My Turn: Chef offers cooking advice

Argen Duncan

New York resident and India native Suvir Saran is a chef, chef instructor, farmer, blogger, cookbook author and restaurant owner. I met him during his trip to this area last week.

Suvir is personable and articulate, and not above dishing out a little good-natured ribbing. He told me he’s cooked as long as he can remember.

As a 20-year-old, he came to America to study and was never satisfied with the mediocre food he found here. So, he started cooking for people in his little New York kitchen, and ended up leaving school and his job to be a chef and chef instructor.

Suvir probably will never convince me that meat and milk are inherently unhealthy, but I was sure he had a lot of kitchen wisdom and asked him to share it.

Suvir’s philosophy on cooking

“To me, cooking is not about entertainment, it’s not about fanfare, not about fuss, not about showing off. It is the most essential of all chores one can indulge in.

“You are what you eat. And so I hope more Americans would pay attention to what they stuff in their mouths.

“Less is more, simple is magic and homemade is bliss. Mistakes happen, mistakes teach us, and a smart home cook uses mistakes as a lesson in what not to do the next time around.

“Forget about the TV food stars, forget about the beautiful photographs in food magazines. Real food, healthful food, is the food our grandmas and dads cooked for us.”

Advice to people who feel too busy to cook

“The advice I give is, ‘Spend time, make time. Enough excuses, enough laziness, enough “I have too much on my plate.”’

“Our body is our temple, and so find time to pray at that table at least half an hour every day.

Families that cook together, eat together and talk at the table will be the families of the future that stay together. Smart parents use cooking and eating as a therapeutic time. If we laughed, argued, debated and shared information with each other at the table, we would be less visits to the shrink.”

Advice for beginners

“Go have fun in the kitchen. Make mistakes, get dirty, relax, cook and enjoy. It’s not an exam, it’s not a contest, and it’s not a show.

“The very fact that someone is cooking in their kitchen is brownie points from those coming to eat at your table. Cooking and entertaining are a gift money cannot buy. They’re a gift from the heart.

“Remember that always, and you will be the master of your kitchen.”

On reading food labels

“One of the most important things we can teach people to do is read labels.”

Suvir said people shouldn’t eat food if they can’t read the label or if it has too many long-named ingredients. It’s not real food if one word is too long, he said.

On the mood for cooking

If you’re mad, don’t cook, Suvir said, because then the food will be like poison. He said a happy cook makes good food.