MEN WHO COOK
Manning the stoves
By Riaz Naqvi
Friday, May 11, 2012

No Longer considered the domain of women alone, cooking is seeing some serious male takers

Pablo Perez

Age: 27 years old

From: Spain

Works as: Marketing executive

 

The dynamics of 
the kitchen are changing. So are the rules of manhood. It’s time to hide the frying pan and tuck away that skillet, ladies. A new breed of male is on the rise, and he’s threatening a once-sacred haven. The kitchen is becoming a bona fide battlefield of the sexes, and these guys are raising the culinary style stakes.

They may be of different ages, backgrounds and experiences, but all of them share one thing in common: a fiery passion for cooking. Here, wknd. speaks to a few of these new world men.

  • What sort of dishes or cuisines do you cook?

I love Mediterranean style cooking: lots of different salads, fish, poultry, Spanish tapas or nice rice dishes but I have also discovered lots of little details of the Asian and Arabic food that I love, especially light bites.

  • How would you describe cooking — in seven words?

Success or failure is in your hands.

  • What would you do if you came home one day to discover someone had totally wrecked your kitchen?

I think is not possible to live in a home without a kitchen. In Dubai, people usually say they do not have a lot of time or they don’t want to spend this time in the kitchen. This is because of the old-fashioned image of cooking, as an obligation, a needed procedure to just enjoy the meal. Nowadays the trend is to recover the kitchen as the heart of the home. It is nice to have big kitchens to cook in front of your guests as they share a drink. Personally, I spend much more time enjoying the kitchen than the living room.

  • If you invite a guest home for dinner and, halfway through the meal, ask him what he thinks of your food, would you prefer to hear: a) “I loved it — best dish I ever had!” b) (moment of silence) “Where’s your bathroom?” or c) Nothing (Your guest is too busy chewing).

I love the first five minutes of absolute silence at the table: this is a very good sign. A big “Mmm” is the best response, after which comes: “May I have some more?”

  • Which do you prefer: time-honoured traditional recipes or mixing things up to try something new?

Traditional recipes were something absolutely crazy the first time they were prepared, if you think about it. A lot of times you won’t obtain the expected result when creating new things, but once you get it right you will feel like an artist! Does your mom cook a typical dish exactly the same as your friend’s mom? Cooking is creating; it’s impossible to respect every rule, and not put in a bit more of the spice, if you like… Just impossible.

  • Should the ladies be worried they are about to lose their most sacred shrine — the kitchen?

Not at all. It’s true that the kitchen used to be the ‘headquarters’. Now ladies will have to share a little of this power… At the same time, they’ll discover how nice it is to cook alongside their husbands… We have to break the clichés of the kitchen.

  • What does your partner think of your cooking? Is there more cooperation or competition?

She is a great cook… and very competitive. It is probably one of the few things that we can enjoy together every day. It doesn’t matter how late we arrive home or how stressed we are — we always prepare dinner together, fighting for the oven, for the knives, for the ‘good pan’.

Photo: Juidin Bernarrd 

 

Tanmay Salgaonkar

Age: 24 years old 

From:         India

Works as: Group flight reservations coordinator

 

  • What sort of dishes or cuisines do you cook?

There’s no one particular style of food that I stick to, but I do prefer cooking North Indian food. 

  • How would you describe cooking — in seven words?

Hands creating magic and love, served hot.

  • What would you do if you came home one day to discover someone had totally wrecked your kitchen? 

I’d watch a lot of survival shows, burn my pillow to make a small fire, rummage for whatever ingredients I have left and cook up a simple but delicious meal on the balcony. After that, I’d hunt down the person who wrecked the best place in my house.

  • If you invite a guest home for dinner and, halfway through the meal, ask him what he thinks of your food, would you prefer to hear: a) “I loved it — best dish I ever had!” b) (moment of silence) “Where’s your bathroom?” or c) Nothing (Your guest is too busy chewing).

Definitely ‘c’. One of the most satisfying feelings in the world, for me, is to watch someone eat and enjoy your food so much that they couldn’t care to look up from their plate.

  • Which do you prefer: time-honoured traditional recipes or mixing things up to try something new?

When I start cooking, I never have a plan. I may have a recipe but I keep adding other elements to make my dish different from the original. I treat my kitchen like a science lab — one with a more tantalising aroma.

  • Should the ladies be worried they are about to lose their most sacred shrine — the kitchen?

I totally believe in gender equality: the ladies don’t need to worry about losing anything — because the men have already taken over the cooking department... My mum’s definitely going to kill me after reading this.

  • What does your partner think of your cooking? Is there more cooperation or competition?

My ex loved it when I cooked for her. It gave her more time to watch TV. We would spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking together.

  

Terry Lablache

Age: 38 years old

From:         Seychelles

 Works as: Sales manager

 

  • What sort of dishes or cuisines do you cook?

Barbecue, grills and slow cooking. I like to cook fish, joints of different meats, whole chicken, duck, Christmas turkey, grilled or roasted vegetables — all on the BBQ. I like to ‘smoke the meats’ when barbequing. I try and get different woods chips such as Hickory, Mesquite, Apple and Pear, and experiment with which flavour suits each product better. I love the colour smoking gives the end product.

  • How would you describe cooking — in seven words?

I enjoy cooking what my wife doesn’t.

  • What would you do if you came home one day to discover someone had totally wrecked your kitchen?

Nothing. I have three Weber barbecues — I will survive.

  • If you invite a guest home for dinner and, halfway through the meal, ask him what he thinks of your food, would you prefer to hear: a) “I loved it — best dish I ever had!” b) (moment of silence) “Where’s your bathroom?” or c) Nothing (Your guest is too busy chewing).

I would really want to hear ‘a’ first, and ‘c’ would be OK too — so long as they aren’t choking.

  • Which do you prefer: time-honoured traditional recipes or trying something new?

The latter, especially when I get to use the endless variety of spices in my cupboard. Trying out new mixes is great for dry rubbing steaks and joints of meat in the slow cooker. I also prefer using olive oil to regular oils when preparing marinades and sauces.

  • Should the ladies be worried they are about to lose their most sacred shrine — the kitchen?

Not at all. I’m not the kind of person to stand over a gas cooker (not that I believe this is where ladies should be). I will rarely be at the cooker, perhaps to prepare sauces, curries, rice etc. Plus I hardly ever fry things, the occasional egg aside.

  • What does your partner think of your cooking? Is there more co-operation — or 
competition? 

More cooperation, since my wife does get a break, though I also get advice such as “don’t touch it,” “check it”, “is it ready?” As for what she thinks of my cooking: what I prepare she loves, with criticism, of course — that is the norm.

 

Peter Liu

Age: 37 years old

From:         Australia

 Works as: Audio producer 

  • What sort of dishes or cuisines do you cook?

Anything and everything. I like to look at a recipe, execute it and add a personal touch in the hope that it turns out to be enjoyable for the whole family. Cooking is meditational — it consumes your entire brain space and detaches one from the woes and stress of everyday life.  

  • How would you describe cooking — in seven words?

Meditational, enjoyable, gastronomical, inspirational, communicable… and fundamental.

  • What would you do if you came home one day to discover someone had totally wrecked your kitchen?

It wouldn’t worry me too much as the food I like to cook mostly consists of being outdoors — lots of smoke, coal, grills, rotisseries and fresh air. However, I have been known to get medieval on the wife when she is faffing around in the kitchen when I am in there in my mantric state... I need my space, yo!

  • If you invite a guest home for dinner and, halfway through the meal, ask him what he thinks of your food, would you prefer to hear: a) “I loved it — best dish I ever had!” b) (moment of silence) “Where’s your bathroom?” or c) Nothing (Your guest is too busy chewing).

I usually know if it’s good or bad so I’ll only ask them if I already know the answer is going to swing in my favour. If it’s bad, I’ll just move on to a winning dish to get things back on track. As a full time music and audio producer, my experience says that with art, music, literature and food, everything is open to interpretation. Ten people means ten different and varying opinions — you need a thick skin.

  • Which do you prefer: time-honoured traditional recipes or mixing things up to make something new?

I like both — sometimes it’s authentic recipes that haven’t changed in years and others, it’s something crazy I’ve thought may combine to create a balance of flavours that’s original. 

  • Should the ladies be worried they are about to lose their most sacred shrine — the kitchen?

Cooking is for anyone regardless of gender. I think the notion of the kitchen being the woman’s domain is so last century. Everyone loves to eat good food, and cooking is truly an activity for both sexes. I grew up with a father that cooked as much as my mother did at home. Poor old mum had to clean all the dirty dishes though! 

  • What does your partner think of your cooking? Is there more cooperation or competition?

My wife Debby is Indonesian; the street food culture is prevalent there, so it’s convenient to roll out your door and have a huge array of budget gastronomic offerings to choose from. So cooking at home is not really a necessity where she comes from. Deb appreciates everything I cook for her, but when critiquing my food, she tells it like it is.

 

Mohammad Aslam Suri

Age: 56 years old

From:         Pakistan/ America

Works as: Chief executive officer 

  • What sort of dishes or styles of food do you enjoy cooking?

I like to cook all kinds of different cuisines: Pakistani, Indian, Italian, Mediterranean, Iranian, Tex-Mex, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and even some French.

  • How would you describe cooking — in seven words?

Relaxing, enjoyable, satisfying, rewarding, exciting and family-pleasing.

  • What would you do if you came home one day to discover someone had totally wrecked your kitchen?

Quick fact-finding and immediate rebuilding — material things can always be restored, even if it takes time. It is the fragile relationships that we need to nurture and relish (no pun intended).

  • If you invite a guest home for dinner and, halfway through the meal, ask him what he thinks of your food, would you prefer to hear: a) “I loved it — best dish I ever had!” b) (moment of silence) “Where’s your bathroom?” or c) Nothing (Your guest is too busy chewing).

If they want to be invited again, they better say ‘a’! Seriously though, I do know my limitations. “Best I ever had” would certainly be an overambitious expectation.

  • Which do you prefer: time-honoured traditional recipes or mixing things up to try and make something new?

For me, the fun in cooking is certainly in experimentation and improvisation. Even though I am generally a perfectionist, I try to ‘play around’ when it comes to cooking something.

  • Should the ladies be worried they are about to lose their most sacred shrine — the kitchen?

This is the age of equal opportunity. Who says the kitchen is the domain of the fairer sex alone? Anyway, it is not really a problem if you clean up after yourself. I try to preserve the ‘sanctity’ of the kitchen after I leave. For our family, cooking is a nice way to relax, and we like to cook together, help each other out, and have a lot of fun doing it. Eating together is one of the best and most rewarding experiences in life: an utter joy, be it with family or friends.

  • What does your partner think of your cooking? Is there more co-operation or competition?

I threw in the towel, competitively speaking, a long time ago. I can rarely attain to her level of excellence, but we’re both honest about our comments about preparations. She always appreciates my initiatives in the kitchen and suggests improvements if she feels the dish is off the mark.

riaznaqvi@khaleejtimes.com

 

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