KOCHI: A chef who’s adept at chess has an unseen leverage over regular chefs. Attention to detail, quick decision-making skills and the dynamics of planning helps oneself in the midst of chaos at a kitchen. The ability to think strategically is an added benefit. It is this very bonus that helped Suresh Pillai, executive chef at The Raviz, Kollam, to build a widespread campaign, #CookForKerala that would raise funds for the rehabilitation and rebuilding of the flood-affected areas across the state.
Suresh, who had contributed to the #CookForSyria campaign organised in Europe for millions of children orphaned at war, imbibed inspiration and decided to do the same in Kerala. “I wanted to adopt a similar campaign here as I had seen the success of #CookForSyria in Europe. I received an enormous response to #CookForKerala when I posted on Facebook. A lot of chefs, especially international ones, have come forward and donated to the cause,” he says.
#CookForKerala brings together chefs and homemakers to organise a ‘supper club’ model for their families and friends at home for a specific cost that would be contributed to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF). Suresh, whose culinary journey can be traced all the way back to Kollam, worked at Veeraswamy, London’s oldest Indian restaurant, Gymkhana, Trishna, and Hoppers, London, prior to The Raviz.
The enthusiastic chef wasted no time in gathering chefs across the world into the noble cause. A participant of BBC’s popular show Masterchef, Suresh has also brought Malayali cuisine to students at the culinary department at the Bahamas University during his stint as a guest lecturer.
“Restaurants in London have chipped in by adding an optional £1 to every bill during the month of September. The response abroad is overwhelming. Here, people are slowly getting accustomed to the idea of supper clubs,” Suresh says.Suresh intends to go beyond the skillet and frying pan for the flood-affected state. “I’ve wanted to release a book, #CookForKerala, on an international level. The book would contain the best recipes of 30 chefs across the world. Profit earned from the sale of the book would be donated for the education of the kids who have lost everything in the flood,” continues an excited Suresh.
“DC Books has expressed their interest. The book is intended to be released in English and Malayalam, thereby gaining a wider outreach. As per now, 20 chefs have agreed to send in their best recipe across. Three of them include Michelin-starred chefs: Sriram Aylur, Srijith Gopinathan and Vineet Bhatia. Everyone has been super supportive,” Suresh says.
A chess enthusiast with far-sightedness, Suresh’s campaigns are long-term. “Malayali women have always been excellent cooks with unique recipes that have been passed down for generations. However, most of them are homemakers and these recipes are limited to their households. By cooking for the campaign once a week or month, they would gain enough experience and encouragement. This could be utilised and translated into a business, thereby empowering these women by becoming self-made entrepreneurs,” Suresh adds.