Aurora Magazine

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A zest for cooking

Published Mar 18, 2019 12:03pm
Zarnak Sidhwa, chef and chocolatier, in profile.

Zarnak Sidhwa never thought she was going to pursue cooking as a career; neither did she intend to be famous. But the universe works in mysterious ways and so here she is – one of the most popular chefs on television today. And every bit of it by chance.

Upfront and forthright, Sidhwa exudes so much enthusiasm when she talks about cooking, her show and her plans for the show that there can be no doubting that she loves food and her work with a passion. All you need to do is watch an episode of Food Dairies on Masala TV to know that she is also a stickler for detail and discipline.

For Sidhwa cooking started early in life, not as a passion but as a necessity. The only child of a working mother, she has “been cooking since I was a child; my mother would call me from work and say make this or that, and I would scrape up something.”

Although she enjoyed the early days’ experiments in the kitchen – many of which she admits failed – cooking was not a career option until much later in life.

According to Sidhwa, she discovered her passion for baking while living in the UK, where her husband was posted.

“In the cold weather there wasn’t much to do but stay home,” so she experimented with baking, excited and encouraged by the wide variety of ingredients available.

“But the cooking, I was doing as a necessity,” she says matter-of-factly.

Sidhwa’s career began behind a desk, as a secretary to a company head; while she worked, she was of course cooking for the family and whipping up an occasional dessert, on request of family and friends.

“I have always been quite famous for my desserts (within friends and family circles); whenever there was a family dinner, my relatives would ask me to make the dessert.”

Then with the arrival of her second child, Sidhwa made the big move that, unbeknownst to her, would turn into a household name – she quit her job. And the very next day, she enrolled in veteran culinary expert Shirin Anwer’s cooking classes.

There, Sidhwa not only kept herself gainfully occupied, she also perfected her cooking and baking skills and added decorating to her repertoire. Unwittingly, she had also set the celestial wheels of career change into motion.

As she says, after Anwer’s classes, “There was no looking back.”

When her culinary guru Anwer started hosting a show called Masala Mornings on Masala TV about four years ago, Sidhwa was invited as a guest chef and made her first appearance on TV.

“I made Parsi khana, and it was much appreciated. Then I did a guest show about chocolates and I kept appearing as a guest on her show. The channel’s (Masala) management picked me up from there.”

Given her romance with desserts and undying love for chocolates which she declares, “I can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Sidhwa’s first assignment as a full-time television chef was a recorded show called Chocoholics. Dedicated to chocolate, the show was a success and Sidhwa went on to host Chocoholics, Season Two.

Eventually, she landed her current show, Food Diaries, a live show that airs five days a week and has turned her into a cooking celebrity.

“People associated me only with chocolate and desserts because of Chocoholics; in the beginning, I would tell them ‘I can cook too, try my food!’. Now they know and they try my recipes.”


Sidhwa is an extraordinary person with unusual amounts of energy. This full time mother of two young boys hosts a live show daily, a fortnightly weekend show and several recorded ones as and when they come up. She also manages Food Dairies Facebook page (120,000 fans and counting) answering all sorts of queries and questions and until recently, ran a home catering business that was a one-woman operation. Her speciality? You guessed it. Desserts and chocolates.


Although Sidhwa admits having reservations initially about managing a live show, she says things were easier once she learnt the ropes and she now enjoys the whole experience. A ‘one-woman-show’, she plans, shops, chops, grinds, minces and prepares everything for the show by herself.

“It’s a 24/7 job from groceries to the recipes... so I have to be organised to get things done properly and on time,” says Sidhwa.

She says luckily her early schooling at Mama Parsi School inculcated discipline, organisation and propriety but according to her, “It’s also a ‘Parsi thing’ to be proper and organised.”

Along with being organised and staying on top of the job, Sidhwa’s vision for the show is to “keep it lively and engaging and make sure that it doesn’t become repetitive and redundant.”

To this end, she not only introduces new foods and themes regularly, she is also focused on broadening her skill set, repertoire and recipes. A self confessed travel bug, she makes sure to take a cooking course whenever she travels. So far she has done a course on chocolate-making in India and taken several cooking courses in Thailand.

Her latest pet project – the revival of traditional Parsi food and recipes – was also inspired by a trip to India where she found and tried recipes that “even my mother had not tried!”

Sidhwa is an extraordinary person with unusual amounts of energy. This full time mother of two young boys hosts a live show daily, a fortnightly weekend show and several recorded ones as and when they come up. She also manages Food Dairies Facebook page (120,000 fans and counting) answering all sorts of queries and questions and until recently, ran a home catering business that was a one-woman operation. Her speciality? You guessed it. Desserts and chocolates.

She sounds a bit dejected when admitting that she had to scale back dramatically because she could not manage all of it on her own. But ever the optimist and always upbeat, Sidhwa has dedicated her time to delivering a cooking show that is inventive, innovative and even inspiring for her audience.

“I have regular callers who have tried out my recipes and have started their own, small home catering businesses. I like to encourage them to be productive; I think there is nothing like it if they can earn a supplementary income from home.”

Although food and cooking are her first passion, Sidhwa likes to read in her downtime – her favourite genre these days – ‘culinary literature’ of course.

Zarnak Sidhwa recently celebrated the successful completion of two years on Food Dairies and is looking forward to a new year of inspiring shows and innovative on-air cooking.