Chef Manish Mehrotra is arguably one of the best chefs in the country. He calls his creative and unique cooking style “Inventive Indian”, “Indian food with an international accent” and “International food with an Indian accent”.
Propagating the motto of creating nostalgia with food, he pioneered Indian Accent, New Delhi, of which he is the Corporate Chef, into the top 100 restaurants of the World, the only Indian restaurant to make it to the list.
Indian Accent is considered by far the Number 1 Indian Restaurant in India and has received every award to justify this assertion – Best Restaurant in India (Time Out Food Awards, India & Varli Culinary Awards, New York), Amongst 101 Best Places to Eat in the World (Newsweek Foodie Awards) Best Modern Indian Restaurant (Times Food and Nightlife Awards 2013) and many more.
We caught up with him for a few minutes outside the kitchen. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
So let’s dig right in…
Team ED: What is your favourite food?
Manish Mehrotra: I love to eat everything. One of my favourite dishes is Mushroom Risotto. Things I can eat anytime of the day are Maggi and Butter Chicken. I don’t have a favourite cuisine, I eat depending on the time, mood, situation and place.
Team ED: What is the most exciting and most boring part of your profession?
Manish Mehrotra: The worst part is that we have to eat all sorts of food, and sometimes it’s not so good. Also, chefs never get to eat on time.
The best part is that we get to try new things, and eat a lot of good food (yes, there are two sides to the coin). We also get to travel a lot. However meeting happy guests right after they have had a good meal I cooked, takes the cake!
Team ED: What is the weirdest thing you’ve eaten?
Manish Mehrotra: Live Baby Octopus (they were still moving) and Stinking Tofu (fermented, deep fried). They were delicacies.
Team ED: What does the process of coming up with a new dish entail?
Manish Mehrotra: Well, it depends. Sometimes it’s just by instinct. Sometimes, it is something you read about or eat somewhere. But before we present the dish to a guest, a lot of research goes in to it. We experiment it with different flavours and ingredients. Some times we get it right immediately but at times it takes over months. The dish appears on the menu after several tastings.
Team ED: What all do you plan about the dish?
Manish Mehrotra: To complete a dish, we have to complete the parts of the cycle. I plan the flavour combinations, the ingredients, the colour, the texture and of course, the presentation!
Team ED: What is the most unusual dish you have made? And the most creative?
Manish Mehrotra: The unusual definitively is Chavanprash Cheesecake and Badam Milk Shots.
For the most creative, well it’s difficult to say which of my child is my favourite! I love them all.
Team ED: Which is that one food experiment that has gone bad with you?
Manish Mehrotra: Keema and Goat Cheese Kulcha! While they tasted good but was a smell overdose. So of course it never appeared on our menu.
Team ED: What is the one ingredient you like and one you don’t like?
Manish Mehrotra: I experiment a lot with garlic, coriander, coconut and oyster sauce. However I am not so fond of Beetroot.
Team ED: Suggest our readers an easy and health recipe they can try please.
Manish Mehrotra: I feel Bhelpuri would definitely top the chart on this one. You can create different flavours with it, using various types of chutneys and vegetables while keeping it healthy.
Team ED: What is more important in a dish: for it to look good or taste good?
Manish Mehrotra: That’s a tricky one, but I’ll have to go with the taste. If it ain’t delicious, no matter how pretty it looks, the diner won’t reorder.
Team ED: So apart from cooking, what are your hobbies?
Manish Mehrotra: Watching movies, reading cookbooks and watching cricket (till Sachin Tendulkar was playing)! My all time favourite cookbook is “Flavour”, which is a food thesaurus that suggests combinations.
Team ED: What is the craziest thing that you have ever done?
Manish Mehrotra: None that I can remember right now. But I am scared of roller-coaster rides for sure.
Team ED: What is your biggest fear?
Manish Mehrotra: To one day land up in my kitchen, full of rotten vegetables and/or ingredients. Has never happened till now and god willing, it never will!
Team ED: Just out of curiosity, do you watch Masterchef?
Manish Mehrotra: Time permitting; I love to watch Masterchef Australia. I have also seen a few episodes of Masterchef India and have been on a couple of them too.
Team ED: Who rules the kitchen at home?
Manish Mehrotra: My wife, of course. And the menu is mostly curated by my 8 year-old daughter.
Team ED: If not a chef, what would you be?
Manish Mehrotra: Well, who knows! Thank god, I am a chef. That’s what I love!
Team ED: What is that one advice you would like to give out to our readers here?
Manish Mehrotra: To aspiring chefs: Never follow a recipe as a bible. See the guidelines and do what you want to do with it. Start with easy dishes and then graduate to difficult ones, experiment!
To food lovers: Always balance junk food in one meal with healthy food in the next one.
Team ED: What are your future plans?
Manish Mehrotra: I’m currently working on the Indian Accent cookbook and am looking forward to opening the first Indian Accent outside of India. We are opening shortly in New York.
He also gave us some yummy (read: mouth watering) snacks to eat!
And then he plated up a beautiful dish for us!
A big thanks to Manish Mehrotra for his time! We loved every bit of our rendezvous with you! Hope to see (and eat) many more of your experiments with food.
With that, it’s a wrap of this exciting edition of Friendly Fridays. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Stay tuned for the next edition of ED’s Foodies Campaign with another Top Chef from the country.
See you again next week, till then, Adios!
To have a look at the other interviews in our campaign, click here:
http://edtimes.in/2015/09/chapter-40-chef-sanjeev-kapoor.html (Chef Sanjeev Kapoor)
http://edtimes.in/2015/10/rocky-mayur.html (Rocky Mayur from NDTV GoodTimes’ Highway on my Plate)
(Interview conceptualised and conducted by Aantika Tandon and Pratishtha Mahajan)