In a 1928-year-old bungalow, on 34 Hanuman Road, in CP, that stood vacant for years, now revamped and known as Courtyard by Virasat, homechef-cum-host, Rajan Bedi is cooking up an exquisite meal for a couple of guests he has never met before.
There are Beetroot Croquets, Mutton Kebab, Lal Maas, Aloo Chulbule, Dahi Bhalla garnished with Khajoor Chutney. The desserts – Halwa and Phirni – have been carefully selected to go with the theme of the menu.
A dinner of this quality, featuring 20 dishes – everything handmade according to traditional recipes – would cost a hefty amount in a fine dining Indian restaurant. However here, each guest is paying only Rs 1,899.
Welcome to the world of “shared economy” dining. Or commonly known as “pop-ups”, where you can immerse yourself in comfort food and culture, meet new people at your table, and experience the magic of social dining.
Born and brought up in Delhi, Rajan, is a businessman by day and a passionate chef by night. His idea of unwinding after a tough day at work is by cooking gourmet meals for his family and friends.
Today Rajan has his own set of followers on several social media groups for his cooking skills. I personally am a big fan of his food and look forward to his live demonstrations every night.
Having hosted seven pop-ups so far, with known professional chefs and home-chefs, Rajan’s initiative, Courtyard by Virasat, is now a familiar name. Not limiting it to just food, the last pop-up saw live Qawali performance by the famous Nizami Khusro Brothers.
Rajan, in a tête-à-tête with me, gave an insight into his life – his childhood memories, favourite food, the idea behind Virasat, and much more.
Coming from a business background, when and how did the home-chef stint happen?
I’ve always found myself in the kitchen after a tough day at work—cooking is a means of de-stressing for me. I guess with the advent of social media and my connecting via it to so many people, I’ve reveled in talking and displaying my passion for cooking.
When did you first realise your passion to cook? Any anecdotes to share?
My training began early, inhaling the air of my mother’s Punjabi kitchen. Under her tutelage I learnt about spices and recipes. My favourite was, to her horror, polishing off masalas prepared by her, right out of the karahi, on a piece of bread while she was not looking.
What was the first dish you ever cooked?
The first dish prepared by me was Mattar Paneer.
Tell us about your cooking style. Do you like experimenting new cuisines and techniques?
Cooking and creating new dishes is an evolving art I love to dabble in. My fetish for collecting spices from all over has resulted in enriching food created by me.
You came up with an initiative to encourage and promote other home-chefs as well as professional chefs in one platform, Courtyard by Virasat, while the patrons take back home an unforgettable dining experience. Tell us more about it. How and when did this idea strike your mind?
Each day, someone somewhere has something new to teach you, something new to add to your creation, which makes it graduate from the ordinary to the extraordinary. This thought took roots in my mind and ‘Courtyard By Virasat’ just effloresced from it.
What do you love most about being a home-chef?
To create something that has not existed is the challenge and the freedom to experiment is the beauty of being a home chef.
What do you usually eat on regular basis, say at home?
Breakfast could be eggs, cooked in a novel way or a leafy salad.
Lunch is usually a sabzi, dal and roti.
Dinner is carnivorous.
What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen?
My fridge is well stocked as I am an impromptu cook. At any given point of time the freezer is stocked well with meats and chicken, the vegetable and fruit trays hold the freshest curd, tomatoes, pre-browned onions and a lot more.
Your favourite dish/es from your creations?
The creations learnt from my mother are my most favourite. Besides those I will have to say my Rajasthani menu which consists of Lal Maas, Lasuni Dal, Kersangri and the Qormas … get me a lot of praise, so I think I can list them as my favourites.
What inspires you?
For my cooking I always drew inspiration from my mother. No other food could match up. Now as I have explored extensively I draw inspiration from a myriad of experiences and from the wonderful people who are passionate about food themselves.
Any food memories from your travels?
The ribs at Carson’s, Chicago city, are the best that I’ve ever had.
Food at the hot spot of Chicago, Girl And The Goat, was life-altering! Stephanie Izard’s most talked about restaurant serves small plate dishes which just blow your mind away. Purple Pig, at the Windy City, is a pork paradise. Their milk-braised pork shoulder and pigs tail braised in balsamic are must-orders.
I’m blessed to be surrounded by the best. Chefs – Sabhyasachi Gorai, Pawan Bisht, Megha Kohli, Sharmistha Mukherjee Cheema, Nalini Moti Sadhu, Sweety Baluja , Vaibhav Bhargava, Harangad Singh – are a few that come to mind. They cook with passion and the main ingredient in their exceptional food is love!
People you look up to for advise and inspirations?
Both my mom and dad, who were awesome in the kitchen. Lately, I’ve been inspired by my many home-chef friends and my younger son, Arjan Bedi, who is a ruthless critic of my food.
To know more about the initiative and the upcoming events, visit the Facebook page of Courtyard by Virasat