(December 22, 2021) From essaying an ordinary cycle mechanic, suave executive, zookeeper and even a space scientist, Indian actor Adil Hussain slips into each role effortlessly. The later bloomer on the cinema scene, his versatility in acting is unmistakable. Now, offscreen too, Adil is wowing folks, not just with his acting, but with culinary wisdom. The actor in Life of Pi, English Vinglish, Zed Plus, Hotel Salvation, etc is captivating foodies with his epicurean journey.
In fact, it was a startling sight to see Adil deep in his dekchi, kadchi in hand at a restaurant in Gangtok (Sikkim). Korean restaurant Mu Kimchi was buzzing with excitement with the special day’s menu prepared by Hussain. It was not Korean cuisine though but a page from an Indian recipe book. Hussain’s menu comprised Kashmiri mutton, Assamese dal bharta, Kerala beet and coconut sabji. He also had his mother’s special chicken jal pyaazi and a chutney (of bamboo shoot, Raja mircha and mustard). “It’s a delightful way to introduce another part of India to the northeast. Similarly, when I visit Kerala, I cook dishes from the northeast. The food people eat is hugely associated with the emotional aspect of a region,” Hussain reveals to Global Indian.
Often, Hussain shares his foodie trails on Instagram, and now friends from the UK, Netherlands and Germany have all been coaxing him for pop-ups internationally too. “I might have to leave acting and start cooking for friends,” he laughs.
Passion for food
Hussain’s love for food is not newfound, as he would spend hours watching his mother conjure up dishes with diverse spices to accentuate the nuances of different ingredients. Hussain remembers catching fresh prawns from a pond near his house in Goalpara, Assam, which his mother gave a twist to. “I learned the nuances of cooking by watching my mom without knowing that I would cook for big gatherings,” says the Indian actor. His father, a teacher, instilled in him a love for learning that is probably why he has taken to cooking with such flair.
Chicken and meat dishes were rare in the Hussain household as his father loved fish, and meat was only cooked during Eid or an occasion. Adil has learnt the craft well, and the Kashmiri mutton curry he cooks has no onion or garlic, and is made with whole spices, chopped ginger, asafoetida and curd.
Requests to have pop-ups are aplenty, but similar to his on-screen roles, Hussain is selective — on location, guests and cuisine. Since 2018, when Hussain had his first pop-up, he has been curating quite a few pop-ups.
From clueless amateur to a “professional” chef
When Hussain was called for National School of Drama interview in the early 90s, he was asked if he could cook for a large number of people. As a lover of food, though never having cooked before, the draw of NSD was so huge that he answered in the affirmative. “They were looking for volunteers to cook and I jumped in,” he laughs.
After cooking several times at NSD, he got a chance to cook at a restaurant in New York while shooting for English Vinglish. The guests were the film’s director, Gauri Shinde, the late actor Sridevi and the crew. Since then, whenever there is a party, the Indian actor is the go-to chef.
“Cooking professionally requires one to set a benchmark. So, taking it up as a challenge, and preparing well helps me come out of my shell of hesitation,” he adds. The actor, who also studied at Drama Studio London on a Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarship, is extremely picky about ingredients. “I know the exact vegetables, and where to buy them. I get specific cuts for non-vegetarian, and am meticulous about where the spices are bought too, all this after thorough research,” the Indian actor says.
Picking up new culinary skills
During the first phase of lockdown in March last year, Hussain explored dishes beyond his comfort zone. His son, Kabir, 11, is a lover of spaghetti, which he soon mastered, and Kabir loved it. He then turned to sour-bread, croissants, etc. “I even make my own dosa batter and grind my own coffee beans,” he says.
Actors turning restauranteurs is not a new phenomenon but Adil loves acting, and cooking is a cathartic activity and he admits he would not want to do it on a regular basis.
His fans and friends are hoping for weekend getaways with tailored menus curated by Adil who hopes to someday teach acting. And cooking too.
After the roaring success of the first season, Hussain is again a part of Delhi Crime Season 2. His next release is Footprints on Water, directed by Nathalia Syam, a story of an illegal immigrant searching for his missing daughter in the UK. Another film Postman, directed by Prawaal Raman, is in the works. For now though, the actor-turned-epicurean is revelling in role playing, doing both with equal elan.