A Peek Inside India’s Mega Kitchens with Nat Geo

Have you been watching National
Geographic’s brand new show – Mega Kitchens? The show takes us behind the
scenes at some of the largest kitchens in India. From several temple kitchens
to the Indian Railways catering facilities, to the Taj SATS in-flight catering
kitchen, Mega Kitchens is all about the numbers. I have always been fascinated
by these huge kitchens, where a few chefs or cooks churn out food for thousands
of people. The sheer magnitude of the operations is enough to boggle your mind.
The first two episodes of the show took us inside two temple kitchens, that
together feed anywhere between 60,000 and 90,000 devotees every day!
The first episode
premiered on Monday (Jun 22nd) with a peek inside the Shirdi
Prasadalaya – the kitchen at the temple dedicated to Sai Baba. Every year
millions of people make the pilgrimage to Shirdi, Maharashtra, spurred on by
their deep spiritual faith in Sai Baba, whom many regard as a miracle-worker.
The temple’s kitchen runs on Sai Baba’s philosophy that annadaana (donating food) is the highest form of daana (charity). Every day the kitchen
feeds some 30,000-40,000 devotees, with the numbers going up to 70,000-80,000
on festival days.
What I found most
fascinating about this kitchen is the fact that it almost exclusively runs on
solar power. 73 massive solar panel dishes on the temple’s rooftop harness the
sun’s power to heat hundreds of litres of water, which gets converted to steam.
The steam is piped down to the kitchens where huge cauldrons of vegetables and
pulses bubble away, and mechanised roti-makers turn out 30,000 rotis in 5 hours
The kitchen also makes the famous boondi ladoos, which are considered a
blessed sacrament from the temple, with more than 100,000 ladoos being
distributed every day!
The second episode
aired last night and focussed on the Dharmasthala Temple in Udupi, Karnataka.
The temple is dedicated to Manjunath, a form of Lord Shiva.
It’s a striking
example of religious tolerance where different faiths worship side by side, the
priests are Brahmins and the guardian of the temple are Jains.
The temple
guardians come from a single family – the Heggades have managed and administered
the temple for 21 generations! The kitchen serves anywhere between 30,000 and
50,000 meals to devotees every single day.
On festivals such as the Laksha
Deepotsava, these numbers swell up to 80,000-100,000. Now that is no mean feat! Thousands of kilos of rice are cooked every day,
and I was staggered seeing the mountains of rice in the kitchen. I also learnt
that the Kannada word for (cooked) rice is “anna”,
the same as the word for ‘food’ – just goes to show how important and integral
rice is to the cuisine in this part of India.
The kitchen uses a combination of fuel sources, including biogas. I was quite
impressed with their sophisticated system of waste management, including the
use of rice starch to feed cattle and making vermi-compost from kitchen waste.
I am looking forward to
the next three episodes of the show, which will cover the kitchens of Akshaya
Patra at Hubli’s ISKCON temple, IRCTC’s Western Railways base at Mumbai Central
and Taj SATS in-flight kitchen in Chennai.
Tune in to catch these Mega Kitchens in action. The show airs Monday-Thursday,
at 10 p.m. on Nat Geo.
Disclosure: This post is
in association with National Geographic India. Views are my own. All images courtesy National Geographic India. 


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