Madhur Jaffrey

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Chef and award-winning actress Madhur Jaffrey is known as the godmother of Indian cooking and is credited with bringing Indian cuisine to the Western World. The self-proclaimed rebel learned about female empowerment from Eartha Kitt and Lena Horne, and selects a couple male singers who sparked her sexuality in this Guest DJ set. She currently stars in Curry Nation on the Good Food Channel.

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Hosted by Aaron Byrd

"Santa Baby" by Eartha Kitt
"Stormy Weather" by Lena Horne
"The Way You Look Tonight" by Frank Sinatra
"Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley
"Hello" by Adele

Aaron Byrd: Hey there I'm Aaron Byrd and I'm here with chef and award winning actress Madhur Jaffrey. She's known as the godmother of Indian cooking and is credited in bringing Indian cuisine to the Western World. She has won seven James Beard awards and written over a dozen cookbooks. She came to fame with a TV series on the BBC and currently stars in Curry Nation on the Good Food Channel. Today we are here with Madhur to talk about some of the songs that have inspired her throughout her life as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project.

AB: First of, all welcome Madhur. Thanks for joining us.

MJ: Welcome. Thank you for the welcome. I am so happy to be here.

AB: Yes, we are excited to have you. So what did you bring in for us today?

MJ: Let's start with Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt.

Now she has always been such an inspiration to me. When I was growing up in India, I was a rebel. I was not like anybody else and everybody treated me as if I was not like anybody else.

And I think that rebel, the actor, in me was always attracted to women who were doing things. I sensed that they were a little bit like me and they were not following the common route. They were just taking their own path.

And there were several women whose work I then became very attached to because they were my future in a way. And I saw Eartha Kitt when I was a student in London. I saw Eartha Kitt in a stage play -- I think it was kismet or something like that. She was so incredible and so powerful that everything about her attracted me. And then, there's this powerful women singing this sexy kittenish song and the way she sang… that kitten quality and that strength I found just amazing and very attractive. So I think that's the reason why I picked Santa Baby because, it's this very strong woman who had this strength to be kittenish, but to be strong too.

Song: Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt

AB: So that was the classic "Santa Baby" by Eartha Kitt. Coming up next what do you have for us?

MJ: Well, then there was another lady who I admired for a similar reason and that was Lena Horne.

I'd seen her in films and she was so beautiful. And I thought of her life because I knew a little bit about her life even in India and I thought she has gone through so much and such difficult life and yet she has managed to find work, she pushes herself, gets the work, gets in where she needs to be and is a beautiful singer and a beautiful human being.

So then, again, she became for me a kind of idol -- I could do that. I could do that. There women like that who are like me. I was young. I was too young at that time, but I could look up to these women who would take my hand and lead me along metaphorically at least. And from her I selected "Stormy Weather" which is a song I love.

AB: That was Lena Horne with the classic "Stormy Weather". I'm here with award winning chef and actress Madhur Jaffrey talking about songs that have inspired her throughout her life. So for your third choice what do we have?

MJ: So we have a man now. We have Frank Sinatra. Now who doesn't love Frank Sinatra? And we certainly heard his songs in India and then I was in England studying and we heard his songs then. And he just, it was a kind of romantic quality to his singing that I found both sexy and attractive. And there were some men, cause I was just in a way growing up, discovering my own body, discovering my own sexuality, and he somehow fit in in a very nice, soft romantic way so again I turned to him to get all my juices - as it were - going and that was the attraction I think of this particular song which is "The Way You Look Tonight".

AB: Is cooking a sensual experience for you?

MJ: Absolutely. Cooking is not. Eating is completely sensual. There is no aspect of eating that isn't --smelling, tasting, the fingers, the use of the fingers. I remember once I was in Korea and, you know, in Korea they eat with knitting needle type metal chop sticks and this women who invited me, very nice women very knowledge about food, and she says you know I went to India and they all eat with their hands and I don't like that very much. And I said, well, we don't make love with knitting needles either. Because both these things are sensual and you need the body to be sensual to touch, to taste.

AB: That was "The Way You Look Tonight" by old blue eyes Frank Sinatra. And for you next choice, we have something from the King, right?

MJ: We have something else. Now, I think I'm like a lot of ladies of a particular period -- Elvis Presley was IT for us. And I remember my boyfriend at the time use to get very jealous. He would say, why are you looking at this man, he's just shaking his legs? And I said I'm looking at him as something else -- you're not seeing what I'm seeing.

And it was, again, a sensual, sexual and a kind of throbbing singing that not just reached your ears but got inside you somehow and throbbed you as much as it was throbbing itself. Again it was a period of my life when he was The King. And I actually went to Memphis to see the place. It didn't quite give the same throbbing as his songs. But he was certainly a powerful sensual kind of singer.

AB: Well, you heard it -- that's Elvis Presley with the throbbing song "Can't Help Falling in Love" and so were coming to the end. I'm actually quite surprised for this last choice.

MJ: I'm surprised too. This particular song, it's Adele's "Hello", ok. You hear it everywhere. You can't move a step and you're hearing it.

But there's such power to it. It reaches out into the universe and sort of drags you to it, whether you like it or not. You might say I don't want to hear it, I've heard it so many times. But it drags you in. It has a reaching universal quality to it, like a Shakespeare or something, that you find I'm one with these people whoever they are listening to this. I'm one of them too, and so take me in. Take me in as well. It's that quality and maybe it's the actress in me that finds that anyone who can do that is great. Anyone who can reach out in such a big way and drag everyone into their net, to their bosom, that must be a great person.

AB: Madhur it was great talking to you. Thanks so much for joining us here at

MJ: Thank you.

AB: For complete tracklisting and to find these songs online go to And you can also subscribe to the podcast through Itunes.






Aaron Byrd