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CuisinArt 2018

Ruma Neogy
03/22/2018

On March 17, Saturday afternoon at CuisinArt, the three rounds of cooking competition featured well known community individuals around New England. Not surprisingly, their friends thronged in for support. The contest this year had an opening round called Surprise Ingredients, where the organizers revealed to contestants several vegetarian items to prepare the main course just 10 minutes before the round. So at 12:15 pm, the contestants found themselves staring at an assortment of mushrooms, bell peppers, snap peas and mango, wondering what to do next. The final dish for some was a product of groupthink with suggestions and advice for cooks pouring in from all directions. But Mitali Kumar of Westford, a returning contestant had prepared well for the occasion with various home made spice paste to gel well with different ingredients. Her creation vegetable medley in poppy seed paste won the top award, while Prithvi Banerjee of Chelmsford was adjudged the runner-up.


Kumar and Banerjee were among fourteen cooks and eight artists taking part in the CuisinArt 2018 event organized by the Calcutta Club USA in Acton and held at the Maynard Elks Lodge in Maynard on March 17th. This was the third year of CuisinArt, and drew a crowd of 350-plus to enjoy the unique fusion event of Indian cuisine and art. Shikha Bajpai, who also took part in a folk dance later, said “the whole event was very nicely co-ordinated and different than what we see around here.”


The uniqueness of the dishes in the men’s and women’s round awed the judges and audience alike. Chitro Neogy, who co-founded the club along with his wife Ruma, said, “When you initially talk with chefs before the contest, there is so much apprehension about how hard it will be to complete on time, making sure it tastes well and plate the food decoratively for the jury. At the event, though, they are all stars. We are so proud of the talent in our community.” Bharat Singh, CEO of Talentburst, one of the seven contest judges said the show was “incredible” and should be done more. Among other dishes, a Mangalorean appam and shrimp curry prepared by Nidhi Thomas (who carried the woman’s round) caught his fancy; “I could eat this all day,”, he said! In the adjacent booth, the Punjabi Kadhi by Nisha Bawa of Shrewsbury came in runner-up. A novel experience during this round was the spontaneous singing by the crowd, started by contestant Madhu Mathur Anand of Lexington while cooking and her sister Kumkum Dilwali.


In the intense men’s round, Paresh Motiwala, known for his public pani-puri parties prepared a freshly made guacamole, which his fans swore tasted heavenly while Bimal Poddar, the seniormost participant and a club member flipped Marwari style moong daal dhosa. Arup Dey, the runner up served up Kaju Poshto Murgh, and explained how this dish didn’t require any of the heavy garam masala of Indian cooking. But the precision and confidence of Subhayu Basu,  used to preparing community food for hundreds of event attendees as a volunteer, won the day. Subhayu, who made Mutton Keema Rice from scratch was also adjudged as the Grand Cuisinier of CuisinArt 2018.


Indian artists across 3 states displayed incredible artwork, from Madhubani to modern contemporary. A number of artists recorded sales. Calcutta Club follows a gallery style protocol to ensure that all artwork is delivered with quality and transactions are handled efficiently. For Rahul Ray of Wayland, this was the first time that he had a significant painting sold to the mainstream population. “It’s unbelievable...I still can have a first,” said Ray.


One of the most successful artists was high school senior Meera Singh, who also participated in the live art segment. As in last year, the Live Art segment was an exhilarating experience where Meera and another artist Giridhar Pottepalem created dance paintings to the accompaniment of 6 different short folk dances performed by different area groups. The two paintings were auctioned for charity to support Prerna Girls School in Lucknow, and were purchased by Ram Gupta and Nisha Bawa.


The Chief guest was Ms Chitrita Banerji, noted Indian food historian and novelist who delivered an informative talk to the audience about use of diverse ingredients in Indian cooking from about 500 years back.


The event was supported by several sponsors, including Urban Public Companies of Denver, Masala Bay, Singh Ching, Moksha Spa, New York Life and Aalok Fashion. Masala Art of Needham was the food vendor for the event.


Established in 2015, Calcutta Club USA (www.calcuttaclubusa.com) of Acton is known for innovative and novel public events, which include the CuisinArt culinary contest, Sanskriti Lit Fest and Caleidoscope Film Festival.



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