Veganism has made Indian food more popular abroad: Chef Atul Kochhar
Chef Atul Kochhar who won Michelin stars while at Tamarind, a famous restaurant in London, United Kingdom, is now ready to open his new restaurant, SAGA in Gurgaon. Chef has taken Indian cuisine abroad and has been presenting it in a unique way. Its restaurants, Sindhu in The Compleat Angler in Marlow and Indian Essence in Petts Wood are some of the best places in the UK that offer contemporary Indian cuisine.
In conversation with Manan Kaur From Times Food, Chef Kochhar explained his relationship with food and how it has shaped his personality. He was recently in the city for the launch of a restaurant chain, SAGA, and joined the renowned restaurantman Vishal Anand.
Do you think the concept of fusion food is killing the authenticity of traditional dishes? I don't think fusion food has killed authenticity. Happens all the time. It is happening right now and it happened 10,000 years ago and will continue to happen for millions of years. It is important for us and for the food to continue evolving.
How popular is Indian food in Britain and what sells more?
In England, Indian food is very popular and with veganism becoming the new trend, it is increasingly admired. Chicken Tikka Masala is a dish that they love and is also their national dish.
5 ingredients that every Indian cuisine must have to create an amazing meal?
The spice box that I always recommend, should have turmeric, coriander, cumin, red chili and Garam Masala standard box. With all this, you can create anything and everything you want.
Why did you want to become a chef and when did you decide to be?
My Nana (maternal grandfather) was a baker and my father was a self-taught chef, so I was inspired to see them. The route took me to medical school and I decided to enter the hotel school and never look back. My father said: Whatever you want to do, you must wake up happy every day. Thank God for the suggestion that I wake up happy and inspired every day.
Who has been your biggest inspiration in the food industry and why?
I don't think I would like to give anyone more credit than my father. I learned to experiment with his food. Other than that, there were many Dronacharyas in the way I learned from.
How the British cuisine that dominated the palate of the people, gave him space to establish a taste for Indian cuisine?
Each time the migration is done, you are in a new environment and you have to create a space for yourself. No one gives you anything. You have to create your own ethos interacting with the new environment. It is important to study and meet the people around you and change your ways a bit. But with that, it is equally important to impose their own spirit on them and that also creates a space for them. The moment a bridge is formed between two cultures, creating your own space becomes easier. Molding according to the new environment is one of the greatest strengths that can be helpful.
What is the only thing about northeastern Indian cuisine that gives rapid competition to other cuisines in India?
All of my generation were hooked on Chinese food and most of Northeast Indian cuisine is close to that. They have stir fry, soups, meatballs and we know them as Chinese and non-Indian food, but they are part of our heritage, our culture.
What is the most useful advice you have received in your career that you would like to convey to other aspiring chefs?
The best advice has to be the one my father gave me, don't chase the money, pursue the learning. Vishal Anand
The restaurant culture has evolved greatly in India, what is your opinion about it?
Anand: Every business continues to evolve and you have to change over time. We are here to give guests experience. Having dinner before only meant food, but now you must give them an experience, a reason to return. A full range of food and drinks is needed along with a pleasant atmosphere. What serves, how it serves and what music plays, these factors are important now.