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  Kalayur, Tamilnadu – A Gastronomic Heaven
 Located in the Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu, “Kalayur” is a beautiful small village where every man has mastered the culinary arts. There is a male cook in every house of the village and this tradition has been going on for the last 5 centuries.
This Tamil village has also been featured in a show on an international channel, History TV18 (Village of cooks– OMG! Yeah mera India – season 2) .
Given the ingredients and cooking facilities, these cooks can prepare a feast for 1,000 people in three hours. They are so popular all over the country that their services must be booked several months in advance. No doubts Kalayur has gained the title of the “Village of Cooks”.
There are 200 male cooks in the village
There are about 80 houses in this village and the presence of a male cook in every house is part of the tradition here. This tradition is also not of today but has been going on for 500 years. It is estimated that there are 200 male cooks in the village. This army of 200 male cooks is famous throughout the country for their expertise in cooking. They cook for weddings, birthday parties and many other gatherings and celebrations.
These chefs do not cook food for their families. Meaning even in the families here, women handle the kitchen of the house. Its always the queen who rules the household.
Malathi Ratnam, AM(Tourism)/SZ detail from handpicking a pinch of condiment.
Only the Chief Chef gives information about all the recipes. The cooks here can feed about 1000 people at a time. Once they have learnt the basics, they need to start developing new recipes on their own. Even though it takes a lot of years for people to develop their own recipes, they still work towards it.
The special thing of these male chefs is that they focus more on their goals rather than on earnings. None of these is the master of any one dish, but they know about every dish. All of them take care to cook together.
How the tradition started
It is said that this tradition started when the rich Reddy families in the neighboring villages started calling the Vaniyars for food. The Vaniyars, seized on this opportunity and they surprised the Reddiars, with their culinary skills and their reputation grew quickly. Reddy families understood that Vaniyars could cook better food for Brahmin families. After this, the Vaniyars started to be preferred over the Brahmin cooks.
The chief chef:
There are 4-5 “Head Cooks” in the community, who are the acknowledged experts. They perform the strategic roles like planning for the banquet, understanding the needs of clients, mapping expectations with what can be delivered etc. They are also the mentors for the Senior Cooks who in turn help the apprentice and the new recruits learn on the job and through shadowing. The recipes and techniques that have been developed are guarded as community secrets and have been passed down to five generations till date.
According to them, cooking a full meal to perfection and well within the deadline is what has made these men of Kalayur popular and it is team work more than anything else which has contributed to their success.
Cooks from this village today are being called to foreign countries to dish out the traditional cuisine.
It would not be wrong to say that Goddess Annapurna has special blessings on the people here!
 Cooks are made after 10 years of training
To become the best cook for men in the village, it is necessary to take 10 years long training. The senior cooks of the village teach them the basic concepts of cooking, starting from the cutting and chopping of vegetables, collect fresh ingredients from the field and orchard, etc. They are thought with every

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