Q. What are your views on the current state of Indian food industry?
A. I think the whole world is looking towards India. The kind of opportunities that one can see here is phenomenal. We can see restaurants and hotels opening up every other day. But the flow from the universities and colleges is not enough to meet the kind of opportunities that the industry is generating. So I think we need to catch the opportunities because this is the best time to be in this industry.
Q. Do you think Indian food has received the global recognition it deserves?
A. We are just limited to northwest frontier and scream only Butter Chicken and Tikka. Life is beyond that and there are a lot of regional cuisines which haven’t even been explored. There are a lot of regional ingredients. For example, Kokum. I took it to Bangkok and everyone was amazed to see that ingredient. Everyone kept asking me what new thing I was showcasing. There is so much room for learning as chef and we need some kind of knowledge flow from the historians. It’s a three-way system—there are historians who give knowledge to us, then we go to the kitchen and work, and then we showcase the creation to the guests.
Q. How do you perceive Indian cuisine?
A. Some foreign chefs think that Indian dishes lack lustre and there is absolutely no colour in them. I consult restaurants outside India and one of them called Indus in Bangkok, which has got on the Michelin Guide, does brilliant food presentation. So I don’t agree with people who say Indian food does not have colours. It is just that we don’t have enough knowledge about our own food. Indian food can be presentable. But it can’t be done in a French manner where there is zero curry. We have a lot of curries and the presentation aspect can come. But I don’t fuse cuisines. I don’t believe in fusion cuisine.
Q. How important is presentation when it comes to food?
A. The food has to look good. Two cuisines cannot come together. But yes, If you use any technique to make the final product better, then you should do it. For example, when I do the braising of Mutton Rogan Josh in a combination oven in a very French way, where it is cooked very slow, the product is extrememly nice. So what we are doing is taking inspiration from French cuisine to prepare Indian food because the result is better. Now as an Indian, I would like to say that we should not do Salmon Tikka, because salmon can’t be cooked beyond 60°C and the tandoor is heated at 500°C. So that’s a wrong process. Learning has to come into the picture. But one should take good things from other cuisines to make their own cuisine better.