Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Brave New Foods : Excerpts from my Culinary Workshop at Kala Ghoda Fest 2013

"How many of you are guilty of ordering the same dishes over and over again at the favorite restaurants that you frequent?"

This was the opening line at the culinary workshop I conducted as part of the Kala Ghoda Fest on 8th February this year. Out of a crowd of about 100 people, only a handful refrained from raising their hands as if to validate their status in society as true foodies. I wasn’t surprised. As a chef who stands behind the kitchen doors of a fine dining Mediterranean restaurant night in and night out, I am well aware that even with the sophisticated clientele that we get, an appetite for something new is a rarity.

Pan Seared Foie Gras with Homemade Brioche and Spiced Strawberry Compote 
So when the Kala Ghoda Fest organizers informed me that the central theme for this year is 'Appetite for Change', I decided immediately to use it as a platform to make my plea to the public at large—and with this blog post, to you as well.

Brave new foods.

Yes, that’s my plea. Brave in this context is a verb and not an adjective. By which I mean that I am not referring to the food being adventurous but making an appeal for customers to be willing to try something different.

The mantra I suggest for this exercise is--“I will always try something at least twice.”
I am not trying to be preachy or dictate what you should eat. It's your money and you should decide how to spend it.

But if you are someone who eats chicken for example, why not try the duck? Now if you have tasted it once and don't like it, try it again. Most of these foods lend themselves to acquired tastes. Can you think of any blue cheese fanatic (I am one myself) who fell in love with it after the first tasting?

When you go to a restaurant and feel like pasta, order the ravioli instead of the tried and tested penne arrabbiata. If you're a die-hard fan of basa fish, try the local red snapper instead. You could get grilled chicken at hundreds of places in Mumbai, so why don't you try the Persian Chicken Stew this time. Don't even get me started on dessert. The chocolate fondant is a great dish, I agree. In fact, I would even say that it's amazing. But how many times will you ignore the seven other desserts on the menu that are as good.

This is merely a plea from a chef who wants his customers to invest in a new or different experience every time. A plea that when you go out to eat at a fine dining restaurant such as Olive, look for something outside your realm of comfort.

In the long term, even the best chefs can only be as experimental as their customers are willing to be. If you've been to a restaurant and you've enjoyed what you've eaten there, chances are that you will like the other stuff on the menu that you've always been too chicken to try. And if you don't, it's okay. Let the chef know you didn’t like it and I can almost certainly guarantee that you’ll be offered something else as a replacement. As a worst case scenario, you can at least boast of a new experience!

So on your next restaurant visit, be brave enough to try new foods. Who knows? You might just be pleasantly surprised!

For the record, the dishes that were part of the workshop and tasting were Greek Quinoa & Feta Salad, Pan Seared Scallops with Corn JalapeƱo Salsa and Corn Cream, and Foie Gras with Brioche and Spiced Strawberry Compote.


  1. I loved the pan seared scallops and foie gras with strawberries was an interesting combination. I am always on the lookout to try new dishes when I go out to eat. However, sometimes when we go as a group, we tend to order options that everyone would eat that means the usual safe options.