Spotlight #3: Nikita at Cornell

You all must be wondering what I do at Cornell and how I manage to keep up with my interest in food while studying engineering. Well...let’s start with this. I’m an engineering student at Cornell’s College of Engineering, studying Computer Science with a minor in Business. I love taking engineering classes because it allows me to solve problems effectively and improve my analytical thinking skills. As I mentioned in last week’s spotlight, my passion for cooking allowed me to discover and become interested in computer science.

Along with my plethora of engineering classes, this semester I was fortunate to be enrolled in Food Service Management, Theory, and Practice in the Hotel School. This course is designed to teach students about fundamental food composition and properties, food products and preparation, food safety, and food production management. I had my first lab yesterday and let me tell you...I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT. Probably the best decision I have made so far this semester. Yesterday we learned about food evaluation including textures, mouth-feels, aromas, and taste, and’s gets better...we baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies. :D  It’s so cool to be able to find a way to integrate my interest in culinary studies with computer science at Cornell. Watch out for more articles in the future documenting my experiences and what I learn in Culinary! 


Spotlight: Why I Started Nikita's Kitchen

I still remember the first time my mom handed me a ball of dough and a rolling pin, and tried teaching me to cook chapatti, a circular Indian flatbread. My first chapatti was far from round, but this imperfect attempt at age six instilled a passion for cooking that has given me a lifetime of enjoyment and the chance to share the hobby I love with others.


already in the kitchen at a young age


I quickly graduated to adding a pinch of turmeric to the curry and stirring it with a wooden spoon; this evolved into concocting simple snacks for my younger sister. Soon enough, I became my mom’s sous-chef. By age twelve, I was hosting casual dinner parties and by my teens, could prepare elegant epicurean feasts.

Along the way, friends confessed their fear of cooking, so I became their “go-to” person for a rolodex of foolproof culinary treats. After recipe sharing, it dawned on me that instead of repeatedly explaining my cuisine blueprints, a website with my instructional cooking videos would help others learn at their own pace. They could pause and replay my videos as necessary in the comfort of their own kitchens.

Thus was born “Nikita’s Kitchen”, a website which demystifies cooking and demonstrates that it can be enjoyable, rewarding, and (most importantly) healthy! A stream of friends and family started accessing the site regularly, and before long, I became my community’s “Food Network star”! Visitors soon realized that preparing meals at home was healthier than eating out and were inspired by seeing a teenager cook everything from Asian-style bronzini to Mediterranean hummus and tandoori chicken. Vacation memories of devouring falafel by Egypt’s pyramids and sipping halászlé in Budapest, not to mention exploring hidden spice markets in Delhi, have influenced my palate. Each dish is a souvenir of my travels and allows my imagination to roam around the globe right from my very own kitchen. What started in 2009 as a tool for my friends soon became an Internet bookmark for thousands of others.


Click to View Video: One of my first Nikita's Kitchen videos! 


Having my home kitchen as the studio, my dad as videographer, and my cooking demonstrations as the prelude to our evening meals has brought my family closer together. I have faced many challenges along the way: almost burning the house down, mastering recipes, creating computer programs, juggling competing responsibilities, and accepting culinary criticism. I view each one of them as a learning experience and continue to experiment in my kitchen laboratory, fine-tuning the formulas until the final products are a delicious success.

Discovering the joy of cooking and sharing it with others has proven to be the recipe for my own life. Transforming the humdrum into mouth-watering winners, I have turned my art of cooking into a never-ending quest for learning.