Food 03 Jun 2024 4 MIN

The new boy dinner is tamarind rice and Tamil tunes

Not Your Amma’s Kitchen is adding swag to South Indian food with a spoon toss

If your eyes glaze over each time someone recommends a recipe account on Instagram, you’re not alone. Frankly, our appetite for them has reached saturation point. Thankfully, though, Not Your Amma’s Kitchen is not your average recipe aggregator account. And Adharsh Kumar is not your average foodfluencer.  
A newly minted content creator, 30-year-old Kumar started posting his cooking chops in January, and swiftly gathered close to 85k followers on Instagram with merely 19 reels. How, you ask? Kumar has been bringing sexy back to South Indian cooking with his cinematic videos of puzhi sadam (tamarind rice), milagu kozhi (pepper chicken), kathrikai kozhambu (fried eggplant curry), and sambar.  
It all starts with a dramatic spoon toss (his signature move), followed by him throwing around whole spices (certain to shock your ammas and grandammas) and a slew of slow-mo, reverse, and elevated shots—all set to catchy Tamil tunes. In the sea of recipe-forward Instagram accounts, there’s none that that makes Indian cooking feel as modern, inviting, and evolved as his.  
Born in Michigan, with family and roots in Coimbatore, Kumar has a full-time data analytics job in Texas that involves spending “all my time on Excel sheets”. That he passes off as a social media wunderkind is a shocker, given that he only reserves about 30 hours a week to create his snackable reels. Kumar isn’t a professional chef; he started cooking out of necessity, when he moved out of his family home at 18. “I borrow recipes and influences from the family and the internet, but make them my own. It’s not a traditional approach with precise measurements and such, but more about following my instincts,” he says by way of explaining the moniker ‘Not Your Amma’s Kitchen’.   
Last month’s slick payasam martini video, which starts with the disclaimer “no it’s not alcoholic, I just plated it in martini glasses”, got me to notice and deep dive into this hunger-inducing account. There are reels that have crossed two million views and hundreds of comments. Even his folks, who disapproved of his new hobby first, are now ardent fans. “My parents thought it’s one of my phases and told me to focus on my job,” laughs Kumar. But as the videos circulated to friends and extended family and praise started pouring in, his parents became proud ambassadors of his content. “Amma is super-invested in the videos now, she goes through every comment I receive. Dad, who knows nothing of social media, has made an Instagram account just to follow my page.” 
Besides recipes, @notyourammaskitchen is also a treasure trove of Tamil bangers to add to your Spotify. On this page, you’ll find tunes from Tamil composers and popular Tamil films, plus indie, hip-hop, and R&B artists, including New Jersey-based Indian-American rapper and producer RMS (my favourite find so far). Kumar says that his music selection often comes before the recipe and has contributed to the virality of his reels.  
Full disclosure: like many of his followers who ponder whether they are here for the food or the fella, I’m not sticking around for a primer on Tamil tunes or to learn how to sensually craft and caress a kottu parotta (as seen in his latest). Sure, I’m here for the aesthetics. Of the high-definition videos that this self-taught one-man show art directs, shoots, and acts in. But what makes me linger the longest is Kumar’s strapping presence—his pierced ears, carelessly thrown-backward cap, and silver chain peeking through his t-shirt adding to his appeal. That he ends his reel with the dish plated and extends an invite (“Sappidalama?” or “Let’s eat?”) to everyone watching, just stokes my appetite for more. The soft-spoken Kumar says he features in his videos “because you don’t see too many young Indian men cooking, especially in Western culture”.  
He rounds off the interview by obliging me with answers to the most burning questions—“What happens to all the spices that are callously flung around?” and “Are you any good a cook or is it just all for the ’gram?” I’m happy to report that the spoon remains unharmed, the spices get reused at future shoots, and Kumar cleans up the mess he makes himself. And, he confirms, “Amma loves my cooking”, which is, really, the irrefutable proof of the pudding.