Michelin Star Chef
In Mumbai. On a whirlwind three day trip. Internationally celebrated as the worlds finest, highly awarded, three Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura is in town. Not only is he the global leader of gastronomy but along with his vibrant wife is spearheading social change, with their NGO “food for soul” (where, in London, I was privileged to volunteer as a waitress). Forever etched in my taste bud memory is my five-hour, 15 course mind-blowing meal at Massimo’s Osteria Francescana in Italy where the genius’s thoughts became deliciously edible.
And now, it’s an exhilarating joy to give the lovable power couple a taste of Indian flavours and most of all to observe their responses and reactions. The sheer bliss on his face when the delicate fragrance of biryani at the finest Indian K and K seduced. Kerman Lalkaka, Chef Sunil Gadihoke had fittingly laid out a feast for an emperor. Lara tripped out on the sweet tangy spicy pani puri in Pinky Dixit’s Soam. Hay strewn cacophonic Crawford market to the serene, stylish Ensemble
to the iconic Taj where chef Amit Chaudhari served up regional flavors. Prateek Sadhu and Aditi Duggar’s cutting edge Masque, Floyd Cardoz and Chef Zachariah’s Bombay Canteen delighted them.
“Indian food is an encyclopedia of overlapping landscapes, cultures, religions and people” says Massimo. “our small sampling has opened our eyes to a world of flavors… strong and delicate, powerful and submissive, fun and serious… Eating is the best way to learn!”
P.S. And even as you read this we will have lunched in Shree Thakker Bhojnalay and they will have landed back home in Italy.
Here in the cacophonic and frenetic Big Apple, it’s our very own Indian mango which is being celebrated. And that too at the NYC premiere of Dame Judi Dench’s superb film where she brilliantly plays the role of Queen Victoria (also a great gourmet). Post screening, superstar chef Vikas Khanna created the most amazing mango dessert topped with edible gold. His tribute to the king of fruits for the queen of acting. I tasted, photographed and couldn’t stop smiling.
Please take a look at the photograph shot under the beautiful ceiling mural of the Rotunda. For over eighty years, it has been New York’s iconic meeting place. And aptly enough, I’m breakfasting with icons of the culinary world. And India is the focus. America’s most brilliant award winning Food TV producer Geoffrey Drummond (renowned for his shows with Julia Child and Eric Ripert) is working on the ultimate food show on nourishment and India is magnetising him. Putting India firmly on America’s gourmet map, Vikas Khanna, the award-winning Michelin-starred chef, cookbook writer, filmmaker, humanitarian and judge of MasterChef India sparkles the morning. Interestingly though Escoffier, the King of French chefs (and codifier of French cuisine), did all the initial menus at this magnificent stately Pierre. It was here that America’s first Indian fine dine restaurant was located. Today, the brilliant young Keralite chef Ashfer Biju is making history again. He is reimagining classics with a fresh modern seasonal perspective and has NYC eating out of his hands. The joint-degree holder from the finest in America and France, the dynamic Francois Olivier Luiggi who helms this exquisite icon not only ensures that it retains its historic grandeur (hand-painted murals et al) but also rocks ahead youthfully. Jai Ho!
Strange but true! Here in this frenetic, cacophonic New York city, I am not only getting rare insights into Indian grains and spices but doing so in a treasure trove spread over two floors. And our very own Indian superstar chef Vikas Khanna has been getting accolades for incorporating Grains in American cuisines. Sharing his insights with me is award-winning Michelin starred chef, cookbook writer, filmmaker, humanitarian and judge of MasterChef India. To top it all, the dashing and yet down to earth Vikas Khanna has been hailed as the “sexiest chef alive” He combines a rare humility, knowledge and passion and I am blown off my feet when he guides me into his favourite New York hot spot.
We are at this iconic Kalustyans set up in 1944. The haunt of many s great chef. Here, he gives me taste of the finest black garlic pistachios, turmeric a sniff of the finest Iranian saffron of butterflypea and a round up of amazing rare grains. Though he works a lot with vendors in Kerala, Mumbai and Tamil Nadu to bring more organic grains to North America and to find creative ways to incorporate them into American diets.
He always tells people that our ancestors ate much better food than us. Organic, disciplined and balanced. The use of different types of grains and organizing a healthy eating around them is pure heaven for him and me. I had no idea that there was such a staggering number of grains and each had several sub-types. For instance Wheat includes Bulgar, Durum, Einkorn, Emmer, Farro, Kamut, Semolina, Spelt, Triticale. Rice (Red, Forbidden, White, Black) Corn (Flint, Dent, Waxy) Barley (Pot Barly, Pearl Barley) Sorghum (Johnson Grass, Broom-Corn) Millet (finger millet, foxtail millet, kodo millet, pearl millet, proso millet) and so on.
“I still remember the first time I entered Kalustyans. It was a much smaller store back then in 2001.” explains Vikas, “But was an eye opening experience, it was like being a kid in the candy store.”
He had come here to find fresh turmeric. It was not available then, but today it is. He has been a part of Kalustyan family since then. It could be buying new stuff or bringing chefs here or taking spices from here for chefs like Eric Ripert to Jean George’s to Daniel Boulud.
We both agree that spices are more precious than jewels. His latest research has been about Blossoms of spices and their evolution and metamorphosis through time. A lot like Vikas’s own fascinating journey…a boy born in Punjab with misaligned feet (not able to run until he was 13) and who learnt cooking from his grandmother, came to America with no money at all and rose to be awarded and celebrated. And even today continues to be down to earth.
BARLEY AND ORANGE PUDHA
Vikas shared many a creative bread recipe with me, due to space constraint am able to print only one. Should you need more, please email email@example.com
A great tasting healthy bread made with whole barley flour, which is highly nutritious and recommended for a low-fat diet. Orange juice is added not only for a wonderful citrusy flavour but also because it helps to tenderise the dough.
1 cup barley flour
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon chilli powder
Salt to taste
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
Take the flour, onion, cilantro, orange zest, chilli powder and salt in a bowl. Gradually blend in the orange juice and mix well. Add a little water at a time to a smooth batter. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and smear the pan with 1 tablespoon oil. Spoon 1/4 of the batter into the pan and spread to it to even thickness. Cook for 2-3 minutes until crispy golden brown, then turn it over and drizzle a little oil around the edges. Continue to cook until the sides turn golden brown, about 1 minute. Repeat with remaining batter.
I’m thrilled to art in sunny Barcelona. Every conceivable form of art, breathing art, seeing art, hearing art and of course tasting art. Over the years, Barcelona has been my most favourite city which has nurtured global superstars of art, architecture and cuisine. I’ve been a constant and ardent fan of trailblazers Antonio Gaudi, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and of course my culinary hero Ferran Adria. I have luxuriated in their immortal art forms and dining at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli was an experience I’ll treasure forever. And this time, thanks to my ever helpful friend in China, Vito Romeo, I even stay in the aptly named and the stunning Hotel Arts, designed by the globally renowned architect Frank Gehry.
Please take a look at the accompanying photograph, the intriguing flying Fish sculpture that you see, is named after a Spanish dance (Sardana) performed in front of the cathedral and for sure the Hotel Arts, while not a cathedral has a similar dominating presence. And standing below is the brilliant Calatan chef Antonio Saez , who at a very young age worked as chef de cuisine in a three Michelin starred restaurant. He masterminds the wealth of dining options here and shares with me amazing insights about Spanish cuisine. The dapper and dynamic Raul Salcido helms this 25 year old iconic landmark and ensures that it delivers superb food and equally superior service.
DINING IN THE ARTS
All under one roof; A mind blowing wealth of dining options, I dine at two Michelin-starred Chef Paco Pérez’s Enoteca. And am blown away by his sheer genius and creativity which fuses textures and flavours into a delicious parade of dishes.
Lunching on Michelin starred Chef Sergi Arola’s fresh ingredients straight from the Boqueria market is a treat.
Seafood from all the coastlines of the world dazzle at Marina, which is situated in the gardens with views of the Mediterranean.
Its always been my most favourite summer soup. The very simple to make, Gazpacho. Not sure whether it’s recipe finds place in the first ever culinary book which was written in Barcelona in the 12th century.
And though Barcelona has assimilated cosmopolitan cultures, over a 1000 years, it continues to hold it’’s own roots, culture, language and cuisine in high regard.
I am fascinated by this complex yet amazingly simple cuisine and the high state of gastronomy in Catalonia. And thanks to Chef Antonio Saez I taste and learn more about it.
Interestingly, Gazpacho may be served as a starter, main dish, or tapas. Its old and original recipe includes garlic paste, bread, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Chef Antonio points out “You can many different kinds of gazpachos. Cherry gazpacho, beetroot gazpacho or peach gazpacho”, he explains, “What you need to do is, change 1/3 of the weight of the tomato for cherries, peach or beetroot.You will have a totally different gazpacho.”
1.5 kg of plum tomatoes/400g of cucumber
150g of green capsicum/50g of onion
500ml of mineral water/½ garlic clove
250g of Extra virgin olive oil/25g of cider/ vinegar/ Salt
Blend all the ingredients, but not the vinegar and salt. Using an upright blender, blend for 5 minutes at maximum power, pass through a fine sieve and keep in the fridge. Adjust seasoning with the salt and vinegar.
Serve very cold in soup plates, finish with garlic croutons, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
MORE GREAT SPANISH RESTAURANTS
Crowned the “worlds best restaurant” five times over, Spanish wizard Ferran Adria’s “El Bulli” was a phenomenon. I was fortunate enough to have dined here, before Adria shut it. This is where Ferran Adria coaxed science to copulate with imagination and deliver brilliant surprises in texture, temperature and taste. His innovation of “molecular gastronomy” (though he hats the word) continues to inspire the world.
CELLER DE CAN ROCA
Multi-sensorial Techno-emotion cuisine seduces at worlds best (twice over) Located an hours drive out of Barcelona, the three Roca brothers fuse science, poetry, melody, into an orchestra of flavours & textures & memories & stories. This is my second dinner here and once again I come away thrilled.
My last meal at the Michelin starred Disfrutar (means Enjoy) more than lives up to it’s name. The brilliant chefs Mateu Casañas, Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch conjure a delicious extravaganza of innovative surprises.
“Dimsum” translates to “touch the heart” in Chinese and my four city China trip through Michelin starred restaurants, local holes in the wall and superb dimsum sure did touch my heart. But the treat to beat all treats was in Beijing. To interview and dine with China’s best chef Tony Lu, who shuns publicity, never meets journalists. He says he prefers to focus his time on nurturing his seven restaurants and two Michelin stars. And in Beijing’s most popular Cai Yi Xuan, ( “the art of dining”) where along with Tony Lu’s menu I had yet another fabulous surprise, our very own dapper Vishal Sanadhya who heads up food and beverage in this iconic hotel. I get a taste of China’s Beijing, Shandong, Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces in this shimmering, glamorous restaurant.
Delightful dimsum of course, plump with flavour and texture. I devour amazing lessons about China’s cuisine incredibly rich culturally, gastronomically and medically. In ancient times, a cooking pot (the ding) was a symbol of political power and in this carnivorous country, I not only ate at many a pure vegetarian restaurant but also in Shanghai’s sublime pure vegetarian Michelin starred restaurant. Tony Lu’s of course. My learning continues.
Am I in a glamorous 1920s Hollywood movie train? Or an Agatha Christie thriller? Dining on gourmet food in this plush, gleaming dining car in the uber luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham train by Orient Express, is a dream come true. Its speeding me through breathtakingly beautiful everchanging Peruvian Andean landscapes to the mystical Machu Picchu. Im sure you’ll agree with me, that food gets infused with a magical quality when we dine on a moving train. Add to that gourmet food (cooked in the state of the art kitchens in the train, vegetarian options too),finest of wines, immaculate service, white linen, petit fours, freshly brewed espresso and Im in heaven. A well-stocked bar, live music and Pisco sour lesson complete my joy. Almost. Meeting the gallant Andy Montufar Oquendo and Orozco the chef on board who conjures chef William Paniagua recipes magnifies my joy. A fittingly memorable, delicious, journey to one of the new seven wonders of the world. It’s a wonder in itself too.
P.S. The train is named after Hiram Bingham, the American explorer who discovered Machu Picchu in 1911.
Delicious surprises! The most amazing Michelin starred cuisine restaurant in a tiny, picturesque Italian village with a population of 750! That it is located in the worlds most dramatic and dazzling Dolomite mountains in Italy which are bathed in brilliant summer sunshine and sparkled with wild flowers magnifies the deliciousness. I shot this fun photograph in the unique chalet-within-the-hotel Rosa Alpina terrace garden where the brilliant Two Michelin starred and highly awarded Chef Norbert Niederkofler full of fun and genius kneels down to Hugo and Ursula Pizzinini who redefine the art of hospitality. In their family owned over seven decade old Rosa Alpina they make all guests feel like family. Here comfort, luxury and high-tech meld together in every exquisite detail. From the super-stylish Zeno chalet within the hotel, the bio hamam, yoga studio to movie theatre and ofcourse St Hubertus, the two Michelin-starred restaurant.
It is here that their two Michelin starred restaurant (the only one in the region) St Hubertus has been magnetizing global gourmets.
MICHELIN MOUNTAIN MAGIC
There is magic in Chef Norberts hands. “The best things are the simple things but at the same time also the hardest things to do” he says as he drives me to meet the producers from whom he directly sources milk, cheese, yoghurt, vegetables and more. “Cook the mountain” is his philosophy and local sourcing is the foundation. Having honed his skills and style under maestros around the world, it was 1993 that Chef Norbert set up St Hubertus in Hotel Rosa Alpina where he continues to dedicate his cuisine to the local mountain range, using ingredients produced in the Dolomites.
News spread of this ‘Cook the Mountain’ philosophy, as it came to be known, and in 2000 the restaurant won its first Michelin star. ‘We use twenty-five different kinds of carrots throughout the year and an almost endless variety of herbs including amaranth leaves, sorrel, wild onion and celeriac,’ he explains. ‘The most natural ingredients are the most important.’ He tells me this as we drive to meet these producers, I am fascinated and charmed and can fully comprehend the huge number of accolades Chef Norbert and his restaurant have been showered with.
Indeed, his philosophy of “cook the mountain” shines through in his “simple, clear and clean” cooking, where he skillfully combines only a maximum of 3 or 4 Flavours. His brilliant beetroot gnocchi plump with the surprising horseradish cream, barley risotto with black garlic are some of the vegetarian dishes that dazzle. I have many of his recipes and happy to share them with you. Please instagram, tweet@rashmiudaysingh email firstname.lastname@example.org
CARE’s – THE ETHICAL CHEF DAYS
Making a global mark is Chef Norberts forte… Other than writing bestselling books, being the only Italian chef invited to the World Gourmet summit, organising the Chef’s Cup in San Cassiano, cooking for Lufthansa Sky Gourmet (LSG)
It is now CARE, Ethical chefs which in it’s very first edition (in January this year) already has already magnetised the worlds greatest chefs. CARE, set up by Chef Norbert with Paolo Ferretti and Michelin starred chef Giancarolo Morelli, brought together , 5 continents, 20 nations, 30 chefs for 4 unforgettable days.
The goal of the “CARE’s – The ethical Chef Days“ project is to bring together chefs and people from around the world who all share a common vision: a new, innovative, sustainable and ethical approach to food.
It is a new way to teach adults and children, to raise awareness and encourage respect for nature, to promote environmentally friendly attitudes, and to show how to experience our environment without misusing it. From round table discussions on the future of food and nutrition and discussions on sustainability, ethics and development, to cooking masterclasses, and lunches in Cook the Mountain style, guided food tastings, wine tastings, wine and infusion tastings and more. The gourmet Gala dinner marks the highlight where the brilliant chefs prepare a gourmet dinner using ingredients that are usually considered “waste”, turning them into culinary delicacies.
Proof that (almost) all parts of raw ingredients can be used and that haute cuisine is not made only with expensive and exotic ingredients, but it can and must be sustainable and educational. The next edition of CARE is scheduled to be in January 2017 in the very same charming San Cassiano village with it’s population of 750 inhabitants which will magnetise the world here with Chef Norbert’s “cook the mountain” philosophy. Whoa! Mountain magic at it’s best!
Breaking news. Even more magic is happening in Paris: Not just in superglam, rarefied gastronomique restaurants but also on the streets and train stations.I eat in the Legendary three Michelin starred chef Eric Frechon’s fabulous and affordable Lazare (in the Lazare train station) I dine at his gastronomique restaurant at the iconic Le Bristol (across the Presidents palace and also the President’s favorite) too. I not only catch up with Alain Ducasse (have shot my TV show in his Monte Carlo restaurant) but also get a peek into the about-to-open, high-profile super hush -hush Plaza Athenee restaurant. And then comes the surprise I love the choux puffs at Ducasse and Michalak’s street side choux puff counter.
Paris sizzles with high-octane newness and youth… For the first time ever I dine at a restaurant where perfume and food overlap. International perfumer Guerlain’s restaurant by Michelin starred Guy Martin conjures up their signature perfume inspired dishes. I ’m thrilled to dine with the dashing young Michelin starred Chefs, Akrame (of the 7 month old, Michelin starred Akrame) and the charming Executive chef of the Peninsula John Edern . The brand new less than a month old Peninsula dazzles and right next to it, the fourth generation family owned Raphael continues to hold it’s own and weave timeless charm as I meet the lovely owner Veronique Valcke, Coffee with Helene Avril at the Goerge V, shopping at Maison de Truffe ,Hediard, calling on the Indian ambassador, Elodie Berta’s drive through Paris in the teensy weensy Twizzy electric car (which anyone can hire) and lighting a candle of thanks at the Madeleine church …all this in two magical days.
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