Meet Chef Shorna
Shornalee Banerjee is a Sous Chef with FLIK Hospitality Group at one of our locations in Virginia. Born and raised in Mumbai, India, she has a passion for cooking that stems centers around cooking for family – a love that has been passed down from generation to generation in her family.
Chef Shorna was born with a minor birth defect – two short fingers and the absence of joints in one finger on her right hand – which might make cooking a bit of a challenge, but her determination, hard work, and grit allowed her to thrive in the kitchen. She attended Mumbai’s Sophia College, and kick-started her career with one of Asia’s largest flight kitchens, followed by Disney Cruise Line.
Inspired by her story, we wanted to share a Q&A with her on her culinary experience. Check it out:
What made you decide to be a chef? Tell us about your path to FLIK Hospitality Group.
I come from a family of great cooks who never took it up professionally, especially my engineer grandfather, and my super talented artist mother. I decided it was about time to do so.
Joining FLIK Hospitality was one of the best decisions I have made. The opportunity came about when a family friend mentioned [one of FLIK’s café in Virginia]. He thought that I had a lot to offer and introduced me to the Corporate Food Services Manager, Guido, Chef Alex and Sarah. It was meant to be. We hit it off right off the bat and I was offered a Sous Chef position.
What is your favorite recipe/dish to make at home? What is your signature dish?
My favorite things to cook at home are dishes enjoyed by my family (especially my kids!) and friends.
Chicken Biryani is an all-time favorite, I have gotten better making this over the years. These days I have worked on and perfected one of my mom’s classics “Mustard Fish.”
Innovation is an important part of the food business and one of the pillars of FLIK’s culinary offerings. Where do you get your inspiration?
I truly believe that to be able to innovate one must master time-honored proven techniques first. Once we master the basics we can play with our ingredients, seasonality, flavors, food trends and techniques and then put forth food that is appealing, appetizing and meaningfully sustainable.
Each of us, drawing from our varied life experiences can bring something forth that is very extraordinary. We must capitalize on this diversity and bring forward food that speaks up in the same manner.
Today, our table is global. I am a person born and brought up in India, worked around the world and now a proud American. My ideas with food bring about my roots, incorporate my travels and finish with me embracing American culture. Food is much more than just a meal, to me food always tells us a story, with my cooking I tell mine.
2020 has been a wild year. How have you been keeping busy during this time?
Evolvement, Engagement and Emergence in COVID-19 Times!
The food industry is what I love and cherish. Today, when I look back on my journey to a successful career as a chef, the montage of many inspiring folks and their amazing support over the years, flash momentarily in my mind’s eye; each with their unique smile showing the way to a better recipe, a better method to excel. All this widened my horizons to believe and strengthened me to take on any initiative without fear of failure.
To me food is what brings us together, it is not just about ingredients or recipes but about who we share these with. Food can bring us together in so many ways, sharing is truly caring. Involving children in the cooking process also brings about a sense of accomplishment and ownership in them. They are also more inclined to try things that they have cooked!
And then, Covid-19 lockdown 2020 happened. The lockdown inspired opportunities despite adversity that I did not deem possible. Now, I had the same passion for food – cooking, sharing and creating but no way to bring it forth other than my own home kitchen. The idea of food videos was put forth by a progressive thinker, my dear friend and colleague, Rob. Of course, I could handle the cooking, but what about making videos? Come to the rescue, my 12-year-old Prisha, who is a pro in all things digital and video! So, “Shorna’s Kitchen” came about digitally.
What started as documenting simple recipes has become a source of joy for many. The entire family got involved in creating these videos. My husband provided the muscle, Riya the super taster and Prisha the video consultant! My folks in India also gave me invaluable input and recipe ideas to keep going. I started revisiting food I ate as a kid, stuff that my mother cooked, her recipes that I wouldn’t dare try as I did not want to mess with anything so perfect and a whole new development dawned. I had the time to stop, think and recreate some of her classics. With the goal of one video per day we cooked and baked and made desserts and ended up with our second initiative of “Sharing our Experiments!” Our friends and family were exhilarated with this outcome. My kids especially enjoyed these random acts of kindness during the lockdown days.
These videos also acted as a precursor to a lot of live online cooking sessions with various FLIK accounts.
During these remote, non-contact times, I also had unwavering engagement, support and encouragement from my FLIK Family.
I can now say, I evolved with the new realities of this lockdown and through these food videos people got to know me again!
When you’re not in the kitchen, where can we find you?
When I am not cooking, I am growing things. I love gardening during summer months. I also love books. Reading and Art projects are also a way of unwinding after a busy day.
Cooking at home is also a form of relaxation for me, so weekends and holidays are perfect to try out some of my food experiments on unsuspecting friends and family!
If you couldn’t be a chef, what would you be?
That’s a hard one! It would be probably something creative or biology related.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring chefs?
Don’t worry if your recipe doesn’t quite cut it the first time you cook something. I started as a terrible cook. I honed my skills over the years and mastery only came with patience, repetition, learning from my mistakes and sheer, undiluted hard work!
What We Were Talking About in 2019: What the FLIK is…the difference between tofu, tempeh, and seitan?
What We Were Talking About in 2018: White After Labor Day? You Bet!
At FLIK Hospitality Group we believe in great food, great service, and great people. Our wellness first approach ensures our food supports healthy and delicious choices, specially curated by our team of culinary experts and registered dietitians. At FLIK, we believe in seasonality in sourcing our ingredients and providing a customized approach to the culinary and hospitality needs of each client. Our dedication to providing quality hospitality service is unparalleled in the industry.
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