Ahead of Tarla Dalal’s death anniversary on November 6, her son Sanjay remembers her rich legacy
Food was an intricate part of Sanjay Dalal’s life. Son of India’s first celebrity chef, cookbook author and television host Tarla Dalal, he holds memories of his mother close to his heart.
“She introduced Mexican, Chinese and Italian food to Indians and transformed non-vegetarian recipes to vegetarian ones; she Indianised exotic dishes, simplified cooking and could rustle up a dish in a jiffy,” he says. Ahead of her seventh death anniversary on November 6, the son says ‘humility’ was his mother’s best quality. He remembers, “Once a woman told my mother she was a ‘big fan of her recipes’. They both chatted and in the end, the woman revealed she was Gursharan Kaur, wife of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was equally down to earth.”
A year after completing an MBA from the US in 1987, Sanjay joined his mother and worked with her till she passed away in 2013. Now he is at the helm of managing the website tarladalal.com, the publication of cookery books, culinary classes and social media accounts.
- Teenager Anya Dalal revealed in a recent ‘Thank You post on reaching 500k followers’ on Tarla Dalal’s Instagram page that she manages the account, which initially had16K followers. Currently studying Commerce, Anya says, “I love social media and since I spend so much time on it, my dad [Sanjay] asked if I wanted to pitch in.” Anya also did an online social media marketing course from Northwestern University on Coursera.
- Anya and her sister Aria try healthy recipes (with support from the website team) and post them. Iced coffee without sugar was the sisters’ first recipe. She enjoys social media interactions but has to face people who take offence when they post recipes that include eggs. “Since my grandmother never used eggs, there is a negative feedback,” she adds.
- Remembering the night before Tarla Dalal passed away, Anya says, “We had dinner and she was cracking jokes, making us laugh. We loved to sit on the swing in her room and watch TV.”
- She was 10 when her grandmother passed away, and is only understanding her legacy now. She recalls going to the Kala Ghoda fair in Mumbai with her grandmother and being surprised at the attention. “I was confused about why people wanted to click pictures with my grandma. Now I understand.”
Tarla, the teacher
Sanjay was inspired by his mother who started her career from scratch. Long before Sanjay joined in, Tarla was a reputed culinary teacher. She transitioned from a ‘housewife who learnt how to cook’ to a passionate, cheerful teacher. What began as a small class with five students in the 1980s in Bombay, burgeoned into a buzzing centre with classes being held for eight months in a year. He says, “She wasn’t fluent in English and that was the beauty of it. She used to give lectures, often to thousands of people, in India and around the world, conduct classes, make them laugh. She created a niche for herself.”
Tarla Dalal set up a team of chefs, nutritionists and a video editor while curating cookery books. Under her supervision, the team standardised recipes. She wrote 170 books covering a range of subjects such as calcium-rich recipes, breakfast ideas, cooking with one teaspoon of oil, cooking with children, desi food and recipes for people with diabetes. The research she began continues even now, says Sanjay, stating that the website now has about 18,000 recipes, in addition to articles on food and a growing glossary of terms in Hindi and English. “What we were doing when mom was alive continues. We shoot and upload videos and information on the website with a focus on healthy recipes,” says Sanjay.
Tarla travelled across India for many years giving lecture-demonstrations. When she stopped conducting cookery classes in 1990, chefs from her team took over.
Sanjay hopes to carry forward her legacy. Virtual classes (four to six in a week) have been held during the lockdown with 10 to 30 participants signing up.
He signs off with a tribute to his mother. “We always do something to mark her birth and death anniversaries. It’s about remembering her contribution and her remarkable life.”