"It’s the essence of life, sometimes cooking can be about function, but it’s best when you view cooking as a form of creativity."
We catch up with Ivor who runs the Urban Rajah, which currently operates across publishing, broadcasting, food services and they will soon be selling a line of retail products. We discuss Ivor's passion for food, the creative process of writing his cookery book and the impact food and family meals can have on relationships. We also hear about what will be happening for National Curry Week (this week, 10th Oct) and Ivor's collaboration with Kingfisher Beer:
Hi Ivor, please can you introduce yourself, your company the Urban Rajah and your other ventures?
I’m the Urban Rajah, chef, food writer, food presenter, traveller and lifestyle adventurer with roots deep in the Indian Subcontinent. I’m a second generation immigrant and a son of 70s Britain. I grew up on hot summers, street cricket and spiced Indian food, which has narrated my life.
Urban Rajah is a contemporary Indian food brand, which operates across publishing, broadcasting, food service, and is busy developing a line of retail products. I run my pop-up restaurant, the Great Indian Food Feast at festivals and interesting venues, as well as the charity supper club, Cash n Curry which helps run education and healthcare projects in India’s slums.
What is the aim and ethos behind Urban Rajah?
The ethos of Urban Rajah is about delicious living. The aim of Urban Rajah is to transform lives through Indian food. Whether it’s broadening a curry lover’s spice horizons with new recipes and techniques or providing primary health care to a family in Chennai’s slums through our supper clubs; I think food has the power to positively change the way we connect with each other and Indian food is a unifying cuisine…who doesn’t like curry!
Headline Publish recently published your cookbook 'Urban Rajah’s Curry Memoirs.' Could you tell us some more about the writing, publishing and creative process?
The book tells the story of my love affair with Indian food through over 80 familial recipes. It’s a practical, easy to follow cookbook, it expresses my family’s food story through the eyes of the men in my family and was nominated for the World Food Awards Cook Book of the year. Inspiring, humorous, engaging, vivid, brave, delicate and abundant It's through their stories that the reader gains access to family recipes, which have been passed down through three generations and crossed three continents. The food and their stories have survived and thrived in an era of immigration.
Working with a publisher like Headline has been hugely rewarding, the relationship has helped craft my ‘voice’, refine my writing style and find the ‘gap’ in the market. The creative process is exactly that…it’s a process, creativity isn’t on tap, it’s a discipline, ideas come, you get them down, and then you re-visit and edit them until they’re the best they can be.
We hear that it is national curry week (10th Oct!) Where can we find you or your recipes?
I’ve been busy presenting a series of fun recipe videos with Kingfisher Beer, across each day of National Curry Week you’ll be able to watch the video shorts on www.urbanrajah.com or the Kingfisher Beer Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/KingfisherBeerUK. Go to the Kingfisher website to find out more: kingfisherbeer.co.uk
What do cooking/ family recipes and meals mean to you?
It’s the essence of life, sometimes cooking can be about function, but it’s best when you view cooking as a form of creativity. It’s also a great way of serving, putting others before you and meeting their needs. Family meals together are cornerstones in family life it’s where we share what’s being going on and what’s coming up.
Has your career always been focused around food?
Food has always been a constant passion, one of my first jobs was as a kitchen porter! My career has been varied working in publishing, event management and then it mostly revolved around running creative and PR agencies and producing sharp video content.
What is your favourite recipe to cook? (If you can decide on just one!)
For me, it’s always about what I’m obsessing about most. At the moment I’m eating my way through surfer chef Jon Lewin’s ‘The Local’s Cookbook’ series and loving his Sri Lankan recipes…particularly the Mackerel Curry. www.thelocalscookbook.com
And your ideal place to travel to and feel inspired?
It’s always around the Asian continent, particularly the Indian Ocean.
What can we expect to see next from you?
I’m a creative fidget, which means I spin a number of plates. Apart from my video series with Kingfisher Beer, I’m launching an Indian street food concept with a brilliant food service business, which will surface in early 2017. Plus I’m really excited about an ad campaign I’ll be presenting for Bespoke Hotels who will be launching their Indian portfolio of hotels shortly. I’m also writing my next cookbook, recording a podcast season and working on a TV series!