Creative Cooking with Chef Rajni

I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with Chef Ranjni and ask her a few questions about her private chef experiences and how she can come to you!!! Please visit @creativerajni for more information or to contact.

What inspired you to become a chef?

I have always loved cooking right from a very young age. I had always been helping my grandma in the kitchen as well while she prepared her outstanding and laborious meals. After I came to the US, I pursued my other interests in fashion while my son was growing up. My passion was still cooking. My favorite shows are the cooking videos on the food network and cooking channels. I was really inspired by the stylish plating by Chef Jean Georges. I had the opportunity to work at a Jean Georges restaurant as well as meet the amazing Chef De Cuisine-Chef Ron and meet the Michelin star chef Jean Georges himself. That was my ultimate inspiration – meeting Chef Jean Georges. I went to the Institute of Culinary Education for fine dining. I decided to combine my fashion and cooking through my intimate and elevated private dinners for small groups of 12 max. Hence Creativerajni was born. I create a 3 course stylish, S.indian-inspired plated dinner service in the comfort of your home. 
Another inspiration for my cooking classes is to inspire and help orphans in my hometown Kerala.

Explain Indian cooking?  Does your cooking come from a specific region or area?

India is a vast country and the cuisine is very different in different areas. Indian cuisine is very eclectic. Indian cooking uses a ton of fresh herbs and spices in the cuisine and has an array of deep-fried snacks, sauces, rice dishes, flatbreads, vegetarian dishes, and flavorful meat, and fish dishes. 
My roots are from the Southern tip of India from a state named Kerala- also called the Land of Coconuts. Kerala cuisine uses coconut in all different forms along with the herb curry leaf.  Cooking from this region is my inspiration since it brings in a different flavor profile than in the north plus a variety of vegan options as well. My cooking is based on flavors from Kerala. 

How do you choose the dishes on your menu?

The dishes on my menu are South Indian inspired. I take an authentic dish from the south and I bring in the flavors from that dish to the dishes here. I also make sure that I adjust the heat level so that everybody can actually taste the food. I also bring in seasonal veggies onto my menu. 

What would you say is your signature dish?

My signature dish is Spiced Chicken in a beet coconut milk sauce and curry leaves which has a ton of flavor from the roasted whole spices, curry leaves as well as coconut milk. It is my son’s favorite and I have been making it for quite a long time.

What 3 kitchen tools can you not live without?

I can never leave behind my chef’s knife from Tokyo, Japan. The second would be my spice box which has the basic spices for my cooking. Thirdly – I love to use my kitchen scissors while preparing meat or fish dishes.

Do all Indian dishes have to be spicy? 

A huge No. Indian dishes can be catered to everybody. The dishes can be prepared with amazing spices for flavor without the heat. The flavor is what the dish needs which can be enhanced with fresh herbs like fresh curry leaves & cilantro, variery of whole spices, coconut milk, tangy flavor from tamarind and so forth. 

What is your least favorite dish to make?

I love to cook everything. What I would say is that I learned to cook beef later since I grew up eating mostly veggies and fish. I love to cook vegetarian dishes but am happy to make anything according to the taste profile.

What is your favorite?

My absolute favorite is the Vegan crepe called Dosa filled with seasoned potato mash and a side of green coconut chutney and shallot lentil stew with tamarind also called Sambhar. The crepe batter is fermented for a day or two after grinding it. It’s a delicious vegan dish and I would totally eat it in the morning, noon, or night. I love it very much.

Do you experiment with seasonal dishes?

Yes, I do. Love experimenting with seasonal veggies. I do love going to the farmers markets to get fresh locally sourced produce and would test using them. I’m planning to source organic Indian vegetables from a local farm and will be including these on my upcoming menu. More details to follow.

When you are not cooking Indian food what is your other favorite food to cook?

I love to cook Italian or French. Love making pasta salads, pasta bakes, Chicken/Eggplant parmigiana. With fresh cuisine, love to make savory and sweet crepes, buttered carrots(so delicious), gratin dauphinoise (Potato gratin)

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