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 Having people over for a meal invariably means that the host doesn’t eat till after the last guest has left. “Why don’t you take a plate?” the guests cluck around the host. “I got so full tasting the food,” the host replies. The guests nod in agreement. They too have been hosts and know the drill. When the last dish is loaded into the dishwasher the host makes a plate, sits down in front of the TV and, puts their feet up. If there is no salt in a dish, or the karela is extra bitter, that is the point at which they find out.

What if you are the Prime Minister and you are hosting a meal for over 800 people for lunch and 300 people for dinner on the same day? The pressure to smile for the photographs and handshake the appropriate deals, all the while making sure not to spill a drop of turmeric on your pristine white silk jacket, can pretty much ensure that you don’t taste a morsel of food, Gujarati or Californian. Does PM Modi take off his white jacket, slip into something comfortable, roll up his kurta sleeves and tuck into a plate with his feet up once everyone leaves? Yes he does. According to Reshmi Nair of Jalsa, who served the lunch at the Fairmont Hotel for nearly 800 people, PM Modi retires to his room and has his meal in peace once all the dignitaries have left. However, unlike you and me, he doesn’t have any surprises waiting for him. The food has already been tasted and tested by the Secret Service.

When Vidya Gurikar of Silver Spoon was invited to submit a proposal to cook for the Prime Minister she was warned that all cooking was going to be done under the watchful eyes of the Secret Service. A sweep would be made and all food tasted.

“The protocol involved was stringent. The security personal or an embassy personal would always be present when we were cooking his meal,” Amber India Executive Chef Sandeep Basrur and Vijay Bist a well recognized bay area entrepreneur and CEO/Owner of the Amber India Restaurant Group say. “At the time of food pickup, the security Technical Officer (TO) would taste and sample each and every item, while the other representative would take small samples for Lab testing. Only then was the food allowed to be taken to the room escorted by security.”

When faced with the task of cooking for someone who himself was a chaiwala and therefore knows a good samosa from a bad one, the pressure to prepare the chai and snacks to go with it must have been a special challenge right? ” He had Batata Vada & Masala Chai. It HAD to be made fresh in the room,” explained the Chef in his email.

“The process was as follows, at the end of each meal, the PA would give me his requirements for next meal and the time it needed to be served.  His basic requirements were simple. The meal had to be pure veg (no egg, no gelatin), for main meal, one soup, salad, 2/3 veg dishes (at least 1 green vegetable), rice variety, fresh made rotis / fulkas, Dal, yogurt (he made a special request for chanss..)… Less oily food. Some of the dishes he relished were daal khichdi, tomato nariayal ka shorba, bhindi kadi, undhio, palak shorba, basundi, poha, and mix veg paratha.” 

The sound of the mix veg parantha is sending many bay area residents rushing to the Secret Service to apply for a job. If you see a line snaking around that building you know who they are. The job is not half bad as you thought.

Ritu Marwah

Ritu Marwah is an award-winning author ✍️ and a recognized Bay Area leader in the field of 🏛 art and literature. A California reporting and engagement fellow at USC Annenberg’s Center for Health...