biryani at her hotel.