Jiggs Kalra, Food Writer Who Elevated Indian Fine Dining, Dies at 72


Jaspal Inder Singh Kalra was born on May 21, 1947, in the Punjab region to Pritpal and Joginder Singh Kalra, a brigadier in the Indian Army. In addition to his son, Mr. Kalra is survived by his wife, Lovjeet; another son, Ajit; and four grandchildren.

Mr. Kalra attended Mayo College, an elite boarding school in Rajasthan, where he was captain of the basketball team (and where he may have acquired the nickname Jiggs). Soon after graduating, he started working as a trainee journalist at The Times of India in Bombay.

His friend, Bikram Vohra, described a chaotic bachelor life: big parties with good food, lots of alcohol and notable guests, including Bollywood stars and a neighbor who would become the frontman for the rock group Queen, Farrokh Bulsara, better known as Freddie Mercury.

Mr. Kalra went on to cover the 1971 India-Pakistan war for a sister publication, The Illustrated Weekly of India, working under its iconoclastic editor, Khushwant Singh, while pestering him to commission a food column. It was Mr. Singh who later called him “the tastemaker to the nation.”

Mr. Kalra moved to The Evening News in New Delhi and got his food column, “Platter Chatter,” reviewing restaurants and culinary trends in the capital. It was one of the few such columns in India at the time, and he viewed his role as to appraise restaurants, not criticize them; his son Zorawar said Mr. Kalra did not want to hurt any restaurant’s business.

In the 1980s, Mr. Kalra was host of one of India’s first television cooking shows, the popular “Daawat” (“Banquet”), in which he brought on chefs to cook their signature recipes on camera and share their techniques.

Mr. Kalra delighted in putting little known chefs in the spotlight.

When the ITC Maurya luxury hotel invited him to help its flagging restaurant, he persuaded the management to take its chef, Imtiaz Qureshi, out of the kitchen and make him the face of the enterprise in its marketing. He also had the management change the restaurant’s name to Dum Pukht, to highlight the Awadhi tradition, in which the chef had trained.

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