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CHEF'S CORNER

Chef Vineet Bhatia- Michelin Star Indian Chef, Founder of Rasoi London

Chef Vineet Bhatia Michelin Star Indian Chef, Founder of Rasoi London

Wednesday, September 11, 2019, 12:01 Hrs  [IST]

Chef Vineet Bhatia is not just a Chef but a brand by himself. A chef who runs about 13 progressive modern Indian restaurants in India and overseas destinations, Chef Bhatia is the first Indian chef to be decorated with Michelin Stars for multiple outlets. In 2009, his restaurant, Rasoi by Vineet at the Mandarin Oriental, Geneva was bestowed with Michelin Star followed by his revamped Vineet Bhatia London (VBL) in 2017.
Left Indian shores in 1993 after quitting the Executive Chef job with The Oberoi’s, Chef Bhatia worked with a couple of Indian restaurant brands before setting up his own Rasoi brand in London in 2004. As a specialist Indian chef, he has played a pioneering role in changing the perceptions about Indian food in the city of London through his creativity and innovation. Today, leading food critics of the world, place Chef Bhatia at the equal pedestal with the likes of Chef Gordon Ramsay, Tom Aikens, Richard Corrigan. P Krishna Kumar interacted with Chef Vineet Bhatia during his recent visit to Delhi to participate in the India International Hospitality Expo (IHE).

Q What made you leave India to explore opportunities abroad?
I was quite frustrated here in India. The system was not allowing me to grow as a chef. My creativity was curtailed and not allowed to do what I wanted to do. My wings were clipped. As a young chef, it was really frustrating. Those were probably different times in the industry than what you see today. That’s why I decided to go out of the country. Having said that The Oberoi’s gave me a platform later to come back and do things which I believed right. I could see a change in mindset when I came back.

When such recognition comes from your home, that really motivates you and also a lot of young chefs to really go out and think out of the box and innovate. It opens up doors for many more to look at food differently. India is a sleeping giant when it comes to food, it has just start awakening. The next decade certainly belongs to India.

Q What was the state of Indian food in London when you landed there?
When I went in 1993 it was a curry house kind of set up. People use to go to Indian curry restaurants after having their drinks in pubs. They didn’t know what they were eating. Everything used to taste similar. That was the image that Indian food carried in those times. Over the years, there has been a gradual change in the perception of the people. Today, people know Indian food and what different styles of food from South, North, East, and West of India are all about.

Q How do you stay updated with the changing vibes in the local and regional cuisines in India?
I come to India quite often and my entire staff is from India. They have the regional influence and they understand the Indian regional food better and able to deliver it in the most authentic way to our guests abroad. That’s why we have been able to cement our position in all the international markets we are in. We also do a lot of television shows, Netflix and stuff and take Indian food to a diverse of global audience who have never been to India. We are unofficially the global ambassadors of culinary tourism for India.

Q There is a perception that India is hesitant to celebrate and recognise its culinary ambassadors. What is your take on it?
I do agree. We are proper artist. There should be some kind of recognition within the country. The country should learn to recognise the ambassadors of Indian cuisines. That will help more young talent to come forward and pursue the profession and keep the legacy going.

Q You have got two Michelin Star for your restaurants abroad. What limits restaurants in India from getting such global recognitions?
It’s not just about food, although it is the most important thing that needs to be of a certain standard to get ranked in the Michelin list. The service you offer to guests, the standards of the beverages you offer, the décor, the ambience, the cutlery you use, the linen, the procurement of ingredients, all needs to have a high level of consistency. You have to have certain respect to the products you use in your kitchen. I see these standards slowly filtering into India as well. A lot of chefs work closely with organic farms and produces, a lot of hotels and restaurants have their own farms. I guess, it is a matter of time.

Q There is a lot of talk about the sustainable food movement. Is it really on?
I cannot comment on India because I am not based in India. But we try to have a zero carbon footprint. We try to source everything from the local market. We don’t put something on the menu for which ingredients have to come from South America. When you procure locally, you can have a certain control on the cost and help the local economy as well. We follow that it religiously wherever we go.

krishna.kumar@saffronsynergies.in

 
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