Cooking with Love: The story of 3 autistic chefs
Published on: 14 Apr, 2021
A curious soul and a knack for cooking made these three amazing people on the autism spectrum fall in love with cooking and baking. When a person feels misunderstood by people or has trouble in expressing their feelings, they usually find solace in something they can control. Food and confectionery became the sources of calm and solitude for these extraordinary chefs.
At the tender age of 4, Amitrajit was diagnosed with Autism. When children of his age were playing and were engaging with their curiosities, Amitrajit was taking interventions from Smitha Avasthi and Tom Brown in Kolkata. School is usually an interesting time in a child’s life. But with Autism, he had to face a lot of difficulties while studying in Cambridge School. Due to low awareness and minimal cooperation from fellow students and teachers, Amitrajit had to go through a tough time in school. As his parents were learning more about Autism, they sought help from psychologists and other relatives. He started engaging himself in cooking and baking when he came across NSHM Knowledge Campus. That’s when he started developing a passion for the same. He started making diverse dishes at home and experimenting with recipes. His favorite items to cook are Kadhai Chicken and Chilli Chicken. He hopes to get guidance and to explore new opportunities for his future. Hire him here.
As Nilabha’s parents noticed a slight delay in his speech, they thought it was best to get him tested. After consulting a doctor and running several tests, he was diagnosed with Autism. At the young age of 4, he started special education and speech therapy. As they resided in Haldia, his parents were not able to provide him with regular therapy but they strived to develop and shape his abilities in the best way they could. They admitted him to a normal school with the aim of familiarising him with regular schooling and education. He was also engaged in activities like yoga, swimming, cycling, table tennis among others. Due to low social interaction, he had a tough time talking to new people and making friends. Despite all this, he maintained his calm and friendly nature. With time and hard work, he started speaking 3 languages - English, Bengali and Hindi.
When he turned 11, his parents shifted to Saudi Arabia with him. They noticed that he was facing difficulties in adjusting to the education there. On his special educator’s suggestion, his mother came back to India with him and started his tuition under the NIOS board. He has successfully completed his education under the board this year. For the past 2 years, his interest in cooking and baking has been on the rise. Lockdown added fuel to the already sparkling fire of his passion. YouTube helped him explore new recipes and he started making various dishes. Starting from non vegetarian items, he now cooks almost all daily dishes for his family. His speciality is to cook with very little oil and using minimum spices. Energetic, friendly and simple Nilabha also completed a secondary level baking course from NIOS board. Recently, he has also learned how to drive but they have not applied for a license yet. He hopes that the government lets him drive in the future. With an aim to hone his skills, he expects to get an opportunity to work in a cafe or a restaurant and work towards something he truly loves. He is confident and hard-working with a belief that he can thrive in the workplace. Hire him here.
Diagnosed at such a young age of 2.5 years, Varun has been receiving therapy since then. His mother recounts an incident where Varun asked her if a child who was using a wheelchair was differently abled. Gradually, he realised that even he comes under that spectrum and started asking questions about Autism. He began reading about the same from the study material collected by his mother. He was curious to know more about his condition and also started coming to terms with the same. He began accepting things as he had been capable of doing things well and even his teachers in school praised his efforts. A perfectionist at heart, Varun strives to do things with utmost accuracy and precision as he wants to prove to the world that he can handle all tasks easily. He wants everything to be done properly. When asked how he felt about being on the spectrum, he replied with just one word - Fabulous. If that doesn’t imply his amazing zest for life and the way he overcomes hurdles in his path, I don’t know what will. From accompanying his mother in the kitchen and buttering the chapattis after they’re cooked, to knowing the names of all spices in 3 different languages, he gradually realized his love for cooking. Varun used to religiously follow Sanjeev Kapoor’s Khaana Khazana which deeply impacted his passion. Not only this, he loves watching all kinds of cookery shows, no matter what language they are in. A visit to a big hotel and conversing with the chefs was all it took for him to determine that he aspires to become a chef and a confectionary baker. He loves cooking all kinds of food, Chicken 365 being his absolute favourite. He is more into baking as he enjoys baking breads and cookies a lot.
Swimming and running are some of the activities he enjoys doing, apart from baking. Varun holds the record for being the first person with Autism in Asia to complete a 42 km marathon in 4 hours 27 minutes.
With internship experience with ITC Maratha and Grand Hyatt, Varun is equipped with all necessary skills needed to make it in the culinary industry. He also received letters of appreciation from the internships as the chefs in those restaurants were astonished to see a person with autism who could bake with such professionalism. Due to the lockdown, he has not been placed for a job yet. But this did not dampen his enthusiasm, instead, he started his own venture for home-made cookies which are baked using different millets. He hopes to get more orders for his venture “Bake n Flake” or to get a placement in one of the big restaurants. Hire him here.
Whether it’s Amitrajit’s desire to explore new recipes, Nilabha’s habit of cooking food with less oil and spices or Varun’s perfectionism, all we see are three determined people on the autism spectrum who want to find success in the culinary world. Food unites people, and in these stories, we see them united in their love for food and their eagerness to make better and more amazing dishes.
Atypical Advantage is Planet’s first Talent platform for People with Disabilities. Explore our website to hire diverse talent, shop for products made by people with disabilities, browse through exquisitely curated art. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, read more about us on our blog, sign up for mentorship, volunteer with us or feel free to contribute here.