Madhur Jaffrey’s career as an author and chef
Miss Jaffrey is the author of An Invitation to Indian Cooking (Alfred A. Knopf, 1973, Vintage in U.S.A., Jonathan Cape and Penguin in the U.K.) which Craig Claiborne of the New York Times described as “one of the finest, most lucid and comprehensive books on Indian cooking ever published.” It remains in print today.
Her next cookbook, Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking (Alfred A. Knopf, Jonathan Cape), was published in America in 1981. Mimi Sheraton of the New York Times immediately put it on her Christmas list of the six best cookbooks of the year. Moira Hodgson, also of the New York Times, chose it as a selection for her Kitchen Library column, calling it a “highly original, enticing cookbook.” Miss Jaffrey’s vegetarian book went on to win an R.T. French Tastemakers Award for 1981. Craig Claiborne, in his book, “A Feast Made for Laughter”, said, “If, through some miracle, I decided to resort to a vegetable diet forever, this new book by Madhur Jaffrey, who is to my mind the finest authority on Indian cooking in America, would be my Bible. It is by far the most comprehensive, fascinating and inspired book on vegetable cookery that I have encountered. Whether you are a vegetarian or not, it is a valuable work offering an incredible number of good recipes to appeal to any cook.” This same vegetarian book, which remains in print, was published in the United Kingdom under the title, Eastern Vegetarian Cooking in 1983.
Miss Jaffrey taped an eight-part cookery series for BBC Television in England. The half-hour segments, entitled Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery, were aired nationally in the United Kingdom starting in September, 1982. The series has been repeated in the United Kingdom more than five times already. It has proved a phenomenal success. A cookbook, published by the BBC to accompany the series, was on the best-seller list for a record eleven months and continues to sell exceedingly well. The television series has been shown at least twice in the United States, Ireland, most of Western Europe, New Zealand and Australia. In May, 1983, Miss Jaffrey was given the Glenfiddich Award for Best Radio/Television Broadcaster of the Year for 1982. This is the most prestigious food and wine award in the United Kingdom. Miss Jaffrey won it for her television cookery series.
In 1985, Miss Jaffrey published two books. Seasons of Splendour (Michael Joseph/Pavilion in the U.S., Atheneum in the U.S.), a children’s book of mythological tales illustrated by Michael Foreman, was named one of the year’s best children’s books by the New York Times and Newsweek. Barbara Thompson of the New York Times said, “The resonances of this magical and profound book will sing on in the heart and mind long after the hundredth bedtime… Seasons of Splendour simply and playfully reveals to the Western reader the heart and soul of traditional Indian society.”
A Taste of India (Pavilion/Michael Joseph in U.K., Atheneum in U.S.) is a book on the regional foods of India, lavishly illustrated with photographs. It was serialized by the color supplement (magazine section) of London’s Sunday Observer over eight weeks and the hard cover edition went on to become a best seller in the U.K. The Literary Review said, “Miss Jaffrey’s A Taste of India is my pick of the season’s offerings. It is comprehensive in its scope and as evocatively written as Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking.” Harpers and Queen said that the book had “filled a gaping hole in the market for an authoritative look at the specifically regional cuisines of the sub-continent. The sketches of her travels mix straightforward information about crops, climate, the land, and styles of cooking with personal evocation and a full-blooded lyricism that borders on the incantatory. The recipes she gathers on her wanderings are thrilling to read — much more so to eat.”
Miss Jaffrey has been written about repeatedly in national magazines and newspapers around the world with Susan Shapiro of Ms. Magazine saying that the cookbooks she most likes to take to bed with her are those by Miss Jaffrey and Patricia Lynden of Connoisseur magazine calling Miss Jaffrey the herald angel of Indian cookery and Leo Lerman of Gourmet saying that A Taste of India is not only the best Indian cookbook but a unique book about India. Miss Jaffrey has been called the “Julia Child of Indian cookery”, “Scheherazade of the kitchen” and the Readers Digest called her the ” Star of Screen and Cuisine.”
Spring, 1989. Harper and Row published Madhur Jaffrey’s Cookbook, a book of easy East-West menus. An excerpt from the book appeared in the March, 1989 issue of Gourmet Magazine. The cookbook has received superb notices all over the United States. The New York Times Book Review section said, “The season has brought a vigorous crop of cookbooks for reading — and for cooking too. At the top of the list is the impeccable Madhur Jaffrey’s Cookbook … In it Ms. Jaffrey …combines cooking ideas from disparate worlds that (she) knows so well and does it with charm, lucidity and great precision in her recipes.” New York Magazine put it in its Best Bets section with Barbara Costikyan saying that the book has “simple dreamlike drawings and recipes for exotic, worldly dishes like cauliflower with ginger and chili … all so intriguing that you will never do pasta salad again.” Gerald Etter in the Philadelphia Inquirer said, ” What makes (the book) delightful to read and easy to use is the same lucid writing and comprehensive coverage that brought awards to Jaffrey’s other cookbooks.” Food and Wine magazine called the book “one of those rare volumes that are as much fun to read as they are to cook from.”
1989. Miss Jaffrey’s three-year project for the BBC came to fruition: an eight-part TV series, Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery, shot on location, on the foods of eight countries of the Far East — Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. A cookbook and video of the same name accompany the series. The Sunday Times magazine serialized the book over three weeks. The book, in its very first week jumped on to the best-seller list. The series has received ecstatic reviews in the U.K. Harper and Row published the book in America late in 1989. The TV series followed on PBS and later on the Food Network. The New York Times selected the series as one of the two best shown that year (1992) on television.
1990. Miss Jaffrey wrote and presented Listening To Volcanoes, a very personal TV documentary on colonialism and its aftermath in the Spice Islands of Indonesia for PBS’s Travels series. This was shown on BBC 1 in the UK and on PBS in the United States in ‘92.
1990. Miss Jaffrey wrote and presented a six part series on the history of food, From Manna to Microwave, on BBC’s Radio 4. The Guardian said, “On Friday mornings, the seductive voice of Madhur Jaffrey can be heard in Manna to Microwave. She is taking a cheery saunter through food and history — also geography, sociology, philosophy, theology, and anything else that strikes her fancy… Miss Jaffrey can stir the gastric juices, thanks partly, no doubt, to her television appearances. And her programmes are like well-constructed, if slightly haphazard meals, full of different tastes and with little items as well as big ones. She talks as happily to ordinary housewives as to eminent professors, pokes as happily into libraries as kitchens.”
At year’s end in 1991, Miss Jaffrey was among ten people– “chefs, teachers and food writers who tune our palates” — honored by New York magazine for changing the way New York eats.
Miss Jaffrey’s 1993 publication, A Taste of the Far East (Clarkson Potter/BBC/Pavilion) went on to win two 1994 James Beard awards — for the Best International Cookbook as well as Cookbook of the Year. In 1993, Miss Jaffrey published Quick and Easy Indian Cookery (BBC) in the U.K. and An Indian Spice Kitchen (Carol Southern Books) in the United States. Her next children’s book, Market Days was published in early 1995.
In 1993 Miss Jaffrey also won the Taraknath Das Award given by Columbia University for her contribution to Indo-American understanding through her work in the fields of acting and cookery.
1994 saw Miss Jaffrey completing a six-part BBC TV series on regional Indian food, Madhur Jaffrey’s Flavours of India. Shot on location in India, it was accompanied by a regional Indian cookbook with the same title. The book and the series came out in early March, 1995. In the United Kingdom, the TV series was rated in the top ten for the six weeks it ran and the book, both hard cover and trade paperback went on the best-seller list immediately.
May 1995 saw Miss Jaffrey inducted into the Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America by the James Beard Foundation.
1996 saw the publication of two more cookbooks in the U.K., The Essential Madhur Jaffrey and Madhur Jaffrey Cooks Curries as well as the launch of a line of sauces and chutneys in supermarkets throughout the U.K.
I997. Miss Jaffrey’s newest Children’s book, Robi Dobi: The Marvellous Adventures of an Indian Elephant (Pavilion in the U.K., Dial in the States.) won a Parents’ Choice” Silver Honor. The New York Times Book review referred to it as “a charming tale remembered from the author’s childhood” whereas the Book Review of the London Times said, “I enjoyed it so much I could not stop….It is a sparkling, imaginative tale.” Miss Jaffrey was also inducted into the World Food Media Awards Hall of Fame in Adelaide, Australia.
1998: Miss Jaffrey just won the Silver Spoon award given by Food Arts magazine for her contribution to popularizing Indian food in America.
1999: Miss Jaffrey given an Award for Excellence by Governor George E. Pataki and the New York State Division for Women in recognition of Women’s History Month for changing America through her work in the fields of cooking and acting.
1999: An Invitation to Indian Cooking, Miss Jaffrey’s first cook book, was reissued in hardcover in April by Ecco Press. It has been in continuous print for 27 years.
1999-2000: Her book, Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian (Ebury Press), a 650 recipe masterpiece. In the UK, it has won the Food-Writers Guild Cookbook of the Year award. The same book, in a slightly different version, was published by Clarkson Potter in the USA. Publisher’s Weekly named it one the hundred best books published in the USA in 1999. There are only 3 cookbooks on this list. The book was nominated for an IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) award. It won the James Beard Award for Best International Cookbook. The Seatle Times, in its review suggested, “You may never need to buy another vegetarian cookbook” and the New York Times headlined its review with, “Recipes too good for vegetarians only.”
2001: Miss Jaffrey appeared in Friends for Dinner, a cookery show for the BBC in the UK and Ready, Steady Cook and Cooking Live for the Food Network in the USA. Miss Jaffrey’s newest books, Step-by Step Cookery, published by Ebury Press in the UK and by Ecco Press (Harper Collins) in the States, are published as is Quick and Easy Cookery, Ebury Press, and Foolproof Indian Cookery, BBC Books.
2002: Miss Jaffrey’s Step-by-Step Cookery won the James Beard award for Best International Cookbook.
2002: Miss Jaffrey wrote Sweet Memories for the New Yorker magazine.
2003: Passage to Pakistan, Miss Jaffrey’s article for Saveur magazine, won the IACP Bert Greene Award for Food Journalism in the Magazine category.
2003: In the Autumn, Miss Jaffrey’s newest book, The Ultimate Curry Bible, was published by Ebury Press in the UK and by Clarkson Potter (with the name, From Curries to Kebabs) in the United States. This year also saw a new edition of Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery (Barrons and BBC Books), which has been in continuous print since 1982 and has already sold close to a million copies.
2004: From Curries to Kebabs/The Ultimate Curry Bible, won the James Beard award for The Best International Cook Book in the United States and the Food Writers Guild Cookbook of the Year Award in the U.K.
Climbing The Mango Trees, a childhood memoir by Miss Jaffrey, was published by Ebury Press in 2005. The Daily Mail called it “a vivid account of a golden childhood…Powerful stuff…Scrap the history. Forget the battlefields. This is her-story: intelligent, funny, forgiving and subversive.”
You Magazine said, “Memoirs don’t come more mouth-watering than this.” The Financial Times Magazine called it a nourishing and restorative memoir. The Bookseller said it was “…a real treat. It will appeal to the legion of Madhur Jaffrey fans and to armchair cooks everywhere with its evocative story.” The Sunday Times said, “Proust and his Madeleine would be put to shame by Madhur Jaffrey’s ability to describe the exact dishes at an alfresco lunch when she was nine.” Easy Living Magazine said: “With the sparkle of a true storyteller, Madhur Jaffrey leads the reader through her childhood in India with enchanting warmth and grace….Those that like to get their teeth into a good biography will be pleased to receive this.” BBC Good Food Magazine said, “This is an evocative account of Madhur Jaffrey’s childhood in Northern India. She brings to life the story of her large family, set against the drama of the Second World War and the partition of India…. With family recipes, this will enchant anyone with an interest in India or its food.” The Observer said, “This paradise… is infused with Jaffrey’s infectious zest, and the smells and flavours of her childhood. …her grace and joie de vivre make this memoir a pure delight.”
2006: The Paperback of Climbing the Mango Trees was released and called, “enchanting…redolent of spices and the smells of cooking all under the Indian sun” (Daily Express on Climbing the Mango Trees).
Climbing the Mango Trees, has continued to garner great reviews since being published in the US, with People magazine, giving in four stars and calling it, “the sort of account that triggers a longing for a life one never lived.” Kirkus Reviews said, “Readers will lap up this mouthwatering memoir” and the New York Times Review of Books said, “She’s evoking a whole world. Wistful, funny, and tremendously satisfying, Climbing the Mango Trees is a memoir about learning to taste.” O, the Oprah Magazine said, “Secret ancestral recipes (one with dew as an ingredient) and luscious tales of picnics in the Himalayas where children rolled ’sucking mangoes’ between their palms, then squeezed the nectar with the ‘taste of ecstasy’ into their mouths. With such earthly pleasures, heaven can wait.” The Boston Globe called Miss Jaffrey, “a lyrical writer” and Newsweek commended, “A superb example of the happy new trend of food memoirs.” The Christian Science Monitor wrote, “Jaffrey’s voice is warm and intelligent and her love of home, family and good food all ring so true.” The Seattle Times said, “Her story reads like a novel and evokes images worthy of a Merchant-Ivory production. You can practically taste sun warmed mangoes plucked from the tree, the barley-sugar candy that holds a hallowed place in the author’s memory.” Newsday said, “Do not attempt to read (this) mouth-watering, evocative memoir on an empty stomach…a delicious tribute to a deeply rooted, multicultural upbringing.”
In 2006, Miss Jaffrey’s first cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Cooking, was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook Hall of Fame.
2008-9: Miss Jaffrey has been writing regularly for the Financial Times, Weekend Edition.
2010: At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, called Curry Easy in the UK, contains recipes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Miss Jaffrey is the food consultant at Dawat restaurant, considered by many food writers such as Gael Green of New York magazine to be the best Indian restaurant in New York City. Mimi Sheraton, in Traveler magazine of January 1990, has listed Dawat restaurant as one of the best 50 restaurants in America saying that the “delicate food of cookbook author and chef Madhur Jaffrey result in what is probably the country’s finest Indian restaurant.”)
Miss Jaffrey has been giving cooking classes privately since 1973. She is also an illustrator. She did all the decorative drawings for her first cookbook. The illustrations for a book entitled Shakti, published in the States by Knopf, won for her an award from the American Institute of Graphic Arts. This award was given to the Fifty Best Designed and Illustrated Books of 1974.
In addition to writing cookbooks, Miss Jaffrey has written scores of articles for magazines and newspapers on subjects as varied as Bhutanese dance, ancient Indian cave paintings, the preserved body of St. Francis Xavier, restaurants in the Soviet Union, and inns in the south of France. The publications she has written for include the New York Times, the London Times, the Sunday Observer (London), Smithsonian, Saturday Review, Gourmet, Vogue, The International Review of Food and Wine, Travel and Leisure, Signature, Ms., House and Garden, House Beautiful, Bon Appetit, Organic Gardening, Art and Antiques, The New Yorker and Saveur.
Miss Jaffrey continues to write for magazines and does regular columns for The Financial Times (of London) on food and travel.
Miss Jaffrey has just been awarded an honorary CBE (Commander of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II for “her services to drama and promotion of appreciation for Indian food and culture.”