Globetrotting through gourmet food

It wasn't until the summer after his freshman year at Stanford University that Ankur Shah found his way around a kitchen.

"I was living in a dorm with a kitchenette and no cafeteria," Shah recalled of those months, when he was armed with just one recipe - for a spicy Indian chickpea dish - that his mother had given him. "I had to learn to cook that summer if I wanted to eat."

The summer changed his mind about cooking; in the years since then, Shah, a 1997 Sequim High School graduate, has developed an interest in organic farming and has written a Brazilian-style cookbook.

Starting in September, Shah is offering international cooking courses at The Cutting Garden, called Mangoland Cooks! where he said he can share his love for food with other Sequimites.

"I heard about Catherine (Mix, owner of The Cutting Garden) from mutual friends and we decided to team up," Shah said. "The food will be different every week ... every week will deal with a different culture of the world."

Shah isn't just going by the recipes - he has lived and worked in the majority of the countries whose fare he will teach, which includes Argentina, El Salvador, France, India, Italy, Lebanon, Mexico and, of course, Brazil. After earning degrees in math and philosophy from Stanford, Shah pursued his newfound interest by globe-trotting, even opening up a restaurant in Brazil for a brief period. Now Shah, who moved to Sequim with his mother at age 10, spends half the year living here and working at Nash's Organic Produce and the other half of the year traveling and working with organic farmers from South America to South Asia.

"I've written recipes for different places in different countries," Shah said.

For his cooking classes, Shah said he uses all organic ingredients, which he obtains from both Nash's and Sunny Farms Country Store.

"I get all organic and local vegetables," Shah explained. "For the grains I get organic but I can't always get locally-grown grains ... I try my best though."

Although food is his first love, Shah said he is not interested in simply repeating a recipe to his pupils; instead, he wants to create a "cultural experience" for the eyes, ears and of course, taste buds.

"You will find yourself immersed in the sounds, languages and attitudes of the culture in question," reads The Cutting Garden Web site.

Shah totes his musically diverse iPod to the classes and plays music from the country whose food he is teaching. He already has the first few dishes planned, saying they range from South Indian dosa to Southern Mexican mole.

Shah's classes begin Tuesday, Sept. 9, and go from 5-8 p.m. at The Cutting Garden. For full information about the classes or to reserve a spot, call 683-5368 or e-mail

A new edition of Shah's book "Cooking com Bigode," full of vegetarian, improvisational, peasant, fusion and cuisine Brazilian-style recipes, is available at

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