I think it would be a rather strange coincidence if some one in your immediate family did not inspire you to cook. In my case at least, it was my Mom and also my maternal grandmother.
My grandmother, who passed away a few years ago, is probably the best cooks I have seen. She, of course, comes from an era when there were no blenders or pressure cookers or even better stoves. She could also neither read nor write. So her culinary skills were basically learnt and improved over the years by sheer practice!
I have no idea though how my grandmother learnt the wide variety of things she could create in the kitchen. In addition to fixing meals twice a day which could include a curry, a pickle, a fry and may be a sambar and a Rasam, she would effortlessly make a snack or two, sometimes in larger quantities such that we savor them for an entire season. Quantity seemed to have never bothered as well. As kids, we used to look forward to festivals because she would make a ton of specials based on the festival! I always used to wonder how she would cook so many recipes without a cook book.
My Mom, I am sure picked up her culinary skills from her mother. Her health issues notwithstanding, she always ensured she can fix a best meal possible. I haven’t yet been able to but some day I would like to perfect some of the best things she could make – the Chicken Pulao, the Mutton Curry, the Chicken Curry with Garelu (plain Vada) and the Perugu Garelu (Dahi Vada) to name a few. I have her recipes and tried them out but can never cook them as well as she can. I am looking forward to the next opportunity to observe her make and repeat until I could perfect them!
OK, enough on the celebrities in the family 🙂
You may like him or even dislike him but you cannot ignore Chef Gordon Ramsay (@GordonRamsay). Before I really watched any of his shows, I did hear people say that he is rude, arrogant, tough, etc. In fact I had the same impression when I happened to see bits of his show for the first time. But then, I really got hooked on to him once I watched the first full episode of Kitchen Nightmares. I went back and watched all episodes of his Kitchen Nightmares UK Series and his US Series.
I find his appearances on Master Chef, especially Master Chef Junior quite inspiring. Yes he gets angry and uses foul language but I think he really shows those emotions to urge people to show passion in their work. It also shows how much he cares for the restaurant business as a whole and really wants it to succeed. If you really think he is unnecessarily angry, check out Master Chef Junior. The other thing I like about him is how hard he worked to get to where he is now from humble beginnings. More than his culinary skills, its his passion and determination to the profession that inspires me and impresses me about him.
Another Chef who impresses me is Sanjay Thumma of @vahrehvah at vahrehvah.com. He is quirky, funny and has a thick accent which might sometimes put you off. But, as he mentions in most of his YouTube videos, he is really passionate about simplifying and de-mystifying Indian cooking so that he can inspire everyone to cook. He is probably one of the first Indians to leverage YouTube to share his very helpful videos. He is extremely popular among the Indian diaspora. I must admit that whenever I run out of ideas to cook, I go over to his website to browse his videos.
And last but not the least, Rocky Singh and Mayur Sharma (@rockyandmayur) of Highway on My Plate, that airs on NDTV Goodtimes. These guys are more of foodies than chefs and probably have the best career than anyone on the planet! Who would not want to travel the length and breadth of the country, trying the best of street food and local cuisines, while having fun being just goof balls! I do not think there is any show in the world where the hosts are sloshed in a local toddy shop or are wearing cheap sandals and having dinner with a royal family! I really envy them.
You may ask why a Madhur Jaffery or a Sanjeev Kapoor or a Tarla Dalal did not make my list. I am not sure, I guess may be because they are more mainstream for me. Other Chefs I liked are Vicky Ratnani and Keith Floyd.
So, those were the 5 people (I considered Rocky and Mayur as one, LOL). Share with me who inspired you or a story or two that you can tell.