School holidays are a manic time in our household and usually involve my two, plus atleast one or two of their mates. So that automatically becomes a madhouse with FIFA-15 and sausage sizzles being the flavour of the month. To break up the monotony (for me), I took three little boys to watch a movie and then to Sushi Maru.
It was there that I noticed the most beautiful young Japanese sushi chef. But that is not extraordinary. What was surprising was that there was a young Indian man working behind the counter too, and he could not take his eyes off her. He made every attempt to get her attention and was rewarded with the most precious smile when she glanced his way and caught his eye.
This reminded me of two very beloved friends of mine. My Irish sister Sarah, and The Singing Chef, Sarajit Chanda. Sarah ensured I kept my sanity whilst I worked at Banjara. I still remember her wedding day. All I could afford was a single red gerbera in my hair and a florist at Wynyard Station wrapped wire around the stem and fixed it for me…
Sarj (whose voice I still remember, especially when he sang Chaudhvin Ka Chand,) kept me alive with tandoori chicken and daal, prawns, kebabs and naan. To these two I am ever grateful… But this is not my story, it’s Sarah’s. So I’ll let her tell it.
“In 1999, I left Ireland for Australia in search of adventure. A linguist by profession, I had never travelled to an English speaking country before and at first missed the challenge of learning a new language. Within a month I found a job in an Indian restaurant and was surrounded by colleagues of many different languages and cultures. Before long I had fallen head over heels in love with Indian food and culture and with the tandoori chef!!
Sarajit Chanda had worked as a chef in Sydney for 4 years when I strolled into his life. Originally from Bangladesh, he worked long hours among people from his own part of the world. He craved interaction with “westerners”. He felt that having come the whole way to Australia, he might as well be in Asia.
The two of us started to go for drinks after work and would chat into the wee small hours. My one year visa ended in February 2000 but before I left I made a pledge to Sarajit that I’d come back. I returned in September 2000 and before long we decided to get married and move to Ireland.
At our small intimate wedding in a friend’s house in Sydney, we did our bridal waltz barefoot on the lawn to “Have I told you lately that I love you?” as a friend strummed it on the guitar and crooned the words of Van Morrison. The handful of close friends present munched on tandoori chicken prepared by Sarajit and cooked on the barbie!
On 5th March 2001, still recovering from Mardi Gras the previous day, we left for Ireland. There we had a traditional wedding with our family and friends and this time Sarajit cooked for 160 guests!
Upon arriving in Ireland we got jobs in restaurants, I as a manager and Sarajit as head chef. We were biding our time until the day that we would open our own restaurant.
In 2005 we left Dublin for a small rural town called Ardee where the opportunity presented itself. News of Sarajit’s fabulous food spread like wildfire. Within our first year, our restaurant, Fuchsia House had been reviewed by all major food critics and was included in guidebooks of Ireland’s best restaurants.
In the meantime, our first child, Maya Aruna came along and in 2008, our second, Laoise Margaret arrived.
In 2008 the Irish economy took a nosedive and dining out suffered very badly. “Dining at home” grew rapidly so we launched a range of sauces for sale in shops called Aruna Sauces, named after Sarajit’s mother Aruna who bestowed her wonderfully wholesome, delicious recipes upon us.
In 2012 our third (and final!!) child arrived. Whereas the girls were named after their grannies, our little man is named after both grandads. Sachin Patrick has brought such a hoot of laughter into our lives during what have been tough economic times for us all.
Until 2013 we lived in an apartment above our restaurant. This was a great upbringing for our kids in terms of being around food, business and people all the time. Ironically though our cooking facilities upstairs were rudimentary. I longed to teach our kids how to cook.
In 2013 we sold our restaurant and moved into a lovely house with a big kitchen and a 6 ring cooker! We now bake and cook and concoct and have great fun with food.
I must admit that after daddy, the best cook in the house is Sachin, aged 3.
Everything we do in our family to do with business, family, celebrations etc. revolves around food. It’s who we are, what we do and what we seek to pass on to our children.”
Thank you my beloved Irish sister for sharing your story. You have proved that love and tandoori chicken can transcend all barriers. I cannot wait till our families can meet again. Dee x