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What is your earliest childhood kitchen memory?
My grandmother was a fantastic cook when we were very young; we spent a lot of time with her in Dehradun. She would only cook and eat fresh produce handpicked from her kitchen garden and slow cooked over an angeethi (a small charcoal fire). Those were really fun days.
What made you fall in love with cooking so much that you chose to be a chef?
We used to have a homemade tandoor and as a kid, it used to excite me to see my Mother pull out hot rotis with her bare hands. Her passion for cooking and turning even the simplest of dishes into a culinary delight would really make me do things and help her around daily chores in the kitchen. What started as a hobby soon became a profession.
Which is your favourite dish?
Lately, that would be a Barley risotto cooked in parmesan water served with aragula pesto. Although, I still love eating at local dhabas, shacks and thelas. I miss Chana Bhatura and chaat of Delhi, Galouti kebabs of Lucknow & Vada Pav in Mumbai, are some of my favourites as well.
What’s your favourite comfort food?
Any day this would be a Dal Chaval. It is just so easy to make with minimal fuss!
What has Mumbai given to you as a chef?
Mumbai is an amazing place a paradise for culinarians. It has the best of everything when it comes to cuisines and culture.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Continuously evolving and adapting to the changing trends. Understanding the global traveller. There is so much to keep in check in the pursuit of keeping the guests happy every single time.
What’s your favourite culinary destination, and why?
Though France and Italy are all-time favourites, Peru is the new found love. It’s a cuisine with heritage, with roots in the past. Usually, cuisines evolve over time, and some lose their richness because the ingredients change. But in Peruvian cuisine, this doesn’t seem to have happened because of the quality of their products. They have great markets and great ingredients, an immense variety. There you will find everything, including a history that not many people are aware of.
What’s your food philosophy?
My food philosophy is pretty simple – use the best ingredients, keep the flavours authentic.
Each dish has to be a work of art and hence I believe that a chef is only as good as his last plate.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received as a chef?
Well, my ustaad (mentor) used to say keep your feet grounded, stay humble and always open for learning, keep the constructive criticism coming and you shall never fail…I guess it still works.
If not a chef, what would you have been?
My parents wanted me to become a doctor, I even dropped out for a year to prepare for medicals, very few know that I completed a Diploma in Pharmacy, and was a registered pharmacist in Delhi. But I guess, I was just destined to be a chef!
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Gaurav Achpalea is a qualified journalist, digital content creator and digital marketer. He has acquired his Master’s degree in Media and Communications from University of Wollongong Australia and is also a Google certified Digital Marketer.