With everyone rushing to the kitchen during the lockdown and turning into master chefs, we decided to try our hands at cooking too, but with a conscious element plastered all over. Here is what happened when we attended the Minimalistic and Sustainable Cooking by Airbnb Online Experiences. By Bayar Jain
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To be honest, I am not the greatest chef; not even close to being an amateur one. Watching friends share gourmet delicacies all over social media during the lockdown feels like a taunt, to say the least. And, being invited to a live online cooking class? Even worse! With the hopes of shedding away my embarrassment, I agree to be a part of it. The words ‘one-pot’ meal and ‘minimalist’ in the online class’ description lure me.
Airbnb’s Online Experience, the Minimalistic and Sustainable Cooking—a virtual cook-along conducted by Chef Sandeep Sreedharan, is all about learning how to make simple yet wholesome meals for the family. Paired with this is a focus on zero wastage—a concept more relevant now than ever before. With a fairly simple procedure to sign up (search for the class on Airbnb’s experiences section on the website or app), I’m booked for the session without any issues. Prior to the class, a Zoom link, an idea of the dish being taught, and a list of ingredients land up in my inbox.
The D-day arrives, and I’m ready with my notepad and pen, eager to jot down notes. A cook-along, as it turns out, would have to wait for another day as ingredients—despite being fairly common—aren’t available at my house.
At the other end of the screen, a smiling face greets me. Donning a black shirt, the speckled chef Sandeep Sreedharan is all ready to begin. I see him standing by his countertop, with pots and pans in place, and two cameras: one, facing the chef; and the other, offering a close up of the food. A brief introduction follows suit.
“Today, we’ll be cooking a Kerala stew with rice,” he says. As he chops up the vegetables, with finesse and precision, he reveals his love for cooking sustainably—a practice he follows in Mahe in Goa and Curry Tales in Mumbai, his two restaurants. Today, I see it in action. Each edible part of the cauliflower is used in the stew, while the other goes into forming compost. The three of us—chef, a fellow classmate for the day, and I— chat throughout the cook. Short bursts of culinary quizzes, tips and tricks of the trade, and following a super easy recipe take up almost the entirety of the half-hour session. Along the way, chef addresses everyday questions such as identifying the best kind of rice, getting the proportions right, or even increasing the shelf life of dishes. That aside, he also gives an insight into the more professional tricks (such as heat-shocking, an energy-efficient way of cooking) used in commercial kitchens.
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Why Kerala stew then, I ask as we near the end. “I don’t intend on teaching you the recipe. Instead, I intend on explaining the ways and methods of cooking more sustainably and smartly. When you learn how to do that, the dish doesn’t matter,” he explains.
Despite sitting on a chair miles apart, the feeling of being in his kitchen doesn’t diminish in any way. A screen seems like the only dividing factor, his lessons and the whole experience continues to feel as real as it can be. Thanks to Chef Sandeep Sreedharan, a saying by a particularly famous rat suddenly feels relatable: “Anyone can cook!”