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Friday, March 7, 2014

Interview with Celebrity Chef Rakhee Vaswani

It is easy to locate the studio at the back of Survodaya society at Santacruz, Mumbai. Large garage is artistically transformed in state-of-art studio. Green and red entrance stirs the positive moods immediately. The studio is tastefully done with food quotes screaming on cabinets, hand-painted crockery winking on walls and freshly baked goodies boasting on the shelves, all under shiny brilliant spotlights. An open kitchen at the center of the room is the setting for workshops on different cuisines.

Four children and their mothers are listening attentively to Rakhee Vaswani’s tips on selecting the right quality of chocolate required for making an icing on the cup cakes. Women study the labels of the ingredients; inquire about its availability, while children wait impatiently for instructions go on to the next step of the session. They shrill with excitement at having successfully baked the cupcakes and wait anxiously for the cakes to cool.

Everyday there are new workshops at the ‘Palate Culinary Studio’ and everyday there is a new batch of students. During busy season, there are 3-4 sessions per day. Most of the sessions are one-day workshops although there are one-week crash courses on baking too. Specialized team of chef work round the clock to organize and conduct classes on different cuisines.

“First it was just me, managing the classes alone, but I would go crazy with so many workshops, now I have a team of professional chef, specialized in certain cuisine, who come to teach.” says Rakhee.

Rakhee Vaswani is the master chef behind this state-of-art culinary studio. During her frequent trips abroad, she has been a keen observer of international cuisine. Her passion for food takes her to different cities to study the various cuisines and culture; she interacts with chef to exchange ideas, and upgrades her knowledge about latest trends.

The beginning:

It all started with humble beginning. At the age of eleven, when her cousins played with dolls and other toys, she sneaked into the kitchen to watch her mom and aunts prepare meals. She offered to help and her interest deepened with age. Taking a formal culinary course was not considered because family believed that future lies in getting married and setting up a home, working after marriage was not the option one would take.

After I got married (ours is the love marriage) my husband understood my passion for cooking and he encouraged me to cook. He loves me and loves to eat out.  During our frequent trips abroad, he would encourage me to learn different cuisine and culture, this made me more adventurous to try out new recipes, so in a way you could say I am self-taught. He encouraged me to share my knowledge and thus I started cooking classes with my friend at home.”

The classes gain Momentum:

“When I entered this industry, I started with new concept. I broke the norm of long-term regular classes to just one-day-workshops, mainly the dishes that we go out to eat. Initially it was just once a week, the frequency increased to four times weekly. We were getting popular. We didn’t do the usual Mughal or Chinese cooking stuff, we did all the fancy stuff that you normally find at restaurants, but all from a scratch.”


“I worked for few years then took a break because I was raising small kids. My husband and my children encouraged me to start again, so I was back after a gap of seven years to restart my passion for cooking. I did a short term baking course at Sophia College, Mumbai, Le Cordon Bleu Certificate course and Tante Marie in London, and my pme masters in sugarcraft. With just two students, I started a set of 10 one-day workshops in 2009. For three years, we worked from a small garage. Workshops were popular but the place was getting crowded, there was need to expand.”

To the present:

The Plate Culinary Studio was launched in January 2013. There are 100 different workshops conducted at the studio; most of them are one-day workshops, attended by locals and NRI’s, who wish to set up culinary kitchen in their own home ground. They include all the basic and master class techniques like the knowledge of ingredients, the plating and even how to use the different electronic kitchen appliance.

I want to teach in such a way that they are able to replicate the dish at home. I literally give the history and geography of the ingredients, where to get them and how to use them. There are no secrets. I believe that students must know everything. The more we share, the more we learn. We put everything in front of the students so that’s my USP. I don’t want students to say that they don’t know what ingredients I was using. Combination of every knowledge is what ‘Palate Culinary Studio’ is all about.”

Sense of satisfaction:

Being a Virgo, I am hard working and perfectionist. I cannot compromise even on one percent; my work has to be 100 percent efficient. I have been successful in meeting the expectations of my students and I do feel proud when they send me notes of gratitude thanking me for the knowledge I have shared with them. As a chef I love cooking, I need someone to appreciate it, I cannot taste all my recipes and when I get positive feedback from my students and my family, I am convinced that I am running a successful kitchen.


“Opening my ‘Palate Culinary Studio’ has been one of biggest achievements. I also do consultancy with restaurants and help them organize menu, setting up the kitchen, appointing the staff, etc.”

Advice to a budding chef:

“Be passionate about your cooking and cook with your heart. Love is what makes food tasty.”

Favorite Cuisine:

“I love Asian cooking, I can churn out flavored curries, stir fries, Mongolian, I love wok style cooking. Also I like baking. The smell that emerges from hot ovens is amazing.”

Getting there:

View the Facebook page here,
follow them on Twitter @PalateCulinary

By Pushpa Moorjani
View the facebook page here,
follow her on twitter at @pushpz.

Recipe of Paneer in Black Bean Sauce


Paneer 250gms
Soya sauce 1tbsp
Shaosing wine 2tbsp
Rice vinegar 2tsp
Oyster suace 2-3tbsp
ginger minced 1tbsp
garlic minced 2tbsp
pepper(d9ced) 1/2 each
spring onions minced 3
Black bean sauce (made earlier)2-3tbsp(as required for taste)
veg stock 1/2cup
corn flour paste 2tbsp


Fry Paneer and keep it side
Mix all the sauces in a bowl (rice vinegar, soya sauce, oyster sauce and shoaling wine)
heat the wok add oil, fry ginger and garlic
add spring onions, black bean sauce and peppers
add fried Paneer and stir fry on high flame
add the stock and simmer for 5minutes
add corn flour paste and make sauce of desirable consistency.


for dry appetizers black bean Paneer, add less stock and continue cooking the same way.
you can substitute paneer with tofu, vegetables or chicken

Black Bean Sauce


Black beans 2tbsp
crushed garlic 2 cloves
sugar 2tsp
water/stock 1/4cup
oil 3-4tsp
water/stock 1/4cup
soya sauce 1tbsp
chili paste 1tsp


soak the beans for 1 hour in water. strain the beans
in a wok, add oil, fry garlic and chili paste
add beans and stock and cook
stir in corn flour paste and stir it well remove from heat and use.

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