Madhur Jaffrey: Cooking and Acting
January 27, 2007

It is ironical that she is better known for cooking than her acting. Famous in the West for her television programmes and cook books, her first love was and still is, acting.

Madhur Jaffery is no stranger to stardom - the fact that she has achieved it in an unusual field, does surprise a lot of people, including herself.

Born in Delhi, Madhur Jaffrey came to the UK the age of 19 to pursue her passion for acting by studying drama at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. It was here that her love of cooking began, though more out of necessity than anything else. While in London she desperately missed Indian home-cooked food, so she started writing letters to her mother asking to be taught how to cook. She would be sent regular recipes and effectively learnt to cook by correspondence.

After graduating from RADA she acted in productions for television, film and radio but left England and headed for New York where she began to write food articles as a way of supplementing her income and getting her children through school. Then came her hugely successful books and accompanying television programmes.

With four decades of culinary experience behind her, its the straight-talking clarity of her language that makes her books so successful. She unravels the mysteries of Indian food and says her aim is to keep things simple and easy to follow and, as she only started to cook when she was 20, she writes from the perspective of someone who had to learn herself, aware of all the difficulties presented in the kitchen.

In England Jaffrey met the Merchant-Ivory team and this was the beginning of a wonderful relationship that culminated in some of Jaffrey's most brilliant acting. Jaffrey had a short stint with commercial films when she acted in Ramesh Sippy's Sagar. She confesses that she does not care for commercial films, preferring stage acting above all.

Jaffrey had a satisfying career in England with television and stage. From there she came across to the USA where she started her career as a cook book author. As the cliche goes, the rest is history. Jaffrey, with more than ten cook books to her credit, and some more in the pipeline, has come a long way from the insecure cook who used to ask for recipes. Jaffrey's success is not as simple as it sounds. In a fiercely competitive industry, where cook books sell a dime a dozen, Jaffrey had to produce something that was unique and different.

Her cooking techniques certainly are unique. Jaffrey's recipes are not just ways to cook Indian food -- they incorporate an entire history of the area and where the recipes originate. She goes into minute details about spices, their origin and varied usage. She explains Indian terms so that non-Asians can understand her recipes better. In short, she has worked towards innovation and perfection in her art of Indian cookery.

Jaffrey admits that it is not easy work. Her cook books require extensive research and experiment. She claims that she has never, to date, published or aired a recipe without trying it first. If it does not taste right, she does it again, calls the person who gave her the recipe and checks the ingredients until she gets it right.

Jaffrey's cook books are sold in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, India, South Africa, England and Europe. North America is pretty well covered through her television cooking series which have been aired by TV Asia.

© 2010 Indian Oil Corporation Limited. All rights reserved.