The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, September 2, 2001

She’s got all the right ingredients for success
Vimla Patil

Tarla Dalal: Queen of cuisine
Tarla Dalal: Queen of cuisine

IT’S time to change old, outdated sayings like "The way to a man’s heart lies through his stomach!" Sounds archaic, doesn’t it? How about a brand new, more woman-friendly line such as, "The way to a fabulous business and bank balance is through everyone’s stomachs"? While the former line gives a familiar sense of power to men, the latter line is certainly music to the ears of thousands of Indian women who have used their mastery over cooking and entertaining to great advantage to become prosperous entrepreneurs. Undoubtedly, the queen among all such women, whose very name is associated with super food and beautifully created cookbooks, is Tarla Dalal, who has demonstrated through her phenomenal success what one can do if three qualities are brought together in an endeavour: concentration, consistency and cooperation.

Tarla Dalal has always had a clear and constant focus on her field of work. Brought up and educated in Pune, she married a businessman and settled in Mumbai. "I knew zilch about cooking till I discovered that my husband was enthusiastic about a vast variety of food. We began to create vegetarian dishes from an international repertoire and had fabulous meals at home from Swiss fondue to Mexican tacos. I adapted all popular dishes to Indian taste and entertained my friends and family with avid interest. Soon, there was a demand among my friends that I should teach them cooking and because of the pressure brought on me by them, I started with six students at home. Very soon, hundreds applied and there were literally ‘waiting lists’ of students! The teaching really became so overwhelming for me that I had to stop the activity for want of time and space.


"In 1974, I wrote my first cookbook called The Pleasures of Vegetarian Cooking. It was a super success instantly and sold very well. After this book, I wrote 35 titles..."

Though Tarla does not boast about her great achievement, her name became a household word in India in the field of cooking and food. Her books were sold not only in book shops on a regular basis, but also in video libraries, toy shops, boutiques as well as supermarkets here and abroad! Some were such bestsellers that they were translated not only into over 10 Indian languages, but also into Dutch and Russian!

Today, her life is full of hectic activity. She experiments with various dishes in her tiny industrial kitchen above her office, shoots for several television shows, gives food and cookery demonstrations in India and abroad and supervises the editing and printing of her books.

Tarla’s work has had an uncanny consistency and quality. As regards cooperation, two events in her life phenomenally increased the scope of her business activities. Her son, Sanjay, joined her enterprise after his American education and formed a well-managed company to produce food products. Tarla Dalal’s branded pickles, masalas, idli and dosa flours, ready-to-eat snacks and spice powders — 23 products in all — hit the Indian market in a big way. "We set up a factory in Ambernath on the Mumbai-Pune road and went into production in a big way...I consulted my family and decided to accept the offer made by Best & Co to buy out the brand entirely. We sold the copyright, the machines and the brand name for a very good price. Today, the brand has been taken over by Hindustan Lever...’’

The second activity which has added an edge of success to Tarla’s life is a website called which has been built brick by brick by her son Sanjay with help from Tarla. "It is probably India’s largest food portal," says a proud Sanjay, "We get over 200 hits every day from India, UK, USA, the Emirates and other areas. We often log more than one lakh visitors every month... I am meticulously developing it as a source for all information about Indian food."

Tarla Dalal is an intrepid and active businesswoman by any standards. She writes regular cookery columns and appears on TV. Her own show, Cooking It Up With Tarla Dalal has been a very popular show on Sony Entertainment Television. A mother, a grandmother and now a senior business partner of her son — these make a difficult tightrope to walk on. But Tarla has managed her career so well that she has achieved smashing success in every aspect of her life!