By Shilpi Madan
A chef par excellence and a loving mom, she has her raison d’ etre in little Kabir, whom she raises with her husband Karan. Meet celebrity chef, cookbook author and entrepreneur Rachel Goenka, founder and CEO of The Chocolate Spoon Company, as she fortifies her culinary empire through a bevy of lip smacking entities, such as The Sassy Spoon, House of Mandarin, Baraza Bars & Bites and more. Excerpts from a conversation with Express Parenting:
How old is Kabir now?
Kabir is a little over two years. Two years and two months to be precise.
What has been the best part about turning mum?
The best part is seeing my little human grow and develop his personality. He surprises me every single day, whether it is a new sentence or new dance moves, he is always making me laugh and I love that he has such a good sense of humour.
What is the best part about being a chef-mum?
I love observing his reactions to new food all the time. I am proud that he does not hesitate to try something new and if he likes it then he will ask for more. I think my proudest moment as a chef mum was when he tasted Callebaut dark chocolate and loved it. Now he only wants the good stuff (laughs) and like me, he does not like milk chocolate!
You are a chef-restaurateur-mum. What is your me-time like?
I wish I had me-time! Between work and a toddler, me-time is more of a myth. But I do make it a point to work out for an hour every day: that is my me-time.
It is all about having fun: whether it is preparing dishes, or being with your little one. Do you guys spend time in the kitchen together?
Yes, we do. Not so much in Mumbai since I am usually at work but when we are in Goa (we have a home there too) on holiday then we do spend time in the kitchen together. We grow a lot of our own fruits and vegetables. I like to take Kabir for a walk in the garden and teach him the names and show him how the leaves are different and so on. We do not cook together yet since he is still little but when I do make pancakes, I have a little baby whisk for him that he loves to play with. I usually mix some flour and water and let him whisk that.
Is Kabir a picky eater? What are the ways in which you sass up the food for him?
Honestly, like all toddlers, he has his good days and not-so-good days. It depends on whether they have a cold or are teething…Kabir is very vocal about his preferences though; he will ask for Chinese food and tell me what he wants. He will ask for certain snacks. I think it is very important to listen to what your kids prefer. He randomly asked for a glass of milk once and he usually does not like milk: Kids are always surprising you!
He has inspired you to create a line of delicious nibbles in Sassy Littles…
Absolutely. When I was creating Sassy Littles, my line of snacks for toddlers, Kabir was full of opinions which were so amusing. He loves the sweet potato and dark chocolate cake and the zucchini chocolate muffins. I recently expanded the line with cookies and bites and he loves the entire product range. When I was experimenting with different ingredients, the things he didn’t like he would spit out immediately and say,”Mama, yucky!” I figured he was my best critic since no one would be that honest!
What are the cheat-treats on the table at home?
Roasted sweet potato fries instead of french fries. Dark chocolate instead of sugar-laden candy bars.
One thing that the three of you do together, every day?
Since my husband and I are at work all the time we make it a point to have dinner at 7 pm with Kabir. No matter what, dinner time with him is family time.
In what ways are you and Kabir alike?
He has my daredevil personality and he loves animals, especially dogs. He is also very naughty but in a fun, not annoying way. His mischief makes me laugh. I was like that when I was younger.
How do you bring in the work-family balance?
It is vital to maintain a routine for your child. It makes him feel more secure and helps you to create a better work-life balance. For example, Kabir knows dinner time is always with mum and dad. My husband will drop him to school every morning so he looks forward to that drive. They have their morning father-son ritual together. I do the school pickups. Sometimes if I do not have a busy day then I leave work early and take him to the park or a play area or organise a playdate for him. Sundays are dedicated to him. After dinner every evening my husband and I spend an hour with him before he goes to bed. He still sleeps in our bed and I am a huge supporter of co-sleeping. Kabir is a ‘cuddler’ like me and we love to cuddle together.
What is your support system like?
It takes a village to raise a child: That phrase is so, so true! I have a huge support system: my mum, my nanny and our house-help as well. For the first year, I was extremely hands-on. In fact, I breastfed for a year and did not put Kabir on bottle feed ever. Once he began to speak and express himself, my work hours turned longer and I was more comfortable leaving him with the nanny or my mum since he could easily communicate if he wanted mum or was missing me.
A mommy moment when you wept recently?
Yesterday, when he refused to eat and was throwing a tantrum.
Laughed your lungs out?
Yesterday, when I was crying and he came over and gave me a hug and said, “Mama darling no cry, Kabir eat mum mum” and then ate one bite and refused to eat anything after that.
Felt ultra embarrassed?
Nothing has embarrassed me yet!
How involved is Karan in raising Kabir?
He is as hands-on as I am.
Do you divide responsibilities between the two of you?
No. We both are equally involved in raising him. We feel responsibilities need not be divided since both parents must be able to do everything. Though the only thing Karan has not been able to do is to change diapers! He has probably changed three diapers so far (laughs). But apart from that, we take turns to do things for Kabir. I think it is important for him to see both his parents are involved equally. It also teaches them that there are no gender-related responsibilities. Dads can be involved in bath time and feeding.
Both you and Karan have spent early years in Dubai, growing up. How has the cosmopolitan environment there shaped your perspectives on how you are as a mom vis a vis the stereotype of the Asian helicopter mom?
As Karan and I were exposed to a multicultural environment from the very start, it has impacted how we view many things today. With Kabir we let him make a lot of his own decisions: whether choosing the shoes he wants to wear or his clothes or asking him what he wants to eat. I think it is important to help children develop their individuality rather than forcing our views and opinions on them. We don’t do the helicopter parenting but we are around him just to keep an eye on him. He plays independently or he’ll choose a book and ask us to read it for him.
One tip for handling tantrums?
Get down to your child’s height and talk to him in a calm manner. Hugs work like magic. Most times toddlers throw tantrums because they are unable to express themselves. Encourage them to use their words to explain what they are feeling. They could be hungry or tired. As parents it is very important to stay calm since they feed off our energy as well.
A piece of advice your mum gave you that holds you in great stead?
Trust your instincts as a mother, as 99 per cent of the time you are probably right.
How cool are you on a scale of 10, on the Mum-o Meter?
10 being the coolest, I would say about 8.
Your mantra in life?
Stay positive and happy and whatever you do, do it with passion.
Any recipes you wish to share for winsome tiffins for kids?
I developed Sassy Littles for winsome tiffins! But other easy fixes are sweet corn, cut fruit, chicken sausages and cheese, fox nuts, mini sandwiches.
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