Delicious Switch: Ruchira Hoon
You have worked as a journalist for many years before donning the chef’s apron. How and when did you decide to switch your pen with a spatula?
I’ve always wanted to cook and feed people. I actually wanted to go to culinary school, but instead ended up studying English in graduation, and Mass Communication in post-graduation. Starting out as a journalist was an obvious step. But the passion to cook and create something never left me.
Between food journalism, pop-ups and lots of delicious cookbooks—I decided to take the plunge at the ripe age of 35. It was a tough call, but extremely rewarding that I can’t think of anything else to do now.
You have been cooking ever since you were a child. What got you curious about the culinary world at such a young age?
I was a latchkey kid, so I had all the time to myself till my mom came home. Between browsing through my mom’s recipe books and watching cookery shows, there was plenty of inspiration around. Also, it really helped that both my grandmothers were amazing cooks. Regional food was incredible in my house—the South Indian part of the family ensured that I was exposed to the traditional cuisine, while my Punjabi family ate home-cooked Punjabi food along with various global cuisines.
Who do you believe to be your biggest inspiration when it comes to cooking?
I’ve had different people who have piqued my interest in cooking at various stages of my life. My father’s ham and cheese sandwiches with homemade mayonnaise is as inspiring as is my naani’s rasam. I don’t think I could be the efficient cook that I am today without watching Nigella Lawson’s simple recipes on television. So all the cookbooks I’ve read, all the episodes of Masterchef Australia I’ve ever watched—everything played some role in inspiring me.
How do you keep the Indian-ness alive in your food while also being innovative?
Indian ingredients lend themselves beautifully to so many techniques and ideas that it’s not hard to be innovative. I haven’t even explored half the amazing ingredients that this country has to offer. I think the zeal to use something new, combined with all what I have learnt over the years is what adds the “Indian-ness” to what I cook.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement as a chef so far?
I think happy customers and knowing that people like what you have put out for them is perhaps one of the best things a chef could ask for. It also truly humbles me that a self-taught cook like me is being taken as seriously as any other chef.
Your Instagram feed is heaven for all the dessert lovers. What is your favourite dessert to bake?
Baking will always be my first love and my Instagram feed is a reflection of that love. I also love sharing recipes because I feel that everyone should get to try the goodness that they are looking at. One of my favourite things to bake is a simple chocolate cake, and the many versions of it that can be made. Making up brand new recipes for the perfect chocolate cake is always a blessing.
We have heard that you maintain a ‘zero wastage’ policy while working in the kitchen. How do you ensure minimum wastage in your workplace?
I do try to maintain a ‘zero waste’ kitchen, although I am still getting there. Educating those who work with me has been my number one priority, and its such a joy to see all the things that we learn from each other. I’ve also been trying to experiment with how the kitchen and the bar can be co-dependent, and reduce overall wastage to run a smoother operation. Practices such as segregation, using the ‘root to shoot’ philosophy in your cooking as well as doing small-batch productions are some of the best practices.