Master Chef In The Making: A Culinary Artiste shares her passion
  Roger Ramgoolam
FEATURES
July 2015

When I kept my appointment to interview Natasha Boodram, she was clearly unwell. The sniffles and bleary eyed slightly resentful look which I noticed, gave it away. To make matters worse it was her birthday, and here she was, spending time being interviewed by a near stranger and not even being at 100 percent efficiency. Luckily, her innate professionalism prevailed and she charmingly shrugged away my earnest suggestions that we postpone.

I half expected her answers to be short, at best, in an understandable attempt to get the interview over with so that she could return home and soothe herself with warm blankets and a hot beverage. I promised brevity in my questioning, but again she smiled disarmingly and said she would be okay.

As the interview progressed, Natasha seemed to come out of a protective shell to the extent that eventually, I even forgot she was ill. I soon sensed that the depth of feeling she had for her profession and the desire she had to express herself and to share her feelings, trumped her less than stellar disposition.

Passion is an oft misused word, but in relation to our interview, it was the best description for the manner in which Natasha spoke of her virtually lifelong experience with the culinary arts. Her journey in this field started when, at the age of eight, she began to bake and sell cupcakes

Her adopted father was an unfailing source of support for her nascent culinary yearnings. At an age when most parents anxiously begin planning and planting the seeds for a future career in more traditional fields, Natasha’s father chose to encourage what appealed to Natasha and not the other way around.

She credited him as one of the persons who has always seen the best in her, in spite of all of her faults. Another person who she spoke warmly of was her friend, Leslie. Leslie, she said, was always so good to her that she took care of all the small details in her life and in so doing made “everything else” possible.

At the age of 27, Natasha has seen success after success. Her culinary exploits have flowered beyond her precocious cupcake enterprise, to culminate in her landing a lofty appointment as apprentice chef at the renowned Mirazur restaurant in France.

Buoyed on by this success and ever mindful of both her father’s gentle urgings and her own more steely resolve and unremitting restlessness to “become the best in what I do”, she is not content to merely settle and enjoy the fruits of her success. Instead, her ultimate goal is to achieve the revered title of “master chef”.

The title of “master chef” is bestowed on a chef who has been certified by other master chefs as achieving unsurpassed excellence in all fields of the culinary arts including cooking, law, finance and management. I sensed that the title of “master chef” represented more than just the highest tier in the professional culinary hierarchy. In fact, it seemed to me that to Natasha, a designation of “master chef” was also symbolic of personal excellence.

Natasha’s emergence from the tiny, heavily forested and largely agricultural community of Biche in east Trinidad, leading to her early difficult experiences both during childhood and young adulthood, hardly provided the ideal nursery for the international success story that she has written for herself. She maintained however, that looking back at her life, she had no regrets but instead choose to view all her life experiences as an opportunity for learning.

Her eventual ascent to the giddy heights of Mirazur, listed as number 11 in The S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants and deemed worthy of 2 Michelin stars, was quite remarkable given her early personal travails. Natasha has also received bartending certification under Colin Peter Field, of the Ritz Paris, who has on 3 occasions been cited as the world’s best bartender.

Natasha has expertise in both cooking and pastry making but she has a definite disinclination towards pastry making. Amazingly, she also possesses the ability to prepare dishes from every country in the world, and although she has quite an educated palette, she still places pre-eminence on the food of her homeland, Trinidad and Tobago. In fact, she looks forward to enjoying pelau (a savory one pot meal), whenever she visits Trinidad.

Natasha’s ultimate professional goal is to become the Caribbean’s first master chef and then to own and manage a restaurant in France whose menu offers a unique variety of cuisine. Her reason for having her own place was “so that my culinary passion may become someone’s culinary addiction”. Currently Natasha sharpens her management chops when running her catering company located in Trinidad, but her aspirations remain unwaveringly set on making her fortune on the far flung shores of France.

Cooking is not Natasha’s sole interest. Her means allow her to indulge in world travel and in so doing she is able to experience different cultures and personalities. She loves enjoying time with friends while, luckily, her pleasant, affable personality allows her to relate and to mix well with strangers. One personal bugbear, she said sheepishly, is her impatience, which leads to a habitual restlessness and desire to move quickly from one thing to the next.

At my request Natasha offered her opinion on the French, Italian and Mediterranean cuisine offered in Trinidad which she had experienced. While her comments were favorably weighted in the majority of instances, Natasha adamantly stated that the authenticity of some of the dishes was questionable. She was no less diffident in offering her views of Trinidadian diners. “Trindadians” she stated, ‘typically eat with their bellies when they should also eat with their eyes’.

My befuddled look which greeted this assertion quickly drew forth an explanation. What she meant, she said, was that she preferred that Trinidadians would show more appreciation for small elegant dishes; that sometimes an equal if not greater degree of skill and preparation went into the creation of these.

At present, Natasha is closest to her cousin (Sheresse), her mother and her boyfriend (Evans Marie). Despite her hectic schedule, she hopes to have a family of her own some day.

The Cinderella story that is Natasha’s passion driven life is a lesson for any young person, particularly one who faces the multifarious challenges that she has successfully surmounted. The fact that she has attained a high standard of culinary virtuosity, yet ultimately craves the attainment of matchless skill bears testimony to her extraordinary strength of character and her singular determination to attain success.

THE PULSE ON NATASHA

  • Since the age of six, she has been baking and selling her creations to her neighbours.
  • Comes from a family of cooks and food lovers: her earliest memories include spending long hours in the kitchen with her grandmother.
  • Attended the Sangre Grande Government primary school.
  • In 2010, her adopted father encouraged her to turn her love and passion for cooking into a career, enrolling her in culinary school.
  • She began her formal culinary training at the Trinidad and Tobago Hotel and Tourism Institute, where she graduated at the top of her class and was selected for an internship at the five-star Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort.
  • On completion of her internship at Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort, she was invited to join the staff and after a few months, again upon the encouragement of her adopted dad, she continued her training at the Cesar Ritz Colleges Culinary Academy in Le Bouveret, Switzerland, where she obtained classical training and bartending certification under Colin Peter Field.
  • Natasha will soon begin pursuing her Masters’ degree at the world-renowned Paul Bocuse Institute, named after the prominent French chef who is often credited as the inventor of  nouvelle cuisine. This will make Natasha one of the first persons from Trinidad and Tobago to do so.
  • In January 2015, Natasha apprenticed at the prestigious restaurant, Mirazur—officially one of the best in the world and listed as number 11 in The S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants. There she trained under Italo-Argentinian Chef Mauro Colagreco who has received two Michelin stars and who was also awarded “Chef of the Year” by the prestigious Gault & Millau restaurant guide—the first non-French chef to have received this title.
  • Natasha now lives and works in France.

 

 

By: Roger Ramgoolam | FEATURES | July 2015


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