By Sanjay Pinto


Amul’s tag line ‘the taste of India’ has instant recall value. A claim that is reinforced by the iconic brand’s witty billboards over decades that many of us have grown up admiring. In just the same way, here’s a name that resonates in culinary circles. A reputation that eloquently oozes from her quotidian facebook reviews of the city’s best and the latest restaurants. A ten-year-old passion in her capacity as a television cookery host has seen Sharmila Moses cover a hundred places to tickle your taste buds, not just in Chennai, or India, for that matter, but also abroad.

Quite the connoisseur of fine dining, Sharmila is a credible ‘go to’ person whenever you want to plan a meal outside. Or even for takeaways. From helping you zero in on the most appropriate restaurant to suggesting dishes, from helping with reservations to even putting in a word for that surprise cake and extra pampering on special occasions, she does it all for friendship or just a lark. Post meal feedback is discreetly sought and shared with the chef or the owners.

(Pic: Sharmila Moses)

Mouth-watering close-up pictures of delicacies that she whips up herself with a grateful heart punctuated with a ‘God is good all the time’ trademark phrase, or sampled at innumerable joints grace her facebook timeline and the feed of her friends. It’s a routine fuelled by her love for “cooking and baking” for which she invests “a lot of time to improve and upgrade” herself. “Reviewing restaurants has helped me a great deal to explore more dishes and cuisines.”

With an almost incessant flow of invitations from many restaurateurs and chefs and membership in certain hotels such as HDC, Hyatt Dining Club, ITC and Novotel, she has an informal tie-up with just about every fancy place you can think of.

That Sharmila has been lending her expertise free of cost can be attributed to her inherent social service background. But with “offers for Food Pop Ups” and roles as a “Consultant” that have come her way, she does sniff out business potential in this activity.

The bond with the chef fraternity and restaurateurs goes beyond food as she often helps them get school and college admissions by tapping into her network. For instance, when a chef was duped of five lakh rupees, she escalated the issue with senior police officials and recovered the money. What’s more, during the first two waves of covid, “as a token of appreciation for all the good food I have had in many restaurants I cooked meals and sent it to many chefs around the city. I tried to be a ‘Food Samaritan”! A trusted sounding board, she has also had many chefs confiding in her before switching jobs. Blessed with arguably “one of the largest collection of cookbooks in South India”, which her hubby and daughters periodically gift her, Sharmila often lends them to chefs to gather “new ideas and recipes.”

The hospitality industry is happy to reciprocate. “Koox, Novotel Chamiers Road celebrated my wedding anniversary by surprising me as my husband, a mercantile marine Captain is always away at sea. The entire Koox Team right from the General Manager Mr. Supreet Roy to the chefs made my day and I felt overwhelmed.”

The rapport and personal touch that Sharmila shares with the industry, coupled with her depth of knowledge of gastronomical delights, sets her apart from the dime a dozen food bloggers and youtubers. “I am seriously considering a youtube channel. My culinary guru is Ms Chandri Bhat and the founder of Chennai Culinary Institute ‘Hotbreads’ Mr Mahadevan. They trained homemakers like me to cook professionally. On these lines I want to share tried and tested recipes with the public with correct techniques.”

A predictable dream is “to have a cafe or restaurant, God willing, as food is my passion.” Sharmila’s commercial pilot daughters are as adept in the kitchen as they are inside the cockpit. And the trio compete with each other to come up with gourmet fare.

What are her favourite picks and eateries? “Ghai Phad Prik (Chicken with basil) at Soy Soi restaurant, kulchas and Amritsari chole at The Dining Room, Park Hyatt, Thayir Sadaam Fritters at the Broken Bridge Café, Wok tossed mushrooms at Stix at Hyatt Regency and Malabar chicken at Cafe Mercara, ITC Grand Chola” rank pretty high up in her list.

From Sharmila’s very own kitchen, Hainanese chicken rice, a Singaporean dish, chicken malai kebabs, a Pakistani delicacy and moist orange cake with mint are a must have.

Egged on by her zest for food, Sharmila recalls her “Master Classes at JW Marriott” in her formative years. “I would sit in the front row and watch keenly the preparations by the chefs. As a student back then, I would find it unnerving”. These Masterclasses in many star hotels such as Hyatt, Park Hyatt, Taj Coromandel, ITC and Feathers “have shaped me a great deal and improved my knowledge.”

Through the eyes of an ‘insider outside’, Sharmila’s key takeaways from star hotel kitchens is the “vital role” that hygiene plays. “I am happy to note how waste is disposed and the counters are spic and span in most places even during a casual visit. High pressure burners help in cooking swiftly. Time management is on display when the order is processed and executed. All this has taught me to be disciplined in planning a meal at home.”

This culinary journey has also witnessed a competitive twist. “I was selected by the Thai Consulate to represent Chennai at a National culinary contest at Mumbai. Although it was during the covid time, I was able to attend and emerged the first runner up, representing Benjarong restaurant in Chennai.”

The social service streak has always shown up with remarkable verve. When she was the Community College Chairperson for underprivileged girls, Sharmila took them for a cookery demo to Raintree at St Mary’s Road. “I just loved the way the management treated these students with utmost care and kindness. The girls were so excited to see water just flow from the tap as soon as the hand was placed beneath it. It taught me never to take anything in life for granted.”

A former President of the Young Womens Christian Association (YWCA) of Madras and the Vice President of the CSI Ewart Alumni Association, Sharmila is quite the busy bee in the social circuit. As a qualified pianist having completed Grade 8 with Trinity College, London, she keeps striking all the right notes in every fulfilling day’s menu.

(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Author of 4 books and Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7. His 4th book ‘High & Law’ published by Thomson Reuters is available on amazon) 



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