Fox life, known for exploring unique formats, is bringing back the most-celebrated Chef Gary Mehigan to India in a brand-new avatar for his upcoming show Masters of Taste with Gary Mehigan. Chef Gary spoke to Guardian 20 about this new phase of his career, and about his innovative food presentation and cooking techniques that are taking the Indian food industry by storm. In the show, the English-born Australian chef will be seen visiting some of the most upmarket restaurants in India, meeting and creating culinary magic with the finest chefs here, and exchanging notes with the who’s who of the industry on how the Indian hospitality sector is evolving, and how it is open to fresh out-of-the-box experiences.
Talking about his new show, the 51-year-old said, “It’s a new format created by Fox Life India, as a result of long discussions about working together. I love what Fox Life and Endemol Shine have come up with, as I get to eat, learn and talk—you can’t get a better job really. In the show, I meet a number of innovative and exciting Chefs who are changing the way people in India eat. Some traditional, some are flipping traditional on its head, and some are introducing new cuisines to the Indian culinary scene.”
Chef Gary is expecting a riot of flavours, textures and tastes in India. According to the chef, India is not about the upmarket restaurants but about its street food vendors. For instance, the guys from the Danda Food Project (which provides dining experiences through popups and private events) who cook for people in their homes, as well as at a casual dining place in Mumbai called the Doolally Taproom. Through the show, Gary will be visiting all of these places and he thinks it is going to be an enriching experience.
When Guardian 20 asked him about his experience of working with Fox Life India, he said, “I had a ball... Everyone from the team at Fox to the crew on the shoot, were supportive, excited and surprisingly all were passionate about food.”
Chef Gary was in high school when he got influenced by his grandfather who was also a chef. Soon, he got over the idea of becoming an engineer, architect or a pilot, and realised that perhaps he could be a good chef.
According to him, what made him fall in love with cooking all the more was when he was doing his apprenticeship at a hotel in London. “I was standing in a massive hotel kitchen, and seeing all this amazing produce from around Europe arriving each day got me very excited. That was the moment when I fell in love with food and cooking,” he said.
When we asked him if he feels the need to rediscover Indian ingredients and share those with the international audiences, he said, “I am still discovering, so as much as I am familiar with Indian cooking, I don’t think I have even touched the surface. So, as long as the public wants to hear me talk about Indian style of cooking, I will happily continue to venture back to India to do more.”
According to Chef Gary, Indian cuisines are unique and they’re about the complexity of flavours rather than about creating a dominant taste. He thinks that Indian food has had an impact all around the world. “But,” he said, “I don’t think the world has seen all of it, and there is much more to share.”
The one Indian dish that he really wants to cook would be “masala dosa and lots of curries”. He continued, “I would love to be more fluid in making the many different breads that India is famous for: naan, roti, kulcha, luchi, bhatoora and poori.”
Guardian 20 asked him about the most challenging meal he has prepared so far. And he responded by saying, “I had a very humbling experience in the kitchens of Tim Ho Wan, standing next to a dumpling master, trying to fold beautiful and delicate ‘Har gow’—I was rubbish.”
Which was his most memorable day as a chef? “There are too many to mention, but perhaps my first day working at the Connaught Hotel, Mayfair, London, was a game-changer and a life-changer.”
Butter is one ingredient that the chef just can’t do without. About his signature dish—roast chicken—he lightheartedly, said, “All great dishes start with a roast chicken.”
When asked about his idea of comfort food, he responded, “Cheese. No-one does cheese better than the French, so when I visit there, I am like a man with 10 arms.”
He wrapped up the chat with a quick advice to budding chefs. “It’s a tough job, with long, unsociable hours. So do it if you love it, otherwise it will be a cranky mistress in your life,” the master chef said, signing off.
Masters of Taste with Gary Mehigan goes on air on 26 February, and will be shown every Monday at 9 pm on Fox Life India