–B Swaminathan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lata Tondon is an Indian Chef from Rewa, Madhya Pradesh had recently bagged the ‘Guinness World Record’ title for the longest cooking marathon in the individual category. She is the first woman to achieve this international title. She has received professional training from Chef Academy of London, where she has honed her culinary skills in different world cuisines. She has worked in well-known restaurants like Bibendum and The Ninth along with Michelin level chefs like Cloud Bosi and Jun Tanaka. She also holds a host of other national and international accolades including India Book of record, Asia Book of record, Indo – China Book of record, Vietnam Book of record, Loas Book of record and Nepal Book of record to name a few. In an exclusive chat with Chef Bharath portal, she speaks on her journey to Guinness, trends amongst India for the Chefs.
What are the key measures you had taken to make sure that nothing goes wrong in the process of 87 hours 45 mins marathon?
We wanted to make sure that the process is flawless and glitch-free, so we did a lot of pre-planning to make sure everything falls into place. For this purpose, we kept a backup of every instrument used in the kitchen, safety measures like fire extinguisher around the kitchen area were kept in mind regarding fire mishaps. Power cuts could have delayed the process hence we kept generator as back up. A backup camera was made available for any technical errors. We also arranged for an on the spot doctor in case of any requirement for medication.
What were the key highlights of the menu you prepared during the entire course of time?
Marathon cooking is all about preparing meals and continuous cooking. Being a chef, my focus was to do my best in terms of putting down the menu, prep time and quantity since it was open for all events. I made sure that every meal was prepared in bulk so that the attendees could enjoy and be a part of the historic event. For example, we included many dishes which could be enjoyed with rice so out of the 8 burners we had, rice was constantly cooked in 3. Every course of the day was planned like light food in breakfast, rice-based dishes during the day and gravy was prepared during the night to cater to limited consumption.
What was the theme/ idea/ campaign behind this marathon?
The theme for this Marathon was named as ‘Sai Prasadam’. This event was open for all and aimed at giving a heartful experience to people who could enjoy great meals here and go home with an unforgettable experience. Another important aspect of the event was to spread awareness about saving the environment and plant trees. So during this Marathon with the help of volunteers supported ‘Cauvery Calling ‘ and donated more than 17 Thousand saplings.
Job of Chefs are becoming challenging and the expectations from Chefs are sky-high. What suggestions you would like to provide for Chefs to maintain perfect mental health and personal life?
It is delightful to see the awareness amongst food lovers when it comes to culinary art but it also means growing pressure on chefs to give their best and make their dishes stand out. Inevitably the pressure inside the kitchen is immense but a simple suggestion from me will be to enjoy the pressure for the passion of cooking. Also, one should include a good health plan like a combination of yoga and meditation practice to keep calm and deal with the stress which can be very overwhelming at times. I think small changes in your lifestyle and mental health can help in balancing out many difficult situations.
One key trend among the emerging generation in the C-Schools is they consider a job at Kitchen a ‘taboo’. How would you like to respond to this?
It is true that the emerging generation thinks that a job inside the kitchen is Taboo because there is very low level of awareness about this profession. No job is easy these days, especially where there is feedback involved. I would like to say that there is pressure everywhere, but one should know that nothing can be earned without determination. If they take cooking as their passion, then it is a flourishing profession to pursue which can promise a bright and successful future if they are ready to accept the challenge.
What are the other plans you have?
It is just the beginning of a new chapter in my professional journey and I pay a lot of attention to research and learning. My work as a food traveler and curator will continue as India is very diverse in its food culture. We have so much legacy in our culinary history which should be widely shared with the rest of the world and that is what I aim to do. Apart from this, I will soon start working on my book which will encapsulate my own experience in cooking. I am also working towards opening my restaurants in India and Abroad
The more holistic idea is to share knowledge and make people aware of good and healthy food and healthy living style adding a health plan in their life by participating as a speaker in events, forums, and public events.