Pursuit of Happiness

The experimentalist

Be it a traditional Indian recipe or a continental classic, Piramal Enterprises' Swati Piramal can give it a gourmet spin

Soumik Kar

Anyone who likes to cook, ought to be a foodie. How else would you understand the combinations of flavours and the texture of the food? The vice-chairperson of Piramal Enterprises, Swati Piramal, is one such foodie, who loves experimenting with her food.

Rasmalai is one Indian sweet, which is celebrated extensively. Now imagine the same taste of rasmalai in the form of a lollipop and not a normal one, a frozen one. Made with liquid nitrogen, this is known as Nitrogen Rasmalai. This was one of the many experimental recipes that Swati Piramal has been successful in making. It was not only an experience for the taste-buds, but the preparation process was an amazing sight. 

A scientist by profession, one might think cooking was her way of taking her mind off work, but Piramal finds similarities between cooking and science. “With chemistry, you mix A and B to get C. Food is the same, it’s an ensemble of flavours and ingredients to get a specific taste. Food and science, both need a great deal of discipline and method,” she explains.

Piramal’s first inspiration when it came to cooking was her mother, a Cordon Bleu chef. While growing up, Piramal had her nose deep in her books with no time to enter the kitchen — it was only much later that she started enjoying the art of cooking. She recalls her first time in the kitchen just before she was married, “I was only 20, recently engaged, and my sister-in-law asked me to watch the onions, and they burnt! My mother would’ve been so embarrassed.” Ever since her first disastrous experience of cooking, she has been on a journey to learn almost each cuisine she tastes, through workshops and classes across the world. 

Piramal feels cooking is about respecting the person who comes to your door. She narrates an instance, “When a courier boy would come home, my grandmother would not let him go without eating something. Hospitality is an important value that has stuck with me even now.” Her father-in-law strongly believed in feeding home-cooked food to guests, and so did her mother. “That way you use the best ingredients and the food is filled with a lot of love and affection — a flavor that is irreplaceable,” she smiles.

She continues to carry forward this tradition till date. With every real estate development by the Piramal group, she tries to experiment with the local food, for the launch. “Our property in Kurla is next to an East Indian village that has been there for 500 years. One of their most popular food items is fugia — fried dough balls that look like balloons. For the launch, we got them to serve hot fugias in a basket,” she reminisces.

Experiencing and celebrating the culture of whatever part of the world she is in has been Piramal’s motto. Business trips all across the world, gave her more access to a variety of different cuisines. So what have been some of her most memorable experiences? “I am particularly fond of Sachertortes, an Austrian dish. Walking around Vienna, I found the beautiful Sacher Hotel, where they serve it and each one had a chocolate stamp. I searched the world trying to find where they made these and guess where I found them? Parel, Mumbai,” she laughs. Piramal’s fascination and curiosity has brought her to learn various techniques of cooking.

And that is not it, for every special occasion, she fashions a theme-based menu, followed by numerous trials and a lot of in-depth research. “For one special occasion, I came up with a Shakespearen menu. I looked at all his verses and wherever there was food mentioned in the verse, I would take that out and formulate a dish based on that,” says Piramal, proudly.

With her passion for food and celebrating culture, Piramal is truly combining the best of both in her kitchen.