Everything served to perfection: a sizzling hot meal, garnished neatly, and the colourful plate sitting pretty before your eyes. This might seem far-fetched, but it is the reality for some Guwahati residents.
As a largely cultural city, there have been several food experiments leading to trendy and amazing recipes. The city has also seen a good number of home chefs doing great business and earning a reputation for their culinary skills.
One such home-chef is Kashmiri Barkakati Nath, best known for her expertise in traditional Assamese cuisine and baking. Her food has been the talk of the town not just because of the delicious flavours but also for the stunning plating and presentation. Not many chefs present Assamese cuisine in such creative ways as Nath.
Her expertise and creativity have also taken Nath into the ranks of five-star hotels and premium restaurants across India, inviting her to curate their menus.
Recently, Nath began her entrepreneurial journey with KN Orders, which home delivers fresh baked cakes and savories. She has also co-founded KATA Foods, considered Northeast India’s first ready-to-cook (fresh pre-marinated) chicken at affordable prices.
Nath began her journey early on in life, attributing her passion for the culinary arts to her love for food. She recounts some of her earliest memories as being the start of a journey she has truly relished.
“I have memories of my mother baking cakes in a make-do oven, with hot sand, until she got herself a round oven. I remember how she and our cook would meticulously work to create the most amazing cakes post-lunch. I would keep licking the batter and then the wait would be the sweetest wait ever. I would be in raptures of excitement and happiness.”
Although self-taught, Nath is definitely top-tier, with several distinguished honors affirming this. Notably, she is the recipient of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 women entrepreneurial program at ISB Hyderabad.
Of the numerous reasons she loves cooking and baking, Nath talks about a few. “I find a lot of joy in baking. I bake to cheer myself up; it’s a therapeutic and calming activity. Measuring the ingredients, mixing and stirring them, and then waiting for the final dish is very meditative. Baking is all about measurement and detail, and it requires your full attention and love.”
There are many specific ingredients Nath prefers to work with, but one she can hardly do without. Call it magic if you want. For this chef, you’ll hardly find her kitchen without this item.
“Kaji Nemu (Assam lemon) definitely! It is my go-to ingredient, a squeeze of lime adds zing to both savoury and sweet dishes and the zest has its wonderful citrusy aroma that works brilliantly in most dishes. I add it in both my Indian and European dishes.”
Nath’s journey to becoming one of the top homechefs in India has had its positive and negative sides. Through it all, she has never lost her focus and inspiration. Creating a recipe for her is an art and a science. But even much more, it’s about culture. “I’m all about flavours and using local ingredients. I’m obsessed with the simplicity of our traditional Northeaster cuisine, with the flavours and how we treat the ingredients and the cooking techniques. While I don’t tamper the flavours, I definitely try to make it visually appealing. Cooking is an art and the chef is an artist, and each one of us treats our canvas in our own unique way,” she says.
As her culinary skills grew, so did her fame and entrepreneurial mindset. She began two ventures KN Orders and KATA Food. “KN Orders came into being during the lockdown, I received a lot of requests from people staying outside of Guwahati wanting to send across food to their loved ones, at times as a celebration and at other times just as acts of love. When my patrons order food they are sure of the hygiene and the quality and I know a lot of people were wary of ordering food from restaurants. Besides, we do cakes with real ingredients – no premixes, no whipped cream, and with minimal frosting. At KN Orders, we emphasize more on flavours and taste. Our handpies are a hit with our patrons. We also do catering now and it gives us immense joy to be able to bring happiness to people.”
“Similarly, KATA Food happened because of COVID-19. We realised that most of the chicken that is available in the city is sold under very unhygienic conditions. Not everyone either has the time or the inclination to cooking yet everyone craves delicious food without having to pay a premium price or call for food from outside. That’s why we decided to develop a few recipes, do numerous trials and tasting sessions, and create a product. What started out as a simple idea and discussion during the beginning of the lockdown turned into reality by September. At the moment, our product range has five flavours: Teriyaki Chicken Wings, BBQ Smoked Drumsticks, Creamy Afghani Murg, Awadhi Chicken Korma, and Chicken Tikka Masala. Our products contain no preservatives, no added colour, or any additives. They are exactly how one would cook at home except that all the work is done for you and at an affordable price,” she adds with a relieving smile.
Sharing some of the most memorable moments from her career so far, Nath said, “In my journey as a chef hosting festivals all over the country, I have had so many joyous moments, taking our Axomiya (Assamese) cuisine to different cities. During our festival at Pune Hyatt Regency on the last day, there was a large table of 25 guests and we served them our cuisine in a sit-down, course wise meal. It was challenging, exhilarating, and exhausting, and we worked in a manner that nothing was a miss. At the end of the meal, I was called in and to my surprise, all the guests stood up and started clapping because they were blown away by the food! Our humble Khar, Tenga and Haanh Kumura, Maas, and Kukura Anja are some of the best-kept dishes in the culinary world.”
There are a lot of things in store in the future for this talented home-chef that her loyal customers can continue to look forward to. For one, she is already developing new products to add to their range and her team is also working to ensure all their products are getting vacuum sealed which will increase the shelf life. For her, this is one way to give only the best and most amazing products to her customers.
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