One body of activism is investigating the will of women to live a lifetime playing Martha Stewart, and another is turning them into Martha Stewart. One is pulling her out of the kitchen and getting the world to notice her, another is getting the world to notice her kitchen. Creative Support Services Group (CSSG), a registered charity formed by UK-born and bred entrepreneur Anand Kapoor in 2011, is the latter kind. It facilitates underprivileged girls to be mentored by experts in employable skills in food, literature, art, design, architecture, fashion, music, dance, theatre and suchlike. The lessons were dealt out at Le Cirque, the Franco-Italian restaurant at The Leela Palace, New Delhi.
In the spirit of social responsibility, CSSG chose 53 girls to cook at Le Cirque. Guiding them were eight international Michelin ladies, including American restaurateurs Anita Lo and Carrie Nahabedian (who have excelled in modern European cuisine), British chefs Frances Atkins, who is a fellow of the Masterchefs of Great Britain and one of only six female Michelin-starred chefs in the UK; executive chef of the Michelin-starred Northcote Manor Lisa Allen and Germany’s Sonja Fruhsammer.
The girls grated cheese over pizza, egged up crust vegetables. Pasta was boiled and olive-oiled, tomatoes were cherried up in marination and apple crumble was crushed straight into the heart of vanilla cream. The ingredients were provided by Delhi’s organic farmers Culinary Arts & Research Academy (Caara) and Farm Love. The nourishing lot visited Caara’s organic farm in New Delhi to learn the importance of fresh ingredients that chefs consider as the difference between food and fine food.
Organisations like Amtek, Flow and Maitri, which work towards skill development of children, supported CSSG. The placements of these girls have kicked off with chefs like Ritu Dalmia, Jatin Malik and Sabyasachi Gorai. Titled ‘40 Girls to 40 Chefs’, this year’s initiative enables those girls who show promise to study at the Institute of Hotel Management in Delhi.
“The whole experience has been unbelievable. We have 53 girls who have undergone training and over 200 waiting to join the ranks,” says Kapoor, who is also co-founder and director of the Emmy nominated Image Foundry Studios that was a part of the winning team for several international film and television awards. “Young women in India are going to shock and surprise those who ever tried to show them their place,” he adds.
The event closed with two gala dinners curated by the Michelin ladies at Mumbai’s Four Seasons and Delhi’s Leela Palace Hotel. Along lengthy tables, a bouquet of white and ash pink roses was arranged, and candle hues were left naked in the dark. Show plates witnessed eight platonic shifts and the sea of goblets lived through waves of wine, opera divas from Stockholm made music and corporate diners pledged support. Charity has nothing to do with pity.