NRI Voice: Melting Pot of Cultures
Sudipto Ray Chaudhuri, a chef in London, loves UK outdoors and feels that London has people from all parts making it uniquely cosmopolitan.
London-based chef Sudipto Ray Chaudhuri has been living in the United Kingdom for almost three decades. Chaudhuri, who was born in the United Kingdom and came back to London as a 17-year-old in 1991, feels that the country has a lot to offer — from food to the stunning outdoors.
He talks to Little India about his love for food, the English weather and road trips in different parts of the United Kingdom:
A Teenager in London
When I came back to London in 1991 as a teenager, I thought life would change for me, but nothing of that sort happened. My school education happened in India and I stayed in a hostel, where one gets around doing things on their own. So when I came back to London, I felt things had not changed. I was doing my chores and looking after myself as I had done in the past.
In fact, I did not experience a culture shock at all. I made friends, worked hard and years flew by. London has people from different cultural backgrounds, and there is no ingredient or food that is not available in the city. I often gorge on gol gappas in London.
I studied in Westminister College and was soon placed in Hilton in London. I feel that the hotel kitchens are the same everywhere in the world. Working as a chef in the United Kingdom is great. Chefs get the credit for their good work and the mantra is simple — work hard. Seniors do mentor juniors but only till a point. There is no spoon feeding as people simply don’t have the time. The work atmosphere here is dynamic and people don’t indulge in petty politics at work, which is a great relief.
I feel that racism exists everywhere. There are good people and then there are bullies. I have faced racism a number of times here, but now I know how to tackle it. In fact, my former bosses and some former colleagues did try to instigate me with their taunts and racist slurs, but there are others who stand up to these bullies. It would bother me earlier and I would get angry, but over the years, I have realized that my work speaks for me and I don’t need to worry about bullies. However, sometimes one really needs to throw these comments right back at them.
I will never forget this one incident when a bully was put in his place. I worked in a hotel where one of the chefs was a rogue one. I had warned him many times, telling him to back off, but he didn’t care to pay heed. So one day, a waiter in the restaurant came back to the kitchen with an order for poached eggs. When he came back for the dish, he saw that the egg yolk was broken. The waiter refused to take the preparation to the guest and the chef started screaming at him. Soon a fight broke out between the two, with the waiter thrashing him. He stopped when we came in and broke the fight.
I have traveled all over the United Kingdom, Wales, Scotland and other places. Only recently my friend and I drove to France — it’s a six-and-a-half hour drive. Thanks to the amazing roads in Europe, road trips are a lot of fun and a bright blue sky only adds to it.
London is cold most of the year and there are only a few days in the year when the city enjoys the sun. The damp weather is something that puts me off and there are days when I crave for some sunshine. The sun rarely comes out but when it does, it’s time to explore the UK outdoors. The countryside in and around London and other parts of the United Kingdom is quite picturesque.
Grappling with the Accent
Different regions in the country have different accents, and it can be difficult to understand and get a hold of what people are saying. There have been times when I have been able to make very little of what people are saying. However, one tends to get used to it, to the extent that it becomes a part of how one speaks. Now I no longer find it difficult, but it takes me some time to figure the Scottish accent.
Most parties with friends in London happen in bars or pubs, unlike in India where friends are often called home for dinner. All these years that I have lived here, I can hardly remember being invited home by anyone. People here can be a little uptight — you may be greeted with a smile if it is your lucky day.
I recently got married and I have been trying to bring my wife to London, but the paperwork is endless. I have provided the authorities with proofs and the documents they want, but the process does not seem to end and that can be quite annoying. When I read about the Windrush Scandal recently, I felt it was very unfair on those people. They were doubted despite having all the right papers and contributing to the country.