In the quaint village of Barenburg in 1970s-Germany, young Juergen Hase would gather around the table with his family over dinner, talk, laugh and spend time with his loved ones. Little did he know then that this simple ritual would become the flavour of his life even as his 56-year-old version would be busy piloting Unlimit, a Reliance Group IoT services company, as its CEO. “We would ask about each other’s day at the table and tell others what we’ve done. This flavour is very special and I’ve got it from my parents,” reminisces Hase.
In a 'nuclear family' world, where most are completely caught up in the rat race, Hase continues to maintain some traditions. Hosting friends and family over the weekends is what the tech leader enjoys the most. He recalls, “I used to enjoy cooking even as a child; later, when I was living alone, I used to cook for survival. Now, it's a celebration and a mode of communication." An appreciator of great conversations and good food, believes eating together is a great bonding exercise. "I make sure that the group is a mix of new and old friends. When people from all around the world meet and talk, it ends up being a milieu of deep discussions about everything from art, to culture, and politics,” he says.
He hosts a group of four to six people for dinner at least twice a month at his place in Mumbai, and 15-20 people, often for breakfast, once every month. “That is the most that I’m able to manage with my work schedule. Whenever I invite people for breakfast, I bake the bread myself. As we leisurely enjoy our breakfast for two to four hours, most often than not, we end up discussing the food I’ve prepared,” he says. His cooking occupation doesn’t end with these parties. “Cooking for me is a learning curve. I cook simple food for my kids on some days, such as pasta, and sometimes, I try new recipes or experiment with items such as fish,” he adds.
However, his parties are not restrained to the insides of his house. Hase mentions his frequent visits to the dunes of Qatar, where he used to barbecue fish with his friends. “I would often go fishing with my friends, then go to the desert with them at night and barbeque the fresh catch with dill, salt and pepper, and some vegetables. We would then sit together and eat it with white bread or fresh salad. This is what I call the German style of barbequing, in all its simplicity,” says Hase.
A dinner at Hase’s gathering will be anything like a dinner party at a relative’s house – stimulating conversations over experimental delicacies after cooking them together in the kitchen with friends. And he promises that each affair is a unique experience in itself. “Sometimes, the group coming over decides collectively what they’d like to eat. The other times, they want to be surprised. I need to know what I’ll be cooking at least a week in advance,” chuckles Hase. That's because he likes to be prepared and buys the supplies days in advance. "I start preparing in the kitchen a day or two before the occasion. Any food has to be local if you want it fresh. But you can always add international flavours on top,” adds Hase.
From cooking simple food with basic ingredients, the Unlimit CEO today, looks up on the internet to find exciting new recipes or takes the help of cook books. One of his favourite items to prepare is fish. He says, "You can do so many things around fish – grill, bake, or barbecue – and it is always a light menu.” Another dish he enjoys making is basil-chervil soup during Christmas. He explains, “Served with a half-baked tomato and cheese inside it, the dish looks looks very simple, but takes a minimum of two hours to make. And with every part you eat, there’s a feeling of 'wow' in your mouth.”
Ask any cook and they'll say it takes a lot of patience, with a pinch of passion. Hase also shares something he has learnt from the years of minding the grill, “Whatever you do in life, you have to listen to people with other mindsets and create an atmosphere where people are open to discuss things. I can’t jump into a room and say that I’m the only person who’s right. It’s just like cooking — you can prepare potatoes in so many different ways, and sometimes, others’ can be better than yours.”