“Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat.” – Guy Fieri.
Cooking is a universal language as is the desire to cook up a perfect meal! Some people couldn’t care less and some people go to lengths just to achieve a level of competency that is out of this world. Welcome to the world of cooking, and to a world where people dare to dream big and achieve their goals.
As it has been said by someone, “My love for food is infinite, my passion for cooking is my happiness”
These words could describe a woman extraordinaire, chef extraordinaire, an inspiration for the masses.
We here at TUB are proud the present to you Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji!!
Her Mantra Is “Food is our language, our religion and kudos to all of us for speaking the language of Love called “Food”.
These are the words of Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji Chef, Culinary Expert, Mentor, Food Blogger & Author, Hospitality and Food Consultant!!
A woman, passionate, mincing no words in setting her out her views and future goals in plain terms!
Talk of achievements, talk of accolades, talk of surpassing milestones!!
A story to inspire you to do your best, we will not take up much of yourtime, here we go!!
Hold on to your seats, this is a rollicking flight into the world of hard work,determination, and the coming true of dreams!!
All in hard hitting plain speak!!
#TUB: Tell us in brief, about your journey so far?
Behind every successful woman there is another woman. All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother in Heaven. I have risen like a phoenix from the ashes.Immense faith in God, dedication, passion, and hard work towards the goal helped me rise like a phoenix from ashes.Road to success is not always like a walk on a cake.I have grown up seeing my mother, cook delectable cuisines for the entire family. I guess that I have got it through my genes. Also, as a child, I knew I wanted to be a chef.
Also, my role model Chef Satish Arora ji, a chef extraordinaire has always been a constant source of inspiration for me.
I was born in a Punjabi family where my parents were broad minded but I had to face a lot of opposition from the relatives who thought that Hotel management was not a career for the women. So much was the pressure that I had to continue with my F.Y.B-Com, I successfully completed it, but thought what was I doing with my life. I decided to just sit back at home and told my parents that if I don’t pursue Hotel Mgt. to become a chef then I am not continuing with my studies anymore. Admissions to the S.Y.B-Com were about to close, my parents thought I was joking but soon they realized that I am really doing it. ‘Allthat I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.’
My mother that day decided to take me and get me into one of the finest Institutes ofHotel Mgt.She paid my entire fees from her savings and got me an admission to dream world i.e. D.Y.Patil Institute of Hotel Mgt. and Catering Technology, Navi Mumbai.I knew what she did for me can never be repaid, but least I can do is make her proud.
I was always a topper in Academics. I received appreciation from all. I made sure to make her proud by receiving the Certificate of Merit and constant dedication and hard work in academics – I received the Prestigious Medal and Certificate of Merit in 1995 from His ExcellencyHonourable Dada Saheb Dr.D.Y. Patil, Former Governor of Bihar and West Bengal and the President of Dr. D.Y.Patil University,Dr. Vijay D. Patil.
#TUB : What does food mean to you?
I believe that food is like oxygen to me. Food for me is God. As my profession demands cooking and tasting non-vegetarian foods & in spite of being apure vegetarian, I perform my duties religiously as I understand the cause behind it is holy and noble. I profoundly believe that food whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian, if cooked with utmost love and positivity touches the heart of a person relishing it. I am privileged to be a Chef and a Mentor.
#TUB : What is your biggest achievement till date?
If I have to say what my biggest achievements are, they would be shaping the careers and motivating thousands of students. I amindeed blessed to see my students excel in their careers and holding immense respect, gratitude and love for me. I believe that the food that I cook / prepare should not only touch the hearts but also the souls of the people relishing it.Never Give Up is what I learnt from my Mother.I recently lost my beloved mother in November 2016, I thought of quitting my work. My father Mr. M.S. Arora, and my husband Uday Kugaji literally had to make me understand that I had to get back to my work for the sake of the students.
#TUB: What are you currently doing?
I am presently working as a Hospitality and Food Consultant, Speciality Chef and Food Author at Platter Share.
I am the Chef Consultant and Culinary Expert at “FITMAG”
I run a Facebook page “Food for Thought by Chef Mrs Reetu UdayKugaji”.
I also have a Facebook group “Knowledge is Wisdom” wherein my students and I share a lot of Current / Latest trends in Hospitality, Food, Food Styling, Food Plating and Food Photography.
I am a member of Western India Culinary Association (WICA) and a proud member of Indian Women in Hospitality (IWH).
Also, I am into writing articles related to culinary and hospitality, recipes both Desi that’s Indian & Videshi that’s International onlineand offline publications.
In the past, I have worked as a Program Head- Culinary Arts, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh at the ITM Institute of Hotel Management, Nerul, Navi Mumbai.
I have also worked as an Associate Professor-Food Production at D. Y. Patil University, School of Hospitality and Tourism Studies, Navi Mumbai.
#TUB : What is that excites you about being a chef and mentor?
I have never had a dull moment in my kitchen, in my workplace. I learn from everyone I meet could be my students, colleagues, friends, relativesand also unknown people. Drop the negatives and pick up the positives. I have had the rare opportunity to meet and interact with people from all walks and corners of life. We work when others play. I am loving every bit of my journey. I will not fail to mention that I am madly in love with what I am and what I do.
“A Chef, Culinary Expert and a Very Proud Mentor”
I hold a title that many people hold as a dream.
#TUB : A person right from his or her childhood has a dream. A dream to be a Doctor or an engineer. So, how and when didyou actually realize/ decide that you should be a chef ?
Becoming a chef was, is and always be in my genes. I belong to a broadminded Punjabi family, but opinions of relatives mattered too. I remember when almost all my relatives were strictly against my joining Hotel Management, the people who stood like a pillar were my parents. The myth those days was that, this profession is just not apt for girls.
I owe all my success to my mother, Mrs. Manjit Arora and my father, Mr. M.S. Arora, who supported me right from day 1. I made sure to make them proud by receiving the Certificate of Merit, thus kick-starting my journey into the world of Culinary. I received the certificate of merit and medal for dedication in academics from Dadasaheb that is Honourable Dr. D.Y Patil Sir, former Governor of Tripura and West Bengal and Honourable President, Dr. Vijay D. Patil, the man behind the absolutely fantastic Stadium –D.Y. Patil Stadium at Navi Mumbai.
As a kid I have grown up seeing my mother Mrs. Manjit Arora cook the most delectable cuisines for the entire family. That gave the first idea in my mind that, yes food is such an interesting and enormous art. I guess that I have got it through my genes.
#TUB : Why did you decide to specialize in food?
Food brings all cultures and religions together. I believe food is an enormous art. There is so much to learn, explore and innovate. As a kid Ihave seen my mother preparing the most delectable cuisines for the entire family. She would do the entire cooking by putting her heart and soul. I was so inspired by the thought of it that food does bring a lot of happiness and smiles. The pairing of flavours, colours and ingredients isso fantastic. It’s difficult to express in words but yes, I wanted to do something that could bring smiles on the faces of people and also do something wherein I could share my knowledge and at the same time gain knowledge from others.
“FOOD I call it as OODLES of happiness.”
Lots to learn, various cuisines, their cultures, traditions, authentic flavours, special ingredients and traditional methods of cooking them. There is only one thing that touches your Soul and that is FOOD!
#TUB : What are the challenges you faced on the way?
Times have changed women have equal opportunities. Here what is considered is talent and not gender. We rock big time. If you are capable and have the calibre you are meant to stand out in the rest.Other challenges that I faced were:
The major challenge is that that our work is both very demanding and requires constant change in this world of culinary. I have learnt a lot from every one I came in contact with. For me, it is very essential to keep learning and experimenting with food. Accepting the change and moving forward with it and of course never let your passion for curating food dishes die.
The only Constant in Life is CHANGE.The best of ideas of creative cooking that pop up in my brains is in my favourite place MY KITCHEN IS MY KINGDOM.Kitchen is my KINGDOM- A stress free Zone. I ardently believe in this quote”In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.
“My Mantra: The only ingredient required for cooking is “Passion”.
#TUB : Who is your inspiration?
My mother Late Mrs. Manjit Arora is my inspiration and I knew that her fantastic cooking inspired me and her experimentation in food dishes always surprised me. As a child I knew I wanted to be a chef. I would also like to thank my role model Chef Satish Aroraji, a chef extraordinaire who has always been a constant source of inspiration for me. He has made our nation proud – a big obeisance to him.
#TUB : What aspect of your passion do you find most creative, most satisfying?
The most creative and satisfying aspect is when I am with my kids (my students / budding chefs of tomorrow) in the kitchen and a brainstorming session is going on. Where I ask them to make desserts / dishes from the ingredients that they might have never thought of.
The Noble profession that I am in itself inspires me to give my best tothe budding chefs of tomorrow. I feel that I am indeed privileged andblessed to mentor so many students and the brightness of their success in their eyes and also of their parents, keeps inspiring me.I will not fail to mention that I am madly in love with what I am and what I do.
#TUB : What kind of experimentation do you do with food?
To be frank, I love the traditional cuisine of India, especially the lost recipes. I dare not touch them. I am pretty careful when it comes to experimenting with food as I would not like to touch the authentic flavours and methods of cooking food. But yes, if I want to create something new I will ensure that I develop a recipe that has its roots connected with our very interesting, enriching and vast Indian Cuisine.
#TUB: What were the contributions of your family in making your dream into reality?
I owe all my success to God almighty, my Angel mother Mrs. Manjit Arora, my father Mr. M. S. Arora, Uday B. Kugaji, my husband my biggest support who encourages me to never give up and all my students (My kids) who have been a great inspiration in my life to give my best atall times
#TUB: What will be your answer today to those who didn’t believe that you would be successful and make your mark in this world as a chef.
I am an extremely emotional person, I have seen lot of insecure people in my life, who have positions/ designations but lack in knowledge, did not allow my work to be in the picture at all.My strong and immense faith in God has made me more confident person.
This is a humble bow down to all my critics and fake friends, if you wouldn’t have pulled me down I wouldn’t have risen like a phoenix from the ashes. I believe in Karma, I still continue to be humble with all because we all are human and we cannot compare ourselves to be God. I still trust people, I still believe in humanity and this world is not a bad place to live in.
We have very good people also, who believe in sharing, being happy for you when you are happy and being sad in your sadness. Each one has taught me something including people who wanted me to fall on my face. Thank you to all for being a part of my life as a blessing or as a lesson. I have ZERO regrets, I picked up the positives and dropped all the negatives from my life
#TUB: What is your favourite recipe?
Nothing can beat Maa Ke Haath Ka Khana, my favourite recipe is Punjabi Pakorewali Kadhi prepared by my mother. She used a special ingredient in her recipes and dishes called love. Nothing can come closer to the food that was cooked by my mother.
#TUB: What is that special ingredient that you always use in your recipes?
Love and Passion are two ingredients that can make your food soul-warming. But if you are asking me literally then I would say I use a lot of edible flowers and fresh herbs in my cooking.
#TUB: Any problem that you have faced in fulfilling your dreams.
The problem that I have always faced is INSECURE PEOPLE. That’s it. Other problems are just too small! Insecurity comes from within and there is no cure for it.
Or should I say the only cure for insecure people is that I Rise High Very High and Touch the Blue Sky.
#TUB: Any accomplishments that you are most proud of till now.
I have prepared the most memorable and delectable cuisines for the Former Hon. President of India Her Excellency Smt. Pratibha Tapetal, ‘The God of Cricket’ Mr. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, ‘The Great Wall of Indian Cricket’ Mr. Rahul Dravid and various other dignitaries and eminent personalities.
My accomplishments are to see and witness my students grow in their careers and to be well renowned is a pat on my back, I feel extremely proud of that. As a mentor to them, I ensure that this quality of being extremely humble and be proud of your roots is inculcated in my students, as I want them to be good humble humans first and then chefs.
The Noble profession that I am in itself inspires me to give my best to the budding chefs of tomorrow. I feel that I am indeed privileged and blessed to mentor so many students and the brightness of their success in their eyes and also of their parents, keeps inspiring me.
#TUB: What are the awards you have won, and where have you been featured?
I am the Winner in the Top 50 WeAreTheCity India’s Rising Stars 2017 -Hospitality.
Featured / Published on the Cover Page and Interview published inChef’s Platter Magazine.
Featured on the COVER PAGE of Food Service Magazine India – September October 2017.
My Interview has also been published in the magazine.
Being featured as “A mentor with a Golden Heart” in the “BetterKitchen” Magazine by Ms. Ekta Bhargava, Managing Editor.
Woman at work was a campaign initiated by Ms. PoornimaBatish, the Founder and Editor-in-chief of the magazine “WOMAN AT WORK” where the exceptional work of women was appreciated and recognized. There were nominations and voting for the same. With the grace of God, I was voted the most as one of the winners of that campaign.
Read it here:-
#TUB: What are your future plans for yourself?
I strongly believe in “Real Chefs share and teach”. As Chefs we owe to the generations coming in to bring back the Lost Recipes of India. I am currently working on it and am proud to say that I had introduced this in the module- Culinary Concept Development and Production in the Queen Margaret University while I was working as a Program-Head Culinary Arts at the ITMIHM, Navi Mumbai.
A small initiative by me to incorporate Lost recipes of India in the modules and curriculum in my past work. One where my students had researched and prepared Zameen Doz and Kantee Gali Machli and had enjoyed preparing and serving these dishes to the external examiner Sr.Sous Chef Altamsh Patel of Taj SATS Air Catering Limited, Mumbai and other eminent examiners and had scored fantastic grades.
Learning is an everlasting process, I learn from everyone be it my students, every person I know or don’t even know for that matter. Pick up the positives and drop the negatives. Also, don’t forget that upgrading oneself must be constant; be it skills, training, technology or recent trends in culinary and hospitality.
#TUB: Any words of advice for budding foodies?
Never Give Up.
You are here for a purpose. I believe we are the blessed and chosen ones. Make a positive difference. Be humble and kind. Follow your dreams and you will achieve your goal. Besides being humble, be proud of your roots. Extreme faith in God almighty, Passion, Creativity and lots of Patience is the Mantra to be a great Chef.
Dedication, commitment, and destiny will take you a long way. Last but not the least respect for all the Chefs, Food Bloggers, HomeChefs, Budding Chefs and all related to the Food & Hospitality Industry, who work so hard to bring a smile on the faces of people, even when they are in the toughest times in their professional and personal lives.
Wow, that was a roller coaster of a ride, are you inspired? All fired up to go achieve your dreams?
There is no better example than Chef Reetu Kugaji to guide you on your way.
Hope you enjoyed reading her interview! Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Here are the other places you can find her!
We, here at TUB are always on the lookout for creativity that astounds, is different, is out of the box, is like us, uncommon!!
Share with us your works in any genre, medium of art, be it photography, paintings, poetry, sculptures, calligraphy, animation, anything!!
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