by MH Haider
There is a captivating aura around Shawkat Osman. Is it because of his appearance? The tall and burly man – usually clad in a panjabi, sporting long, ruffled, grey hair along with a set of beard and moustache – seems to stand out in a crowd rather easily.Or is it because of his stories? On a casual day with friends, he would immerse in a whirlwind of conversations. Being a retired businessman, an art collector, an avid traveller and a food zealot, enchanting tales would obviously fly about.
But dig deeper. Shawkat Osman is the author of 10 culinary books. From ‘Khunti Korai: Bangladeshi Cuisine' to ‘East India Vegetarian Cookbook to Bird Recipes', Osman's books are immensely popular.
Other than the books, he is also a columnist at Star Lifestyle (a supplement of The Daily Star) and Ramna Green (a magazine of the Dhaka Club).
He is also a renowned TV personality. His first cooking show was aired on ATN Bangla, a Bangladeshi channel. His next cooking programme (called Khunti Korai) came on Tara TV – a network based in West Bengal, India. Another show, named Rasoi Ghor, which was jointly hosted by him and his daughter Rukhsara Osman, was aired on Ntv (another local channel).
The culinary programmes had been immensely successful, making him a star in both East and West Bengal.
Shawkat is somewhat like an ambassador of Bangladeshi cuisine to the world. He played the role of the main host and chef, and trainer in numerous Bangladesh Food Festivals in India – in cities such as Kolkata and Mumbai and at renowned venues like the Hilton.
He has also appeared as a celebrity judge on Rupchanda-Star Lifestyle Super Chef 2014, which is a nationwide culinary competition that has been aired on Ntv.
Interestingly enough, he does not have any formal training on gastronomy. Since youth, he was very passionate about the culinary art. Even as a hunter, he used to cherish setting the fire oven and preparing and cooking the kill. In his travels, wherever his went, he sought out to try native and authentic dishes, usually following it up with learning from the chef on how to make them. "When I was in Korea, I took out a day just to learn how to properly make authentic kimchi," he says as an example.
After marriage, Shawkat found that one of his most joyous pursuits with his wife (Nahid Osman, who is also a renowned chef) involved cooking together.
He is not a lone cook. "I love cooking; it also gives me the rare opportunity and the contentment of having my family around. Usually they assist me when I'm in my kitchen. A fine kitchen is comforting and should be the most cheerful room in the house," he wrote in one of his books.
Not a lone cook – he is a family man. — The Daily Star (Bangladesh)