‘Chefing is like real life… You never finish learning.’ — Marcel Reimer
By Dr. Veena Bharathi [Mob: 98802-51040]
Ramaskanda Shastry is the Private Chef of Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, the Bollywood stars, who are officially tying the nuptial knot today in Mumbai. The wedding festivities kick-started with mehendi ceremony yesterday.
Ramaskanda, a native of Bengaluru, faced a lot of brickbats, when he discontinued his BA History and Economics at the St. Joseph’s College, Bengaluru, six years back.
For a while, he pursued music and cooking, two of his passions. When his father Shantarama Shastry, a well-known family priest of many reputed families and himself a graduate in B.Sc Electronics, advised him to study ‘Hotel Management,’ Skanda joined for BA-Culinary Arts at WGSHA (Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration), Manipal. He worked as a Chef at W-Hotels in Goa, for about eight months. When he felt that the job was monotonous, he got introduced to Harsha Dixit in Mumbai, who was the Private Chef of Ranbir Kapoor.
Skanda started assisting Harsha Dixit since two years and for the last six months, he has been the Private Chef of Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt.
On behalf of Star of Mysore and on the star couple’s wedding eve, Dr. Veena Bharathi had a brief chat with the celebrity Chef Ramaskanda Shastry.
Star of Mysore (SOM): How do you define a Private Chef? What is your role in preparing a healthy diet?
Ramaskanda Shastry: A cook usually prepares the regular meals according to the family’s taste. Whereas a Private Chef, especially that of a celebrity couple, always has to cook for them according to their nutritional needs, diet restrictions as advised by their nutritionist. For instance, about a couple of months back, Ranbir Kapoor was advised to go on a ‘Keto diet’ for about 3 weeks, for the shooting of an upcoming movie, for which he had to lose a few kgs of body weight. Ranbir was hence advised a low-carb diet, he was not supposed to eat beetroots or carrot. So, I had to do some research to suit his taste buds and also following the nutritionist’s advice. Hence, I used to prepare breakfast with lot of greens like palak and broccoli.
Likewise, when Ranbir is ‘working out’ in the mornings, he prefers to eat MUSH, which is a oats porridge. Along with a seasonal fruit and a green juice made of spinach or cucumber or amla. He starts his work-outs about 45 minutes after having the above breakfast.
On the days when Ranbir and Alia have to go for shooting early in the morning, I start to cook their breakfast by 4.30 am or 5 am. If they are shooting in Mumbai, I also cook fresh food for lunch by 12 noon and send them the packed lunch.
Late evening, an hour before they reach home, I keep the dinner ready, according to the instructions given by them. A Private Chef is on call 24x7days.
SOM: Which language do you prefer while conversing with them and are they happy with your recipes and cooking pattern?
Ramaskanda: Most of the time I converse with them in English, occasionally in Hindi too, because I learnt conversational Hindi only when I was doing Culinary Internship in Goa. They are not only happy with my cooking, they have given me the liberty to experiment with new recipes.
SOM: Which is the favourite and frequently demanded dish by Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt individually? Do you find it difficult to prepare food for their differing tastes?
Ramaskanda: Ranbir likes ‘Bisi bele bath’ that I prepare, though he hardly eats white rice. Once, when he returned from his shooting in Italy, he expressed a desire to eat home-made ‘pasta’ by me. As I have built a good rapport with a few Senior Chefs from well-known Hotels and Restaurants, I learnt to cook ‘pasta’ by getting tutored by a Chef from the Restaurant called ‘Americana’ in Mumbai. Only when Ranbir can afford to go on a ‘Cheat Diet,’ he asks for ‘pasta’! Alia Bhatt loves to eat ‘Chilla’ or ‘pesarattu.’ In Karnataka, we normally use ‘Hesaru Kaalu’ for making ‘pesarattu’ whereas in Mumbai, they use ‘Moong Dhal batter’ for making ‘Chilla.’ Alia Bhatt eats all varieties of vegetables. She also loves to eat ‘Rajgira,’ the roti made of flour ground from ‘Basalesoppina Kaalu’!
I have absolutely no difficulty in dishing out the recipes according to their tastes and needs, sometimes introducing my own recipes. In fact during ‘Sankranti’ this year, I had prepared ‘khara pongal’ and ‘Hunase hannina gojju,’ which both of them liked a lot. I also explained to them how ‘Sankranti’ is celebrated in our households in Karnataka.
SOM: What if Ranbir and Alia have to shoot in other cities in India, how do they manage?
Ramaskanda: In November 2021, when Ranbir and Alia Bhatt were shooting in New Delhi, I too was asked to accompany them. I stayed in the same hotel, where the stars were put, and one outlet of the Hotel’s kitchen entirely was given to me to cook their food !
‘They treat me as their own family member’
“Both Ranbir and Alia Bhatt have no starry attitude. They have been treating me as their own family member. I love and respect them for their down-to-earth humane attitude,” says Ramaskanda.
The 25-year-old Culinary expert zooms on his motorbike from Bandra to Pali Hill, in 3-5 minutes, to be at the star couple’s spacious flat, pleasantly, efficiently doing a Private Chef’s job.