Q: What is the trip about?
A: I will be in Kolkata for a live cooking show, there will be a book release and I will be shooting a documentary on the journey of biryani.
Q: Do you think people of Kolkata are fascinated by taking life cooking classes?
A: There are so many ways of learning recipe. From TV, books and now smartphone apps but learning it live by looking at a chef cooking it in front of you has its own charm. In one sentence if the other forms can be compared to watching a cricket match on TV, this would be like watching a cricket match at the ground.
Q: Tell us something about the documentary on biryani…
A: We have planned to shoot the documentary at four places – Hyderabad Lucknow Kolkata and Malabar. In Kolkata we have zeroed in on which is famous for biryani where we will talk about the delicacy and what are the local flavours that make it different from other places.
Q: Which are the eateries you are going to visit in Kolkata for biryani
A: Well I have been told about Arsalan and Shiraz are famous for their biryani in Kolkata.
Q: You have travelled the entire world. What speciality in terms of food does Kolkata have which you don't find anywhere else?
A: People of Kolkata are especially passionate about their food. Even the poor over here put in a lot of thought and passion about what he or she wants to eat. Besides there is a lot of skill among the people of Kolkata, be it making of Durga Puja pandal or preparing their food. Say for example there is jhalmuri in Kolkata and its equivalent bhelpuri at other places but the kind of a emotion that is associated with jhalmuri is not seen anywhere. In short what I have observed is that over here people taste their food more with their heart than the tongue.
Q: How was your experience cooking for Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the UAE?
A: It was undoubtedly a very good experience. He is a vegetarian so I had to respect that and at the same time keep that in mind that whatever I cook would be eaten not only by the Prime Minister but everyone else there including the Crown Prince. I prepared because I always had at the back of my mind that along with the Prime Minister they would be others at the UAE who would taste it. Technically I prepared a grand khichdi among other dishes but I had put in a lot of spices which you don’t find in a traditional khichdi. The Prime Minister is not a fussy eater at all. He tasted a little of everything and said that food helps us to know the culture of a particular place. I am happy that the food was appreciated by all.
Q: You have got yourself into a lot of controversy of late over experimental Malabar Paneer…
A: Yes it’s sad but true. People did manage to find a lot of politics in something which I would describe as my attempt of giving Indian dishes a global recognition. When the two states were busy fighting over who owns roshogolla I thought one should make roshogolla and eat it for its taste rather than getting into a fight. But even as I was dragged into the unwanted controversy I never came out to explain myself or even apologize because I knew that I was not wrong. I was only trying to experiment with a variety of food which can be enjoyed across the world. I believe in innovation in cooking. Unless there is innovation one will not grow. It is sad to see that India has no participation in world cooking competitions. I believe is mainly there is lack of innovation. My mission as an Indian is to take Indian food to the world.