PORBANDAR: If a “janeu dhari” Rahul Gandhi recently feasted on pomfret and had eight full servings of it along with ‘Bajra na rotla’, his mother Sonia Gandhi relished the lobsters and chicken along with pomfret and caramel pudding prepared by this chef when she visited the port city back in 2007.
As Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi was all praise for the vegetarian spread prepared by him, particularly ‘bhindi’, dhokla, and ‘Shrikhand’, while BJP President Amit Shah and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who chose to have Gujarati ‘Undhiyu’, aloo-palak, roti and Mohanthal (a sweet) for their lunch here, had a word of appreciation for him.
Leave alone the saffron brigade and the Gandhis, even stalwarts like Atal Behari Vajpayee, APJ Abdul Kalam and Amitabh Bachchan were left asking for more when they were served food cooked by this non-Gujarati. Yes, you heard it right!
Captain Ramesh Gowda, who hails from Hassan in Karnataka, is busier than the politicos as he prepares vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes for netas campaigning not only in Porbandar but also across the Saurashtra region.
The story of Captain, as he is popularly known here, is a classic rags-to-riches story. “The year was 1982. I left Hassan along with two of my friends when I was just eight to earn a living,” says Captain, who worked in a Mumbai tea stall until 1985, before shifting to Bhavnagar in Gujarat. The following year he got a job in the tourism department as a guide, and was sent to Ahmedabad to do a course in hotel management in 1990.
He then went to Rajasthan, where he worked as a chef on the luxury train Palace on Wheels. “Since I used to cook and supervise on Palace on Wheels, my colleagues used to address me as captain. Even today, people call me by that name.”
Less than four years later, he was transferred to Porbandar, where he quit his job and started an outdoor catering business titled Om Catering Service.
“Today, I have a team of 40 cooks and 300 workers. I bought seven houses in Porbandar, which I have given on rent, and bought another house in Baroda, where my family stays. My annual turnover is around `5 crore. Now, when I look back at the time when I used to get my first salary of `50 per month (in Mumbai), I am myself surprised,” says Captain.
Captain says the first politician he cooked and served food to was Atal Behari Vajpayee, in 2001, when Vajpayee visited Bhuj. He once cooked for L K Advani, and then for Narendra Modi in 2006 and 2010.
For APJ Abdul Kalam, he prepared 45 dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Amitabh Bachchan was served Kathiyawadi food on his Dwaraka visit.
What does Captain think of the leaders he has cooked and served food to? Captain’s business was hit by demonetisation and GST, “But I have been a fan of Narendra Modi and have decided to go with him,” he says.