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Once in a while there comes along a moment in your life when you feel good about doing what you are doing, and send out a silent thank you upwards. And this year, I have had not one, not two, but three such blessed moments.

One was when world-renowned Chef Atul Kochhar ensured that my little sis Simi (not so little, considering she’s a Professor of Dance in London’s prestigious Royal Holloway College!) had a wish-fulfilling birthday dinner at his famous London restaurant Benares, with a plethora of off-the-menu dishes AND a personally autographed cookbook gifted to her as her special surprise birthday experience. Wow!

The second was spending an exciting afternoon with Aussie cricketing great, Adam Gilchrist, at Saransh Goila‘s Butter Chicken event, and getting ‘Gilly’ to shoot a personal video message with me, dedicated and addressed to his biggest fan… my Papa  🙂

And the third was last week at the charming Flavour Diaries Cook Studio, where 7 chefs of the city came together to put up a grand dinner of 7 different courses, all to create awareness and raise money for one very good cause.

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The Chefs who pitched in with their time, effort, energy and skills… Tejal Choksi from The Cantonese Kitchen, Sahil Singh from Pa Pa Ya, Shilarna Vaze from Gaia Gourmet, Rishim Sachdeva from Olive Bar & Kitchen, Gresham Fernandes from Salt Water And Smokehouse Deli, Kshama Prabhu from Bar Stock Exchange and Anjali Pathak from Flavour Diaries with Nachiket Shetye and the Chefs’ teams. 

This 5th edition in the Food With Benefits series, a brainchild of Cellar Door Hospitality, presented some spectacular looking and tasting Asian-inspired contemporary dishes. But perhaps more important than the food was how it brought about a convergence of three different ideas so beautifully – One, of encouraging some of the most creative and dynamic chefs of the city to fire up their imaginations and push their boundaries of creativity. Two, of giving the food connoisseurs of the city an exclusive taste of some of the best dishes the country has seen. And three, of giving generously back to the community, with all proceeds from the dinner going towards a vetted charity organisation.

It felt truly special to be a part of this exclusive and exquisite dinner on all these counts.

Because it isn’t everyday that you get to see an open kitchen full of talented chefs  prepping, tasting and collaborating with each other, chatting and sharing their craft with us all, while putting up some artistic plates of delicious food.

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Because it’s not everyday that you get to taste such stunning dishes as spicy Buff Tendons and Marrow with Chrysanthemum Tea Gel, delicate Tofu and Scallop Carpaccio, aromatic Duck Broth, bold BBQ Pork Belly, juicy Beef Cheeks, smoky Chicken in terracotta pots with rich Ceylon Parotta, and delightful Cardamom Pannacotta with Brandy Snaps… all in ONE humongous meal!

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And because it’s not everyday that you get to see the passion, devotion and quiet self-assurance of members of Kranti, a charity organisation that works with daughters of sex workers, survivors of trafficking, or girls born and raised in Kamathipura, Asia’s most infamous red-light area, and feel galvanised into doing more, giving more, not just because it’s a good cause, but because you want to!

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Yes, I feel blessed to connect to the universe through food. But someone said ‘It’s good to be blessed, but it’s better to be a blessing’. And moments like these remind you that food can make that happen.

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