The megamind of mini foods- the new indian express

CHENNAI: Last week, Shilpa Mitha posted a photo on her Facebook page. The shot had Amritsar-based celebrity chef Vikas Khanna holding a souvenir from one of her creations. “My friend Rupa Shah from Australia is a fan and friend of Vikas Khanna. She wanted to gift him a miniature of Khichdi during her visit to India. The reason being, it was prepared by him on the finale of MasterChef India, and a dish close to his heart.

I also made a winter pea soup for him. The miniature is now his property. Rupa made sure the photo reached me,” says Shilpa, who launched her e-store on Saturday. The plating had other interesting elements like avial in the shape of a dome and beetroot purée tempered with South Indian spices.

She tells us that making the chywanprash ki jaali was the crucial part.

Shilpa’s journey as a miniature artist began in 2011. Who knew that her love for dolls, food, and crafts since childhood would have inspired her to take up miniature artwork as a career? “Food brings lots of memories from home. It will always be the main component of my artwork. And my target is to take Indian local cuisines across the globe,” shares Shilpa. She is now experimenting with mocktails and savouries for summer.

From Kashmiri-style lamb ribs to her latest hot cross buns for Easter, she has completed over 3,000 projects in seven years. Her dosas with three varieties of chutneys sell like hot cakes. She has more than 7,000 likes on Facebook page and 11,000 followers on Instagram. With 200 more pieces to complete, Shilpa’s plate is full. “I just delivered dosas to Singapore and received another order from Hyderabad. But most of my orders come from Bengaluru,” she says while showing us her latest creation — chicken steak with barbeque sauce, salad and French fries.

The key ingredients to her masterpieces are air dry clay for the base and acrylic paint to highlight the flavours and detailing. Shilpa calls herself a fake chef as she can do nothing but boil water. “I look at the images of a dish. And then watch the method of preparation on YouTube. After reading up on the ingredients, I decide the colour combination and amount of clay required,” she explains.

Shilpa’s other challenge is to replicate the exact imagery in her head. “I consider it a successful attempt only if a person has confusion in choosing real food over miniature. But accomplishing this gets hard when I receive bulk orders of different dishes. For instance, if it’s just ten pieces of dosa then it’s easy for me to make,” says the artist who finds anything with rice to be most time-consuming, especially biryani. We are told that the international size for a miniature is just an inch. The cost increases with smaller sizes and intricate detailing.

Her patrons buy these miniatures for weddings, interior decor and as souvenirs. When you scroll down her followers’ list there are more restaurateurs than artists. “Some clients patiently wait for months to get their artwork done. My fridge magnets always have a special demand as souvenirs or return gifts,” says Shilpa who works 16-17 hours a day and still craves for extra hours.

From creating to packaging, everything is managed by Shilpa, who has plans to make doll houses in the future. “Looking at this tiny artwork might be a stress-buster to many, but to me sticking to deadlines to complete them is the actual stress,” she adds.

Once a sound engineer, Shilpa is now inspiring many aspiring art enthusiasts across ages. “If not an artist, I would have become a pianist. When things that I expected to work out failed, I stopped having expectations. Keep working until you achieve it. Just go with the flow,” she says.