About 300 km from Pondicherry, there is a small village called Kalayur, that has about 200 professional male cooks. Kalayur is known as the “Village of cooks”, as every male member in this village is a cook. Their service is so much in demand that their slots have to be booked at least 6 months in advance. And their food is much loved by the villagers.
The recipes have been passed on from three generations and they are very secretive about it. There is high demand for their food throughout the year and that as a team they can cook for about 1000 people in less than three hours. And they charge Rs.3000 to serve for 500 people and that’s quite nominal, isn’t it?
It all started at the beginning of 20th century, when the Reddiars hired Vaniyars to cook as they found them better than the Brahmins to cook for them. Also, the Brahmins used to charge exorbitant prices for their food. The food made by the men of this village is so good that now people call it – the village of cooks. and farming used to be less profitable, hence the men started taking up cooking profession.
The young cooks in the village learn on the job and start with cutting vegetables and assisting the senior chefs. It takes them many years to get promoted as the Senior chef. Since, the village is surrounded by fertile rice fields, the villagers are usually busy cultivating paddy during the season. When they not cultivating, they go on Cooking contracts to places like Madurai, Chennai and Tirupati.
Though the chefs of Kalayur village had initial struggling days, their popularity soon increased and they have become a household name.
In the village of Kalayur, women take care of the cooking in the house. The chefs are so good that most of their orders are from the marriage halls in Chennai. The good thing about these chefs is that everybody is treated equal. The chefs tell a lot about themselves when asked by media or people, but never seem to share with the media their trade secrets.