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From Contestant to Judge

She lived the quintessential dream of today’s’ reality TV show contestants. Within the span of ten years; Neha became the Judge of the same Indian Idol show from which she was first eliminated.

Neha celebrated her 32nd birthday last week (June 6th). Although she was born in Uttarakhand, she spent most of her childhood in Delhi. Being brought up in a simple, vegetarian family – she had close ties to food at an early age. Her father, Rishikesh Kakkar, sold samosas outside of a college to students during lunch.  While her mother, Niti, took care of the home.  Neha has a sister Sonu and a brother Tony – all of whom are accomplished playback composers as well.  Neha and her sister started out singing bhajans at religious functions where they initially earned 50 rupees per event.

Her voice is soulful and mesmerizing. With her bubbly charm and one of the most beautiful voices in India, Neha was able to win the hearts of music lovers everywhere she went. Neha has a natural voice.  It’s a gift that she’s been perfecting for years.

After being eliminated from Indian Idol season two in 2006, she took the criticism to heart – which fueled her tenacity for perfection.  Neha is not a formally trained singer, she is self-taught and continually works on making her voice distinctive and specific for each and every song.  She definitely had her struggles but through perseverance and her passion for theatre arts, she is among the top playback singers in India today and the inspiration behind the younger generation of Indian Idols.

Chef GJ had the pleasure of catering to Neha and her entourage in 2019.  Neha performed at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and GJ produced a vegetarian meal for all the artists.  

Neha loves simple comfort foods.  In fact, her favourite eatery can be found in an area in Delhi known as Jantar Mantar.  She would often visit a place called “Baba ka Dhaba” where she would eat Aloo Naan with Paneer Gravy (without the paneer) served with Onions and Chutney.  The Paneer gravy is not sweet, but rather made with a unique blend of masala and onions rather than a tomato-based “butter sauce”.  

Chef GJ also is a Delhiite and could relate to foods that she was accustomed to.  Chef GJ’s favourite place to eat in Delhi is at Pandara Market, which is very close to the India gate.  It’s a much more touristy location that has many great local restaurants.  Chef GJ’s favourite dish is Paneer Seekh Kebab with mint chutney. “I’ve tried so many places, but their Paneer kebabs are the best I’ve ever tasted,” claims GJ.  “When you taste well prepared vegetarian dishes, you don’t miss eating meat” add GJ.

You will find that Indian vegetarian cooking has become popular around the world.  From curries to samosas, bhajis and side dishes, every dish is full of flavor.  “That’s the beauty of Indian cuisine, we have an abundance of tools in our spice box” states Chef GJ.  

For more information on vegetarian cooking or specialty dishes connect with chef GJ at https://chefgurjyotesethi.com/

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