The Chef cooking courses and you might have heard of Holi, the festival of colors, or Diwali, the festival of lights, but do you know about Vaisakhi the festival of harvest? If not, take some time to hear the food and culture behind some ‘blossoming’ Hindu and Sikh traditions.
Lucky for us, two members of the ChefPassport team Gaurav Gandhi, Chief Operating Officer, and Swapnil Jadhiv, Professional Indian Chef, took some time to sit down with us and tell us about this Northern Indian tradition, which has nearly 500,000 people celebrating each year.
Before we begin, a few facts about the celebration
- Vaisakhi sometimes pronounced Baisakhi is a historical and religious festival
It is often celebrated on 13 or 14 April every year, and commences the month of Vaisakha and usually lasts a couple of weeks
- In Sikh culture, this holiday commemorates the formation of Khalsa panth of warriors
- To Hindus, Vaisakha Sankranti celebrates the Solar new year, based on the Hindu Vikram Samvat calendar
- More generally, the celebration is commonly known as a spring harvest festival across different regions in India
First encounters of an Indian Kind
Q: In three words, what is Vaisakhi to you?
Swapnil: Harvest, Harvest and Harvest!
Gaurav: Dance, Carnival and Food!
Q: What do people do in India when they celebrate Vaisakhi?
Gaurav: Although celebrations vary region to region, Vaisakhi is a harvest festival for most of the Indian subcontinent. Growing up, We used to get a day off from school for Vaisakhi. The day started early with my family getting ready to go to the temple. Post prayers, we would go to the city carnival, where there were various food stalls and fun activities. I was particularly interested in watching big groups of people doing Bhangra, which is a special dance form from the Punjab region of India. Vaisakhi Carnivals are similar to summer festivals of Europe, and county fairs in the US. The evening was meant for elaborate meals with family and friends. I do remember getting new clothes for the occasion too 🙂
- Sarson ka saag – mustard greens, spinach and spices dish
- Phirni or Kheer – a sweet pudding made with either rice, broken wheat, tapioca, vermicelli, or sweet corn
- Chhole Bhature – Chickpeas with fried bread made from maida or wheat flour
- Dal Makahani – made with whole black lentils, red kidney beans, butter and cream (non dairy versions also popular)
- Makke ki Roti – unleavened Punjabi bread made from cornmeal
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Q: Yum, being a vegetarian, I would be ‘in heaven’ during this festival. It’s incredible that you two are able to work together and share this history and culture with people around the world. I have a few questions for you Gaurav, to better understand how ChefPassport recruits Chefs and develops recipes. How did you find the various Chefs now part of the team?
Gaurav: We tried various approaches to find the right Chefs for ChefPassport. We first identified the Chef Cooking Courses we wanted to focus on, and then posted relevant ads on popular job sites in respective countries. We were lucky to receive hundreds of applications!
We then organized a screening call with the interested candidates, where we explained ChefPassport’s concept and understood their expectations. For successful candidates, we then acquired information about their background and recipes they would like to feature.
Q: What was it like working with newly onboarded Chefs and figuring out which recipes to profile?
Gaurav: At ChefPassport, we focus on providing a comprehensive and unique culinary experience to our customers. Hence we request our Chefs to present a full menu (including a starter, main course and dessert). This way our customers can curate a complete meal for themselves and their families. We also ensured that the recipes were native to the Chef’s background and in the realm of their expertise.
Q: That is fascinating, who would have thought that this is what a Chief Operating Officer does at a cook-tech company. So be honest with me now, what is your job as COO at ChefPassport?
Gaurav: My priority is to ensure the business keeps running and moving forward. Be it Chef onboarding, coming up with new ideas for Chef Cooking Courses, general web maintenance, business development, or customer service – to name a few. At ChefPassport, we all have to wear multiple caps to ensure all the day-to-day tasks are taken care of and our clients are served to their utmost satisfaction.
Q: Okay, that makes sense, now let’s backtrack to you and your relationships with Chefs and onboarding. When working with dozens of instructors around the world, what do you enjoy doing most?
Gaurav: For me, learning about a Chef’s story is the most valuable and enjoyable part. Our Chefs come from different parts of the world, and the trust that they bestow upon us to share their stories is priceless. I enjoy meeting them, discovering their backgrounds and passion in the culinary arts, and helping them connect people with food explorers – which turns out to fuel their ambitions further. Knowing that we have an opportunity to create value for our Chefs gives me the most satisfaction and enthusiasm to work for ChefPassport.
Q: My last question is for Swapnil. Why did you want to become a part of the ChefPassport team and give Chef Cooking Courses?
Swapnil: Simply stated, I wanted to share my skill of culinary arts and teach people around the world authentic Indian cuisine.
A huge thank you goes out to both Gaurav and Swapnil, for taking the time to be interviewed. We understand that Swapnil has been volunteering and delivering food to the poor throughout the festival – so a big thanks goes to you for that, particularly during the troublesome times the world is going through with the pandemic.
To learn more about Swapnil, check out his Chef Story. It might just inspire you to book a class with him at the Indian Table, where he can share more of the culture, history and traditions in each of his dishes.