CHENNAI: Bonding over cooking — that seems to the motto of a small group of people who meet at the Kottivakkam beach on the first Saturday of every month. Called the Beach Cookout, the unwinding session is attended by around 30 people including bachelors, bachelorettes and families, according to Rupam Das, who has been a part of the group since April last year.
“We are not attached to any food groups, nor do we have any rules that are binding. It doesn’t matter if you do not know to cook, you can join and help people who do know,” says Das. “There are a few who contribute in the way of bringing soft drinks and chips, and a few others who just help break the ice with new joinees. And then, there are kids and pets who walk around,” he says.
While the group hasn’t had any cops enquiring them about the activity on a public space, it sure has had walkers at the beach stopping by and enquiring about the session, and later becoming permanent members. “We haven’t faced any law and order issues, despite us extending the session to 10 pm and beyond. As for passersby, we welcome anyone who wants to stop by and cook, or taste food. But people contribute in some way or the other, there are no free loaders,” he adds, with a laugh.
Das says that the team, armed with grills, mesh, tongs and coal, heads to the beach opposite Bella Ciao at around 6 pm. “A few of us reach early and set up the grill and mesh, and start the fire. The vegetables are chopped and brought, and fish and chicken are brought after marinating them for hours. That way, our work is less,” he says. “Sometimes the event doubles up as a potluck, with people bringing dishes from home,” he adds. Besides cooking, Das and his friend, Sridhar Venkatraman, who are instrumental in running the group, teach new members how to use the grill and mesh.
The duo took over the responsibility to run the group from September 2013, before which it was run under the banner of Chennai Food Guide. “There was some rift between the organisers of different food groups, and beach cookout event was left hanging. We realised that there were people interested in the event, rather than being part of any particular food group. Hence, we decided to continue,” he says. The upcoming cookout session on December 6 will be the 9th event which they are conducting independently.
Since September last year, the venue has been the beach. “It is comfortable for all of us. Firstly, it is free. And secondly, if we have to rent a private place, then we will have to deal with financial issues and logistics,” he says. The group has kept it non-commercial all along, despite offers for sponsors. “We dropped the idea of an official website as well. Each participant hardly has to spend around `500 or less from their pockets, and we want to keep it that way,” he says.
You can find the group on Facebook under the name Beach Cookout - Chennai.