Indian culinary guru chef Soundararajan passes away
IFCA founder gen-sec chef Soundararajan P passes away from a heart attack at the age of 64, remembered by legions of chefs he mentored
Chef Soundararajan P was in uniform when we lost him, participating in a culinary webinar. Founder general secretary of the Indian Federation of Culinary Associations (IFCA), he was active all through his career, teaching and inspiring chefs, and dedicated to the hospitality industry till the very end.
Hailing from Coimbatore, the 64-year-old chef, who passed away from a heart attack, did his Bachelors in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Madras, and then got a degree from the Institute of Hotel Management in Chennai.
I was executive chef in one of the Accor hotels in Mumbai in 1999 when I first met him. I still remember a tall chef walking into my kitchen to request me if he could use it for a VIP event. Although he was already a well known chef, I was charmed by how humble he was, and I soon found out how motivating it was to work beside him.
We discussed forming a chefs’ association in the western part of India, and went on to organise a meeting with chefs from across Mumbai. This is how the Western India Chefs Association was formed.
Friendly and well-connected, he played a great role along with prominent chefs from across India to form the IFCA. He was also founder general secretary of the South India Chefs Association (SICA), and put together an Indian delegation, encouraging us to participate in the International World Culinary Congress.
Over four decades, chef Soundararajan left an impact in the hospitality industry: he began his career with the Taj group of hotels, and then worked as corporate executive chef at Club Mahindra Holidays and Resorts. He received the Golden Hat Award (2004) and SICA Golden Star Chef Award (2008) from the South India Chefs Association for two decades of continuous contribution to the profession.
When he was not working, he spent a lot of time and energy bringing people together.
When I moved to Chennai from Mumbai in 2003, as executive chef at Le Royal Méridien, I sought chef Soundararajan’s help in familiarising myself with the city’s culinary landscape. There was a SICA executive board meeting next day, for which he invited me, and introduced me to most of the city chefs, who were all at the event.
He was a great mentor not only to me but many senior and junior chefs all over the country. His demise has left a great vacuum which will be very difficult to fill.
Chef Jugesh Arora is director of the Chef’s Table Studio, and honorary president of the South India Chefs Association.