Early Life of Imtiaz Qureshi
Imtiaz Qureshi was born on February 2, 1929 as the fifth son to Murad Ali and Sakina Qureshi, growing up in a family of nine boys and two girls. His ancestors were butchers and cooks to the Awadhi nobility for over 200 years; his maternal grandfather had worked for the Raja of Mehmoodabad and his paternal grandfather and father for the Raja of Jahangirabad. They also cooked for feasts and festivals.
Imtiaz, like his brothers, began young helping out at the butchery when he was only 10 to 15 years old. Their day began at 4 a.m., when freshly slaughtered carcasses would come to their father and the boys would help him break down the animal into different cuts of meat. They learnt much working in odd jobs with caterers - how mango and tamarind firewood left a lingering aroma in the food, how to cook for 100 to 10,000 people, what the elite liked. By the time they were in their 30s, they could cook kilos of Biryani, Kebabs, Sheermal, Nihari and Kormas.
Culinary Career of Imtiaz Qureshi
Born into a family of legendary chefs to the Mughal Emperors of India, Imtiaz Qureshi joined Lucknow’s Krishna Hotel as a young cook. He soon became the best known chef in the city and the restaurant also developed an enviable reputation for catering at all the major feasts and weddings in the city. Imtiaz was responsible for catering for a banquet of 1000 covers hosted by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, after independence. Soon after chef Imtiaz was offered a contract with the ITC Group of India, who in collaboration with Sheraton brand of hotels were opening 5-Star hotels in India. Imtiaz was offered to head the operations of their kitchens. He was encouraged to research the forgotten Awadhi cuisine of the Mughals. He spent years in perfecting the recipes, naming it Bukhara. The cuisine was launched at a restaurant by the same name at the ITC Maurya Sheraton, New Delhi. Imtiaz Qureshi, presently the Grand Master Chef at ITC Hotels, puts it that the history of Awadhi cuisine, the culinary delight of the Nawabs and the Maharajas, is 250 years old or even older. During Muharram, the Nawabs ate Khichdi and Halem and there was a unique style of cooking Khichdi. First, the water was boiled using firewood and then the vessel was closed to slowly cook the food using coals at the bottom and on top of the vessel. It could take as much as 8 hours to cook a simple Dal using this technique, which is the Dum Pukht style in sealed containers. The Qureshi brothers along with Imtiaz became established names after they helped launch ITC’s iconic restaurant Dum Pukht, in 1988.
Chef Imtiaz has two sons who like him are grand masters in the unique and historic Awadhi cuisine. Having worked in top hotels, they have taken their heritage cuisine beyond the territories of the country to different corners across the world and treated hundreds and thousands of people with their culinary excellence. Imtiaz Qureshi’s cooking has had both Bill Clinton and his wife Hilary Clinton become huge fans of Indian kebabs and it was he again who many years ago had Queen Elizabeth feeding out of his hands as she went swooning over his prepared delicacies at the launch of a star hotel in Delhi.
Imtiaz Qureshi has been conferred the Padma Shri, an honour rare for anyone from the culinary world, by the Government of India in 2016 for excellence in the culinary arena.
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