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.
Past forty days, I’ve been on a foodie pilgrimage: Lima to Mexico city for Latin America’s 50 best restaurant awards (as regional jury chairperson) to Los Angeles and now am concluding it (fittingly enough) in Paris. Here too, I’m dazzled by many a brand new arrival, like Alain Ducasse’s Ore in Palace Versailles, Yannick Alleno’s “extraction” technique. However, my homage to Michelin starred Eric Frechon continues unchanged. I’ve yet to eat food as impressive in its precision — and as gloriously wanton in its luxuriousness. I am an admirer of the intriguing ingredients Eric Frechon packs into one composition and coaxes into harmony, be it in his recently awarded starred Langham in London, 114 Faurbourg and three starred Epicure in Paris. It is here in this exquisite Parisian palace le Bristol that I’ve seen President Sarkozy dine (in fact he still comes here regularly for macaroni, artichoke, foie gras) Chef Eric Frechon has heads of state, royalty and glamour squad eating out of his hands and all of Paris is abuzz with his new book, the last word on French gastronomy.
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!
I cant stop smiling! I am at a unique and much cherished dinner. She’s twenty two years old and has won the world’s first vegetarian masterchef. He is 56 years old, a revered Michelin starred chef from Italy. She is a Gujarati born and bred in Abu dhabi and has majored in finance and business from a prestigious American university. Whereas Roberto Franzin is from a family of professional chefs and cooks, Nikita Gandhi grew up watching her mother cook (she has never baked). Having won the masterchef series zoomed Nikita into the international lime light (and she even assisted Sanjeev Kapoor in cooking for Prime minister Modi). Roberto honed his formidable talents under superstars: Spanish Chef Santi Santimaria, and the French chef Jean François Piège and his restaurant has been conferred the coveted Michelin stars.
PASSION FOR PASTRY
Why would I, a dyed in the drool foodie be doing here in Los Angeles’ famed fashionable Rodeo Drive? This world famous glamorous designer boulevard continues to be the crowning shopping experience. Globally renowned for it’s luxurious high fashion, Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive magnetizes the rich and the famous with its super luxurious clothes, bags, shoes and jewelery in it’s super elegant stores. But in my view, None of that can compare with the luxurious patisserie that is igniting my passion. And this is what brings me here again and again.
Talk of meaningful coincidences! I have a blind date with the Michelin starred Atul Kochhar, from London who sent me a direct tweet to say he wants to meet up in Mumbai. I invite him to TRP. Two days later I go to Dubai for their fab food festival. This time I am invited by the dynamic and hospitable Mana Al Suwaidi and guess where to? To Michelin starred Atul Kochhar’s restaurant in Dubai.High ceilinged handsome Rang Mahal where this highly acclaimed chef weaves his Indian magic. As one of the celebrity chefs at the Dubai Food festival he also wows Dubai with his cooking demonstrations. He distils the world on our plate while still retaining authentic Indian flavors. Its wonderful how the Dubai Festival makes many a celebrity chef accessible to all, meeting chefs, watching them cook and getting a taste of their creations too…therein lies the festival magic!
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.
P.S. Need Paris info? pl mail email@example.com, twitter instagram @rashmiudaysingh