At the age of eight,a young Surjan Singh Jolly was busy living up to the reputation of a child mischievous,restless and wild. Did I even hold a knife at that age? No. I had no clue what to do with my life till my final year of hotel management in 1990, says the chef,currently relishing his stint on Star Plus Masterchef Junior Swaad Ke Ustaad. He studied at the National Council of Hotel Management Catering Technology & Applied Nutrition in Jaipur and says he got serious in life only when he turned 20.
So far,its been an appetising journey for Jolly. Last year,as head chef at JW Marriott Bangalore,he was designing the menu for Paris Hiltons visit to India,and also made an appearance on Masterchef India. This year,the chef who is an active member craftsman of Guild of Chefs (UK),finds himself in the company of children. Masterchef Junior is like going back to school,back to basics,and one has to keep up with the extraordinary levels of energy of kids while extracting the best out of them, he says.
Like a proud parent,Jolly refrains from naming the best,and instead finds all the children extremely gifted. Children today have so much exposure and we have kids from diverse backgrounds, says Jolly,referring to those who cook because they love food and those who cook as a means to survive. Its a mixed bag,influenced and shaped by their socio-economic status and personal likes and dislikes, says the chef.
What makes him popular with the little ones is that he doesnt treat them like babies. His full of life,Punjabi upbringing,he admits,has helped strengthen his relationship with them. Born in Amritsar and schooled in Chandigarh (Shivalik Public School and DAV College),Jolly shares how his mother inspired him to cook,and his father would always encourage him to get up and keep moving no matter what. I tell the children the same thing it doesnt matter if you fall or fail; its a part of life and doesnt make you a loser, he says.
The banter in the kitchen aside,the chef assures that all safety measures are followed. There are no sharp steel knives,theres no talking while cooking and we have a medical staff on board and kitchen buddies to assist, he says. Whether children should be allowed to participate on reality shows on television,Jolly feels there are extremes to it. While there is a pressure of gaining popularity,on the flip side,talent is honed at a young age. Just like artistes,cricketers and tennis players need training supervision at an early age,cooking has the same demands. And if theres a stress-free environment to do it,like on Masterchef Junior,why not? he says.
The reason Jolly enjoys Masterchef India,and now Masterchef Junior as compared to the international property,is the variety one gets to play with. The beauty about Indian cooking is its diversity. Nothing can beat the honest,good-old home cooking, says Jolly,likening Indian food to Bollywood for its colour,emotion,fun,variety,a million moods and a story behind every dish.
The real culinary delight and creativity lies in simplicity,in basic flavours. Too much fusion leads to confusion, says the chef.