School of Home Cooking and Hospitality in Kerala
Rasa Gurukul is a stunningly beautiful riverside retreat among the tranquil coconut and spice groves of Kerala. Through its programme of activities, the institute teaches traditional methods of cooking, farming and gardening in an environment which allows students and visitors to rediscover elements of a more traditional lifestyle, and through them, to re-master the trick of happiness in day-to-day living.
We deeply believe that food brings together the essential positive energies that create harmony in our world. Responsible food production links us more closely to nature and provides for sustainability, health and a positive outlook. Cooking good food brings enormous fulfillment and allows us to demonstrate our love for those important to us.
These are lessons our parents and grandparents knew well, but which have been lost to many in today's rushed times. At Rasa Gurukul, we believe that the older generations are the custodians of these traditional ways, and we look to them as our teachers in a world in which their value is all too often shut out.
Rasa Gurukul is not a place of religion, but it has an atmosphere of spirituality in which students and visitors can gain a better understanding of life through actively participating in all areas of food cultivation and cookery, rather than learning academically.
Sadly, you can no longer find the kind of food we cook at Rasa in restaurants in Kerala. Only in people's homes is this still possible. Rasa Gurukul preserves the centuries-old knowledge that makes our cuisine so unique and so delicious.
But it is very much more than a training academy for professional chefs. We like to think of Rasa GurukuI as a school of happiness. By busily engaging in its daily programme of activities, attitudes shift. Life's priorities are clearer, more obvious. The things that make us feel good more apparent.
Rasa Gurukul works around three key elements:
Rasa is an expanding restaurant chain in England which specialises in traditional South Indian cuisine, and which has endeavoured to bring in chefs from our home state of Kerala. Its original, and still an important, purpose was to train local chefs in authentic, home cooking methods, having found there no other system which was able to do so.
Traditional home cooking is about more than simply putting together good food each day. It is about being involved with the actual ingredients from their very beginning. In the recent past and still today to an extent, a mother would grow her own plants, spices and vegetables or carefully select them from neighbours and local farmers. This was why her food was always special. Love, the divine connection, flowed through those ingredients with the subtle role of fingers and transformed them into energy as food.
Students at Rasa Gurukul engage in the same tradition, taking part in daily agricultural activities on our organic farm to understand the birth, growth and harvest of their ingredients in order to develop absolute devotion to the art of cooking.
The world has changed dramatically over the past decade with traditions loosening their grip over a modern, globalized society. Life-styles are fast paced, dominated by routines that fight against time and provide short-term gains. People find it harder to smile at life. Stress and panic are no longer a rare happening.
Fast food and ready-made meals have invaded our lives and increasingly, ill health and unhappiness embrace a desperate world. There are many causes, but food and its profound relationship with our exploitative treatment of nature and the way we look after ourselves and each other, is a crucial factor.
Society is slowly beginning to understand the invisible power hidden in age-old cooking practices. Most people vastly prefer good, home-cooking to fast food, and it is this that we endeavour to replicate in our restaurants, by training our chefs in these practices at Rasa Gurukul in Kerala.
Following a home-cooking route is to concentrate on the layering of spices and evenness of ingredients, and to have an imaginative connectivity with the many components of a dish. In Kerala, traditional simplicity and the subtle use of spices have a tremendous influence on the quality of taste.
Students at Rasa Gurukul embark on a relaxed exploration of tastes and flavours under the guidance of veteran cooks who will introduce them to traditional methods of preparing, roasting and grinding seasonal ingredients and fresh spices.
The majority of the teaching staff at our Gurukul belong to older generations, people who have grown up with and spent their lives dedicated to traditional methods of producing and cooking food, and who are best placed to pass those arts on.
One of the unhappiest elements of today's world is the way people are doomed to become abandoned and isolated once they pass retirement age. But theirs was not a useless past; in some ways, they knew a far greater contentment than many experience today. This is something which we should value as we can learn from these generations.
Until quite recently, older people were respected and served an important role at the centre of the community. Now, in Britain and increasingly in India and all around the world, their wealth of knowledge is being wasted and they are fated to live out a useless, lonely old age.
Our institute has benefited greatly from their contribution over the years. Indeed, their input has been invaluable. In return, we hope to help initiate a change in attitude, so that people can live out their final decades feeling valued and respected. Older people are just as capable of enjoying life, and just as entitled to do so. They are vulnerable to being shut off from society, but have much to offer. It is also true that younger generations can only feel content and see a purpose in a life of continuous learning if we feel confident that old age will embrace us with equal warmth.
The Institute – An Overall View
Three different course programmes are charted academically:
Two-week short term course
A wonderfully relaxing learning experience in which visitors can take part in the full range of activities of our Gurukul. These include traditional south Indian cooking, farming practices, yoga, meditation and other traditional learning activities.
Six-month certificate course
An opportunity to profoundly explore the ways of sustaining a culture via traditional actions and work, in an attempt to have a better future. By the end of this course, students will be equipped with a much deeper understanding of authentic cooking and farming practices, and a greater capacity to enjoy life in its fuller sense. Accommodation facilities will be provided either within the resort, or with Keralan families living nearby if requested.
The one-year Rasa Gurukul course
A unique one-year learning process in which students are able to acquire a complete understanding of farm cultivation, cookery and other basic characteristics of traditional Keralan life.
A transforming experience in which students acquire new energy to see life in its true perspective, enabling them to identify opportunities everywhere and inhale happiness in fullness at all times.
Students at Rasa Gurukul come from all backgrounds and age groups, and from all over the world. They range from mature students with a special interest in traditional cookery and vegetable gardening, or local Keralan and international chefs with a passion for understanding the spiritual philosophy of food and life.
It is our view is that the older generations are the best equipped to pass on traditional knowledge that has been learnt over decades of practice,
and it is they who form the teaching faculty at Rasa Gurukul.
Our staff lend the institute a homely atmosphere which engenders a feeling of all-round respect and affection. Their role is not only to impart their knowledge of a particular skill, but to share with younger people an invaluable all-round life experience which will remain with them forever.
Core Learning: Food and Cooking
The core programme of all the institute's courses revolves around mastering a greater understanding of fresh ingredients, how they are grown and cultivated, and how to maximise on their qualities to prepare a balanced, harmonious meal. Our staff have a great mastery of the wide range of traditions that make up authentic south Indian food, and are passionate about instilling an instinct in students for how to subtly marry tastes and ingredients.
Related culinary and spiritual activities
The learning modules are put together in a way that helps train students to practice a self-disciplined approach to work without becoming stressed. In a sense, the modules exploit the "no time" concept of busy, present-day life by finding time to cool down. The modules are set in a way that links all the related activities of cooking and farming.
Yoga and Meditation:
The Rasa Gurukul day begins with yoga and meditation to encourage positive vigour and an enthusiastic drive for life all at all times.
Learning to make culinary weapons traditionally from a senior blacksmith
Understanding why certain knives and cutting utensils are necessary for particular purposes focuses the mind very precisely on good food preparation. We believe students gain a much deeper understanding and passion for cooking when equipped with a knowledge of traditional culinary manufacturing techniques.
Learning to make the traditional utensils
Cooking utensils assume the next area of significance. The material content of the vessels we use to cook with and the dedication put in by the person who makes them contribute a significant part to enriching the taste and flavour of food. Again, we believe this traditional knowledge forms an essential part of becoming a skilled cook.
After harvesting, it is important to process and preserve the yields. As vegetables are taken to kitchen, as spices are dried and pounded, coconut is dried out to make oil. The traditional way of processing oil from coconuts involved the use of "chakku", a traditional oil plant. Traditionally-made oils add significantly more fragrance and taste.
Jaggery is an essential sweetening component of authentic cooking in the region. Traditional jaggery, made from raw sugarcane, stirs in a wonderful tang of sweetness, the mastery of which is a great aid in the general cooking process.
In traditional Indian villages, teashops played a vital role in the social connection of the community. The teashops were the meeting place for villagers, and a place to share all their emotions, happiness, and problems. Understanding their role is an important part of learning the ways of natural social unity.
Weekend Farm Market
A visit to a farmers market to enjoy the fresh produce of vegetables, seasonal spices and crops from the farmers directly. The association helps underpin an awareness of fresh ingredients and healthy eating, and serves also to motivate farmers to contribute of their best.
Ayurveda, the ancient medicinal system of India, is based on the concept of good diet and self-discipline for sound mental and physical health, and helps us understand the relationship between food and wellbeing.
Every evening, the Institute plays host to a cultural entertainment event, and invites both visiting artists and students of the Gurukul to take part.
The library hour gives students the opportunity to assimilate what they have learnt with bona fide references.
The Lecture Session
Lectures related to all Rasa Gurukul teachings are given by faculty members or expert guest speakers from a variety of different walks of life.
Our approach is designed to assist teachers of the various disciplines in sharing the spiritual philosophy behind the ancient ritual art of homely cooking, and the way to practice a simple, traditional lifestyle. At the same time, they will monitor students' performance and assess them in terms of the overall knowledge they gain.
A Typical Day's Schedule
Students are divided into various groups. Different student groups will visit different segments of cultivation during the farming module between 6.20am and 9.30pm. The other programme of activities runs as below. It is a mandatory for the students to avoid mobile phones, and we strictly forbid the Internet use throughout the learning schedule.
|5.30am – 6.15am:||prayer, yoga and meditation|
|6.20am – 8.00am:||farm visit|
|8.00am – 9.00am:||a group will work in the kitchen while others remain in the farm itself|
|9.05am - 9.30am:||breakfast|
|9.45am -10.45am:||farm practice|
|11.00am – 12.00pm:||cooking / oil-making / with the blacksmith / utensils making|
|12.10pm – 1.00pm:||library hour, while a group will help in the kitchen for lunch|
|1.10pm – 2.10pm:||lunch break|
|2.15pm – 3.15pm:||farm visit|
|3.20pm – 4.20pm:||teashop / farmers market / aryurveda / jaggery making|
|4.30pm – 4.50 pm:||gardening|
|4.55pm – 5.10pm:||refreshment|
|5.20pm – 5.45pm:||meditation|
|6.00pm – 7.30pm:||cultural activities|
|7.45pm – 9.00pm:||lecture session while a group will help in the kitchen for dinner|
|9.10pm – 9.30pm:||dinner|
Students will be allocated different modules by senior staff, and given an individual schedule.
Other Attractions at Rasa Gurukul
Rasa Gurukul is open to visitors who can take part in the Institute's cooking activities, enjoy its unique atmosphere and meet its students. Sightseeing and cultural visits to various beautiful areas of Kerala are also a key feature.
Rasa Greenhouse Restaurant
We are in the process of building a vegetarian restaurant, whose aim is to preserve and widen the traditional cooking practices of Kerala. The menu will change according to which vegetables, spices and farm produce are in season. All food is cooked by our teachers and students. The restaurant will offer a unique dining experience both to visitors to Kerala and local people.
International Exchange Programmes
Our aim is to run international exchange programmes with catering institutions around the world. The programme will offer foreign students the chance to learn traditional South Indian cookery, and provide an opportunity for local chefs to train abroad, either academically or professionally. In this way, we hope to unify different global cultures through a shared interest in cooking and the spiritual importance of food.
A culinary panel will carry out research into the culinary heritage of India, and concentrate on the need to preserve traditional cooking practices from all areas of the country along with its inherent social importance. It will also identify skilled and committed cooks and chefs from different communities of society. The panel also undertakes research works on the culinary heritage of the country.