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Satish Arora plates ‘Sweets and Bitters: Tales from a Chef’s Life’

Chef Arora’s culinary memoir traces the journey of a young boy from Punjab who dared to dream

Aashera Sethi | Published 14.01.24, 05:35 PM
‘Sweets and Bitters: Tales from a Chef’s Life’, by Satish Arora, as told to Chandrima Pal, published by Bloomsbury India in December 2023

‘Sweets and Bitters: Tales from a Chef’s Life’, by Satish Arora, as told to Chandrima Pal, published by Bloomsbury India in December 2023

In the quaint confines of a small kitchen, the air dances with motes of dust suspended in a sunbeam. A young boy, wide-eyed and curious, stands in awe as his mother brings to life one meal after another. The rhythmic movements of chopping, slicing, roasting, and sizzling, all form one large orchestra of culinary art as these familiar sounds and enticing aromas envelop the room, creating a sensory tapestry that etches itself into the boy’s memory. Watching and helping his mother as she deftly navigates her way through their home kitchen, experimenting and innovating with each moment, Chef Satish Arora’s dream takes root in the fertile soil of his young mind. And it is this very scene from his childhood that becomes the catalyst that propels him to the grand stage of culinary mastery.

Sweets and Bitters: Tales from a Chef's Life takes its readers on a delectable journey through the illustrious culinary career of Chef Satish Arora. At 26, Arora became the youngest ever executive chef to head a luxury hotel, and his five-decade-long stint at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai stands as a firm testament to his brilliance. “Every time I walk into the Taj, I feel like I am coming home,” says Arora, who found his place in the world in the kitchens of the Taj.


The memoir serves as a peephole into the hustling-bustling world of an executive chef at the helm of one of the largest and most celebrated hotels in the country. Chef Arora’s raw passion and hunger for betterment and excellence shine through. “My mind was on fire,” he writes, “and I wanted to see more, learn more, and do more”.

Chef Satish Arora is often credited with transforming hotel kitchens by bringing in practices of standardisation and regulation, from the induction and training plan of new recruits, to the specifications down to the minutest measurements of recipes and ingredients.

In his foreword to this book, acclaimed journalist Vir Sanghvi writes, “I reckon all Indian chefs owe him a huge debt of gratitude for the manner in which he professionalized the Taj’s kitchens, imposing order where there had once been a free-for-all and making it clear that knowing how to cook was not enough. For a kitchen to consistently turn out good food, the brigade had to be disciplined.” Chef Arora helmed a well-oiled kitchen and made sure his team continued to churn out high standards time after time.

Sweets and Bitters makes it abundantly clear that while a top chef’s life may seem glamorous and star-studded from the outside, it is far from the truth in the heat of the kitchen. Satish Arora’s rise to the top was not one of smooth sailing. He faced opposition on all fronts, from his family looking down on him, to his difficult induction days, as well as the resistance from his team during his ascension to executive chef of the Taj kitchen. “The commercial kitchen is a tough, unforgiving place,” says Arora.

The narrative is rich with the flavours and aromas of Chef Arora’s culinary creations, making it a treat for both food enthusiasts and those curious about the world of fine dining. The book seamlessly weaves together personal anecdotes, professional insights, and the cultural significance of Indian cuisine. “The kitchens were my laboratories, and I saw myself as an alchemist – mixing, matching, blending, pairing, unpairing, and stirring it all up into something new, unexpected and always fun.”

Chef Satish Arora's storytelling is engaging and sincere, providing readers with a genuine sense of the passion that has driven his culinary journey. From cooking for international business honchos to the who’s who of the film industry, from big fat Indian weddings to hush-hush conferences involving world leaders – he has done it all. This memoir stands as a testament to his legacy as one of India’s most celebrated chefs.

Buy the book here!

Last updated on 14.01.24, 05:38 PM

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