Crusader of the South

Authentic, inspirational, record breaker and a major promoter of South Indian delicacies and cuisine, Chef Raj Mohan, is well known for his innovation and experiments with the local flavours of the South since the past many years By Kajol Somaya

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Authentic, inspirational, record breaker and a major promoter of South Indian delicacies and cuisine, Chef Raj Mohan, is well known for his innovation and experiments with the local flavours of the South since the past many years By Kajol Somaya

Chef Raj Mohan is renowned for his role in the longest Food Marathon, wherein he cooked 1,204 South Indian dishes in 48 hours which included 234 non-vegetarian and 974 vegetarian dishes that led to his name being included in the Asia Book of Records, India Book of Records and Limca Book of Records.

Childhood passion

He fell in love with cooking at a very young age which inspired him to choose this line as a profession. As a child he was fascinated with native street food and its various styles of preparation. Seeing his fascination and obsession, his mother encouraged and taught him cooking to initially experiment at home. His family members appreciated the food prepared by him and further encouraged his flair and talent by enrolling him in Subbalaxmi Laxmipathy College of Science in Madurai to hone his culinary skills. After completing his culinary education, he went on to participate in various food festivals which in turn got him fame and recognition, gradually leading him to become a restaurant consultant specialising in South Indian cuisine.

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He started a concept of introducing signature dishes by naming a particular dish based either on the ingredients, flavour or name of the particular place or person. This got him excellent reviews from his customers. For example, Parasalai Mutton Salna (a masala based mutton stew) which  he tasted at a place called Parasalai on the Tamilnadu – Kerala border, Vacha Kozhi Biryani (the instant biriyani variety made with country style coarse masala), Adukku Masthan Biryani (a layer biryani made of mutton kheema and pieces), Kari Venchanam (mutton balls in pickle gravy), Pala Kai Potta Ratnam (mixed vegetable curry in red masala), Nattu Kozhi Veetu Kulambu (homestyle country chicken infused with curry leaf flavour) and many more.

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Most of the customers responded by saying  that they felt the similar taste of their mother’s recipe and the delicacies of their native place. Sometimes, they even shared their old memories with him and how they enjoyed the food enormously. Majority of the food items featured on the menu were from a collection of recipes throughout his travels across South India.

Chef Raj Mohan says, “The responses encouarge me to take the South Indian cuisine all across the country and spread the forgotten flavours.”

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When asked about his inspiration for the Food Marathon, he explains, “It was a dream to mark a place in my profession and it took seven years for me to prepare myself and to achieve this record title in cooking. This record attempt creates good awareness about culinary education and this profession to the public. My passion, commitment, dedication to cooking and the overwhelming support from my well wishers and family members gave me the strength to achieve this feat. I humbly dedicate this Marathon record achievement to the young chef fraternity.”

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Being the Head of Department (HoD) of the hotel management section at Mary Matha College, Chef Mohan envisages a bright future for the graduates of this college as many investors are investing funds in opening hotels in Tier II and Tier III cities, thereby creating job opportunities for deserving graduates. He further anticipates that more and more job openings will be available in food industries, NGOs and MNCs. He strongly believes that these deserving graduates can go on to become entrepreneurs and restaurant consultants.

Social responsibility

On being quizzed about his objectives in launching the Free Culinary Education training Programme for under privileged candidates, he replies that hotel management is a big dream for many rural students and they are not fully aware of the potential of this education. “For majority of the rural students, such education is beyond their reach and I want to bring this education within the reach of such students.”

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He formulated a curriculum called Intensive Kitchen Apprenticeship in Mary Matha College in 2012 which offers free culinary education to under privileged students. The duration of this course is 10 months in which they are provided on site training in hotels for six months and classroom training for four months. For this course, they will also be provided a stipend while they are studying. Immediately after completion of the course, the students are offered jobs by the hotels the college has tied up with. Till today, 62 students have benefited from this course.

20160630eh37In August 2016, he is launching a food magazine which will be written and designed by the students of Mary Matha College to be circulated in hotel management colleges in South India. The content will include all activities, new developments and happenings in the hotel management industry.

Talking of his plans to experiment with other Indian cuisunes,  he says, “Yes, learning is a continuous process for me, varieties in Indian cuisine are plenty such as Mughal, Awadh, Balti, Lucknowi, etc. I want to fuse these cuisines with South Indian food items. My big aim is to promote the South Indian cuisine as much I can and to spread healthy cooking and eating habits among children.”

Chef Mohan is also bringing out a book based on the food recipes from his collection.

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