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Sunday September 16, 2007

Whipping up lovely fare


sangeetha@thestar.com.my 

Ntv7’s Life!session host Jonathan Putra just loves to cook. Apparently, the young man has been using his culinary skills to make his way into the hearts of women. 

SOME of us who have seen Ntv7’s Life!session host Jonathan Putra cooking on the show might have thought he was merely lifting something off a recipe book and reciting it on television. 

It is quite hard to picture this boyish looking lad, with a screen name like JP and clad in rugged jeans and T-shirt, would be capable of jamming anything other than an electric guitar.  

But he certainly proved this reporter wrong when he whipped up a full-fledged meal in less than half an hour.  

Apparently, he had been using his culinary skills to make his way into the hearts of women, with his grandmother being his biggest fan.  

“I love cooking. I cook my own meals every day. Whenever I’m not working, I would make something special for my grandma. Provided she is at home. Grandma is such a socialite. She is always going out for parties. She is more popular than I am!” jokes the 24-year-old who was born in Middlesborough, Britain, and grew up in Chicago in the United States.  

Putra now lives in SS2, Petaling Jaya, with his grandmother and aunt. He has been living here ever since he moved to Malaysia three years ago.  

“I was previously living with my elder brother in Florida. I had come here for a six-month break to take care of grandma when she fell ill.  

“But while I was here I was offered a hosting job by Channel V and decided to take it,” he says.  

Putra now hosts Life!session, a magazine-style programme which gives viewers a fresh perspective on lifestyle-related issues. 

Life!session, which airs on Fridays from 11am to noon, features a mix of local and foreign content. In the show, he teams up with different chefs who teach viewers to cook simple and wholesome meals. 

“I love my job as I get to go around and teach people how to cook,” says Putra, who had once worked as an assistant chef for a non-governmental organisation as well as a five-star restaurant in Florida.  

“Most meals take between five to 15 minutes to cook. But the preparation can be time consuming so it is good to have everything ready in advance,” he says.  

Putra says he got his gift from his grandmother who had passed down her talent to his father.  

“Both grandma and dad are good cooks. Grandma taught me how to make curry puffs and pineapple tarts which I make and take to friends’ parties while my dad makes excellent trifles, barbeque ribs and chicken vindaloo,” says Putra, whose father is half Indian and half Chinese while his mother is British. 

“Cooking is actually very easy. You follow the recipe and you learn through experimentation. Anyone can cook. It does not take years of experience. People just need to get over their fear of the kitchen,” says Putra while shaking a bag of breadcrumbs and slices of chicken meat.  

“I first started cooking when I was 13. Home economics was a mandatory subject in school and I chose cooking. My very first experiment was a carrot cake which I made after school. And it turned out quite nicely,” he says.  

Putra was making Chicken Parmesan and Spaghetti while talking during the interview. As he was frying the chicken slices in hot oil, his grandmother, Mary Putra, curiously looked over his shoulder before giving him a nod of approval. 

“He is a good cook. The whole family looks forward to his Christmas breakfast every year. He would make sausages, biscuits, eggs and pancakes, the whole works.  

“We would all sit by the pool and enjoy our meal before starting the day.  

“It has become a tradition in our family,” says the 74-year-old.  

After the chicken slices were done, Putra lined a baking tray with foil and arranged the meat next to each other.  

“You need to cover the chicken with a generous helping of cheese followed by spaghetti sauce and more cheese. Grate fresh parmesan cheese as the ones sold in packets are too dry,” he says.  

“It tastes like soap,” echoes his grandma cheekily.  

Lunch was served 20 minutes later. The chicken was tender and juicy and the spaghetti was cooked to perfection.  

Mary couldn’t stop praising her grandson. 

Putra reveals that his grandmother is not the only woman who appreciates his cooking as he used to cook for his ex-girlfriend. 

“Five years ago, when I was dating this girl and had no money to buy her a gift, I actually came up with a dish called Stuffed Chicken with Lemon Butter Wine Sauce. She loved it. She said it was better than getting her a gift.” 

Putra, who is currently seeing someone, says he would sometimes go to her house and cook her a meal.  

“One day I would like to open my own restaurant where I get to sit back, get fat and be happy,” laughs Putra.  

 

JP’s Chicken Parmesan and Spaghetti 

Ingredients 

1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breast 

1/4 cup bread crumb 

3 tablespoons olive oil 

20-26 oz jar spaghetti sauce 

10 oz shred mozzarella and parmesan cheese  

500g spaghetti 

 

Method 

Marinate chicken breast for 30 minutes with two parts olive oil, one part balsamic vinegar. Evenly cover chicken breast with breadcrumbs. Shake it in a plastic bag.  

Dust the chicken lightly with flour. Heat a frying pan with three to six tablespoons of olive oil and brown the chicken on both sides.  

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line a shallow baking pan with foil (optional). Layer the chicken with a generous helping of cheese then pour over the spaghetti sauce and then with cheese again. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Check every now and then to make sure the chicken does not get too dry. You will know it’s done when the cheese is nice and golden brown on top.  

While waiting for the chicken, boil the spaghetti for eight to 10 minutes till al dente. Take it out and toss it in spaghetti sauce.  

Serve on plate with baked chicken breast on top. 

 

Name: Jonathan Meng Putra  

Hobbies: Reading and collecting books, guitars and watches  

 

Favourites: 

Food: Asam Pedas Fish and Soto Ayam 

Drink: Orange and pineapple juice 

Colour: Red 

Sport: Surfing  

Music: Cross between rock and hip hop 

Role Model: His father Roni Putra 

Obsession: Oreo cookies. He never leaves home without them.  

Peculiar Habit: If there’s a buffet, he would start with dessert first. 

Dislikes: Traffic jams and people with bad manners.  

Likes: Those with a good sense of humour. 

 

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