Rishi, Vishal and Viji with chef Sanjeev Kapoor and the judges

The ‘Mazzedaar’ Ingredient Which Helped Us Win at The Cook-Off Challenge 2016

We waited with bated breath.


Renowned chef Sanjeev Kapoor tasted the meal cooked by Rishi and Vishal, under Viji’s guidance. Over one hundred eyes stared at the screen intently. Our team from SAI Connections hung on to each word the celebrity chef uttered.


Amidst the chaos, I could hear my heart beat. I think people around could hear it too.


It expanded with joy as the Chef pronounced, “Mazzedaar” and “Perfect meal!”


Here is the video of Sanjeev Kapoor enjoying the meal cooked by the SAI Connections team.



It was wonderful to see these two talented young men participate in the Cook Off Challenge 2016. Yes, they have Autism.


The participants were from different vocational centers from all over the city. This event was brilliantly planned and executed by The Verushchka Foundation and the Forum for Autism.


Guess what. The boys practiced cooking and arranging this meal, just twice!


You saw the brilliant video. Let me share with you what you didn’t see – what happened behind the scenes.


Just like the proverbial iceberg. There is much more than the tip which is visible.


Both boys woke up early on a Sunday morning to reach the venue before 9 am. They hung around till 10 am, and were escorted to the room with the cooking stations.


I could sense the butterflies in my stomach as I watched them.


They saw a cooking station for the first time. Our boys have never cooked at a cooking station like this before. There were 9 cooking stations in all, one for each participating center.


Imagine entering a new environment, teeming with about 40 people, and buzzing with activity. You’ve never met the people present before. The judges walk around, commenting on your work.


You are accustomed to chopping vegetables in a quiet room, and proceeding to the kitchen to cook.


But at this cooking station, you chop vegetables as your partner simultaneously starts the cooking procedure right there. And the environment is MESSIER.




It can throw you off, right? It can throw any of us off.


But the boys went with the flow. They adapted seamlessly to the new, noisy, and overwhelming environment. They persisted till the end. They were aware about how important this event was.


They cooked up a delicious, pleasant looking rice dish accompanied by a raita, garnished with peanuts and decorated with fried papad.


food cooked by children with autism in india


Peanuts and crunchy papad! What a difficult combination to resist.


Yet, our masterchefs resisted from grabbing and eating the goodies. They displayed amazing restraint and self control. That tells you how regulated they were.


In fact, Sanjeev Kapoor asked them how they resisted the papad!


They shared responsibilities. Rishi chopped vegetables while Vishal cooked the rice. Rishi ground the coconut for the chutney, while Vishal prepared the fried rice.


They moved around the station easily and comfortably to complete their work. What co ordination between the two as their guide Viji, kept her watchful gaze on them.


Every parent of a child on the Spectrum knows how overwhelming a dynamic situation like this can be.


Yet, both boys understood the bigger picture. They were responsible for creating a meal and putting it out in front of the judges to taste. They showed understanding and maturity.


Once the cooking was over, they waited to be called into the tasting room. There, they met and interacted with the judges. Rishi and Vishal are not experts with ‘language’. But they understand the nuances of communication and were able to share their joy with the judges.


The tasting was followed by more waiting, as the calculations were underway. More suspense as a panel discussion lasted 45 minutes preceded the announcement of the results.


The anticipation continued to build. And the boys remained calm.


As I turned around to check on them, I saw them look at the trophies lined up on the table, intently.


The SAI Connections team won the prize for the ‘Best Everyday Meal’! Our joy knew no bounds!




After relishing the lunch, the boys were ready to head home after a long day.


But that was not the end. The day continued with a wonderful lunch spread that we all enjoyed.


We were about to be interviewed about the event.


By this time, Vishal was ‘done’. Despite his exhaustion, he waited because we requested him to wait. He waited because he knew it was important for the center, and for many other children like him.


It was amazing to see him use a counting technique to regulate himself.


Truly, what a long way he’s come.


I reflected on the events of the day with gratitude. It’s been an amazing journey for both young men.


More than the skill of cooking, the story outlines how adaptability and flexibility, co ordination, understanding their roles, and taking emotional responsibility helped the young men achieve this remarkable feat.


We think that practice makes perfect. But in this case, it’s not the practice. It’s underlying factors you and I take for granted, that made the difference.


Both mothers, Sharmistha and Viji agreed that the feat would not have been possible 2 years ago.


vince lombardi quote


What appears as successful and magical often has hard work and persistence written all over it.


Both boys along with their parents have painstakingly worked on the dynamic intelligence curriculum, over the past 2-3 years.


The parents under the guidance of a Consultant, have worked on building a connection and a loving relationship with their children based on mutual trust.


This has permeated their relationship with others and an understanding of social situations. It has been the catalyst for intrinsic motivation, competence and resilience.


Adaptability, flexibility, solving problems, going with the flow, relative thinking, good enough thinking are by-products of this process.


My dear friend, I would like to emphasize this point.


Yes, people on the Spectrum need a ‘skills based curriculum’. But they need a dynamic intelligence curriculum more.


core deficits of autism spectrum disorder


If you work on skills, you can teach a hundred skills. But it’s important for them to generalize those skills. For that, you have to work on the foundations. Through this, youngsters themselves will understand the value of learning skills.


They will learn to implement the skills in a totally new environment- just like Rishi and Vishal. And they’ll be motivated to learn more!


Hence, a combination of ‘skill based learning’ along with dynamic intelligence is essential to help our children on the autism spectrum lead dignified and independent lives. Imagine what this will do for their confidence and self esteem.


If you would like information on the Dynamic Intelligence Curriculum, do drop me an email at saiconnections01@gmail.com. I will be happy to answer your questions.


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The Importance of a Parent Training Program
For Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

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