Spreading Flavors of Odisha – OrissaPOST – Advice Eating

As cliché as it may sound, age is just a number to them. Saroja Choudhury rocks the corporate scene like a boss breaking down the glass ceiling. A home, kids and a million chores couldn’t stop her from establishing herself as a super chef at age 56. Her relentless zeal, drive for success and hard work coupled with undying passion for food sets her apart from other men. dominated culinary business branch. With clients ranging from Odisha Governor Ganeshi Lal and Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb to star couple Ajay Devgn and Kajol, Saroja has carved a niche for itself in the hearts of foodies across the country. Established in 2020, her Rosy’s Kitchen has put signature Odia cuisine on the global food map as her dishes are also flown abroad. However, her path from housewife to super chef was no picnic. In a frank conversation with Sunday POST, Saroja opens up about the journey so far…
She was asked to cook upma, a typical South Indian dish, the day after her wedding. Since she was born and raised in a common family, she had no idea about cooking. She asked her mother-in-law for help. This made her angry and she said something that didn’t sound pleasant. The incident had a lasting impact on Saroja and she did whatever it took to learn cooking skills.
An emotional Saroja tells of this experience: “Like many others, my mother-in-law had great expectations of me. The first day after my wedding, I was asked to make this dish for the family. But I couldn’t and her reaction made me who I am today. “Didn’t your mother teach you that basic lesson before she sent you your in-laws’ house?” she thundered. It hurt me, but I took it positively and promised myself that one day I would make her proud of me. At that time, the concept of online cooking classes did not exist. So I started preparing the dishes according to the recipes given in the manuals that come with the new pressure cookers and ovens. It worked and I was able to cook some delicious dishes without attending cooking classes. Within a few days, my family became fans of my recipes and cooking style. And I have found my calling.”
Somewhat late in her life, Saroja experienced success. At the age of 56, she never ceases to amaze those around her with culinary skills and a passion for learning. Two years ago she dared to become an entrepreneur.
Why did you wait so long to found your startup Rosy’s Kitchen? To this question she answers: “I always wanted to create my own identity. But after a year of my marriage I became a mother. While taking care of the family, I didn’t realize how many years went by in the blink of an eye. In the meantime I tried to find a few jobs but was turned down because I wasn’t qualified enough. But that didn’t dampen my mood. I became known by participating in a cooking competition and winning third prize in 1994. I was also commissioned by the state government to teach 20 disadvantaged students how to cook. In 2012 I started a catering service from where I live and started preparing authentic Odia cuisine. The quality and unique taste of my food immediately resonated with people. I was inundated with orders to cook various homemade dishes and made some money. However, at the request of my husband, I had to close my startup after a year.”
She continues: “I didn’t like being idle at home. So I accepted admission to a yoga class and graduated. I became idle again after completing the course, which was depressing. However, with my husband’s permission, I started delivering groceries again through Rosy’s Kitchen in 2020. During the lockdown, the service was available 24 hours a day. Even in the middle of the night I got calls from doctors about food and I never let them down. There was no member of staff to help me. So it was like serving society. With all hotels and restaurants closed during the pandemic, I kept my kitchen open so combatants don’t have to sleep on empty stomachs. With my first monthly income I bought a refrigerator worth Rs 28,000. My restaurant became very popular in Bhubaneswar when orders for various social occasions came in in large quantities. My manda pitha booth became a big draw at Toshali Mela in Bhubaneswar, with kheera poda pitha and ghora manda being my unique selling points.”
Recalling a touching incident, Saroja says: “I received a call from the sister of Odissi dancer Saswat Joshi, who asked me for a meal without onions and garlic for her mother-in-law who was on her deathbed. All the elderly lady wanted was a meal I cooked. That day I was busy with other important commitments and nobody was there to help me. After a few minutes, Saswat also called and urged me to cook something for his sister’s mother-in-law. I had no choice but to obey. I can’t control my emotions even now because the sick old lady died after eating food I prepared.”
When asked how she came into contact with star couple Ajay Devgn and Kajol, Saroja says: “They got the taste of my famous delicacy Kheera Poda Pitha, courtesy of Dr. Vinit, an Odisha-born entrepreneur. I didn’t know. Since Kajol loves shrimp malai curry, Vinit once asked me to cook the dish and send it to them. Vinit gave me a list of the Devgns’ favorite dishes and also got me the shrimp and crab needed for this purpose. As part of my effort to promote Odia foods through celebs, I prepared Crab-aloo Jhola, Crab Kasa, Dahi Machha, Chhena Poda, Rasagola, and Gulab Jamun. Order was ready late noon and flown to Devgn’s Juhu residence in Mumbai.”
Saroja attributed her success to the blessing of Lord Jagannath and the encouragement of her daughters.

Rashmi Rekha Das, OP

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