Hi, I am Sanjay. Read my story below to find out how I got interested in cooking and photography. My profession is in the computer industry where I work as a program manager. I am glad that I got into this as not only does it help me develop my hobby but also share it with the world. I truly enjoy experimenting with various dishes and creating new ones. I am originally from India and have been living in the U.S. with my wife and daughter for 20 years. Currently, I live in Seattle, in the state of Washington.

Sanjay

Befriending a foodie…

While attending college in Hawaii I lived with a bunch of guys and we took turns cooking. I hated cooking. The food came out tasting so bad that even some of my friends who were not picky, would not touch it! My interest in cooking developed when I moved to Minnesota and befriended Paul. He was into French cooking, had the passion of cooking and eating gourmet food. He was in essence a foodie. He had amazing knowledge of the food he cooked and elevated food on a high pedestal. I was intrigued by the French cooking techniques and its influence on American cooking and wanted to learn more. Paul wanted to learn about Indian food – spices, masalas (mixture of certain spices), curries and he was intrigued by my stories about the food and culture of India. So we decided to teach each other what we knew and experiment with fusion cooking – French, American and Indian cooking techniques and ingredients. It was interesting how different these two cuisines were. Since we used to work for the same company, we decided that we would make a few dishes during company potlucks and see what people thought of our dishes. They loved it and they would look forward to more dishes during the subsequent company gatherings. One day Paul decided to make curry by himself. When I saw the curry, it did not look like curry since he had filtered out all the herbs and spices after cooking it. (Tip: When you cook curry, you are supposed to leave the whole red chilies, tomatoes, curry leaves in the curry and not take it out). So even though it was tasty, it did not exactly taste or look like the traditional curry. He said, let’s call it the “white boy curry”. So basically he applied French technique in making Indian curry! Talk about fusion!

Cooking classes

Before I knew it, I was taking cooking classes – Basics of cooking, pizza making, Japanese cooking and numerous other interesting classes. I always take cooking classes where I can participate by making the various dishes. They are more fun and you learn a lot instead of passively watching the chef. Every time I take a class, no matter which class or cuisine, I learn new techniques from them and apply them to my cooking. It is fascinating how different cuisines use the same ingredient in so many different ways. One rule I have developed over time (I have taught that to my daughter too) is to try everything at least once. Another rule is even if you hate a particular ingredient, try it in a different cuisine and you will notice a big change in how it tastes due to the different ways the ingredients are cooked. An important thing I have learnt is how to use different kinds of knives to chop different ingredients. So every time I take a cooking class, the other students notice my knife skills (and then I tend to show off by taking the task of chopping vegetables, herbs etc).

Preparing a feast every quarter

When I changed jobs, I teamed up with three of my friends (Lisa, Jill, and Vicky) and decided that we would make an ethnic feast every quarter – Indian, Vietnamese, Indonesian and American dessert. We decided to expose our co-workers to the cuisines of the countries we were from. Initially the group started off small and slowly grew so large that we had to invite people on a first come, first serve basis. We would make the appetizers fresh in the company’s kitchen by bringing our own fryers and the entrees that were prepared the previous night in our homes. Vicky would make amazing desserts and one of my favorites was Flan. The cooking event became so popular that even the folks who had never tried ethnic food loved it due to word of mouth from other coworkers. The CEO and VPs of the company came to try out our food based on recommendations!! We even received an award from the company for spreading diversity and understanding in the company via food.

Appearing in the newspaper!!

One of the coworkers knew a reporter from Star Tribune newspaper in Minnesota and set a date to meet with the reporter. The reporter came with photographer in tow and we had a photo session. That was exciting! We were featured in a full page article under the variety section of the newspaper. I got my 15 minutes of fame when someone at the bus stop noticed me from the newspaper article.

I scanned the article as a image file. Hopefully you can read it. Here is the link:
Article in the Star Tribune newspaper in Minnesota

Since then I have been cooking Indian food from different regions of India. I want people to experience the amazing variety of cuisines. The majority of Indian restaurants in the U.S. have only Northern and Southern Indian cuisine. One of my goals from blogging is to expose people to dishes that you will rarely find in the restaurants. India cuisine consists of a wide range of vegetarian dishes that you will not find in any other cuisine.

How I started a cooking blog

Lots of my friends and coworkers who know me were wondering if I would start a restaurant. I decided to start a cooking blog instead of a restaurant since it is much more fun and I can reach a wide and diverse group of people. Maybe one day when I am ready, I will look into starting a restaurant. My ideas for an Indian restaurant are very different from the Indian restaurants that people are used to. I would change the menu every few weeks and introduce people to the regional foods of the country. The restaurant would be an interactive experience where I can educate the patrons on the dishes they are trying and gently coax them to try different things from the menu. I would not serve the same old food that most restaurants serve. Hopefully one day I can fulfill my dream.

Organic Foods

Another passion I have developed over the years is for organically grown food from local farmers. It tastes so much better, supports the local farmers and the food has not been genetically modified in any way. As I add recipes, I will be adding links to the companies that I buy certain special ingredients from like organic spices, ghee made with grass fed cows and others. I usually research the companies from the organic consumers association that keeps tabs on companies that sell organic food.

I believe a lot of the allergies and intolerance to certain foods in the U.S., is due to the fact that the foods are genetically modified. All kinds of preservatives and chemicals are added to the foods which in turn affects a lot of people. My daughter has many food allergies and this has challenged me to create recipes that do not contain egg, gluten, dairy and soy. I have enjoyed experimenting with different kids of gluten free grains and flours and have posted recipes for pancakes and banana bread.

Photography

This past year I developed an interest in photography. I had to make sure that the photos made the food look appetizing and would entice people to read my blog and try some of the recipes! So I took some photography classes from the local community college and found an excellent teacher. Some of you have asked for the type of camera equipment I use. The list of camera equipment is given below:

Camera
Canon Digital Rebel XSi 12.2 MP Digital SLR Camera (Black Body Only)

Lenses
Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

Flash
Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash for Canon Digital SLR Cameras

Tripod and Ballhead
Manfrotto 190XB 3 Section Aluminum Tripod & Manfrotto 486RC2 Compact Ball Head With RC2 Rapid Connect System & Bonus Monopod

Canon Remote Switch
Canon Remote Switch RS60 E3

Contact Info

If you have any comments/questions, feel free to send me e-mail at skawad@hintofsaffron.com

Hope you enjoy this blog as much as I do and Bon Appetit!


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