The mastermind behind Esseplore’s authentic South Indian menus, meet Chef Latha Chandrasekaran.
Latha Chandrasekaran grew up in Tamil Nadu with the delicious smells and flavours of food surrounding her. Though her interest in cooking was only limited to observing her mother and grandmother, curiosity was always present. She loved watching them cook tirelessly. But as with everyone, life got busy for Latha, and her growing love for cooking was pushed aside. It wasn’t until she moved to Singapore that she thought about cooking. Initially, she had a hard time with it; her grandmother made everything look so easy, and with her knowledge of what tastes go well together, why was it not working for her? Despite the many hurdles that came her way, her strong determination made her hold on. With help from her family, she learned to make the dishes of her childhood. The Chettinad and Kongunadu cuisines have since become her speciality.
It was while living in Japan that she fully came into bloom. Fascinated by their food culture and inspired by their work ethic, she resonated with their use of fresh ingredients. She wanted a break from the monotonous, a chance to do something different; and when she chanced upon a Facebook post that called for foreign cooking instructors, she applied on a whim and got the job! What began as a class of two eventually grew to accommodate almost 140. As word continued to spread, sharing the food of her childhood with others made Latha realise how much she valued and enjoyed working in the culinary field; she wanted to share the heart and soul of South Indian cooking with people.
Latha was exposed to Chettinad cooking through her grandmother and Kongunadu cooking through her relatives. Though both styles represent different provinces in Tamil Nadu, their medicinal value and similar cooking ethics connect them. The Chettinad cuisine is especially famous in India for its health benefits, aroma and intense flavours. Its unique point lies in the freshly used ingredients. The spices and masalas are either ground on the spot or at the mill, only adding to its nutritiousness. Chef Latha, too, takes this seriously and only uses freshly ground spices and powders in her dishes, firmly believing that fresh ingredients influence the taste hugely. She sources them from India and Singapore and follows the traditional recipes passed down from her family, making sure to add her own charm to it. Her interest in the Kongunadu cuisine grew as she visited her relatives in the Kongu Nadu area- its similarities to the Chettinad food made her want to learn more. Like Chettinad cooking, Kongunadu cooking uses highly refined and freshly ground spices.
Through her curated menus, Chef Latha hopes to show people the beauty in simplicity. South Indian cooking often seems simple, but there is an array of complex flavours behind them. Its ethics and value shine through, highlighting the homegrown and home-cooked aspect of the cuisine.
“My food is authentic, freshly prepared, and home-cooked; you cannot find these recipes in restaurants. I cook from my heart, and you can feel it in my food”,– Chef Latha Chandrasekaran
If you want to explore the delicious tastes of Chettinad and Kongunadu, check out Chef Latha’s alluring menus only on esseplore.cooking and enjoy the rich flavours of South India.