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Features

Top global chefs conduct premium dining events in India’s metros

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India’s growing appetite for diverse food experiences means that more and more foreign chefs are now showing up in the metros, cooking up exclusive and exotic meals for “pop-ups”, dinners, events and short-term promotions at Indian restaurants and hotels.

Pigeon, really? You cooked pigeon in India?” chef Laurent Peugeot, who runs the One Star Michelin Le Charlemagne in Burgundy, questions me eagerly, his eyes bright. “How did you cook it?” Like most foreign chefs visiting India – indeed, like many other people, not merely chefs – Peugeot has been under the (wrong) impression that this is a country full of just vegetarian food and chicken.

On his first visit to the indigenous wet markets in Mumbai, he’s been bowled over by not just plump aubergines, tender okra, tart “desi” tomatoes and limes… but also by the generosity of the vendors. Amused to see a foreign chef in their midst perhaps, they have not only allowed him to pick and touch their wares — a treat not available back home apparently — but to taste the veggies and fruits too.

Meats of Course is Another Game… “In France, when we cook the pigeon, it has to be rare, so that you can still see the blood through its vein. There are chefs who refuse to cook if you want it welldone,” Peugeot tells me, proudly.

In India, I try to counter, we do have pigeon—in Chettinad orange curries, in the mild spice of Puducherry and Mughal-inspired nutty recipes. And, though, of course, game is disallowed, old royal families had perfected some tricky treats alright: encasing whole birds like quail (today, farm-bred, found in restaurants easily) inside puff pastry, which when broken open, allowed the live bird to fly out! Now, match that… I am not sure how much these tales impress.

There are, after all, no strange meats on the French-Japanese menu that the good chef has put up as part of his week-long pop-up at Mumbai’s JW Marriott, Juhu, in deference to local sensibilities. But despite that what transpires the evening when I dine at the hotel is most definitely a culinary exchange — of ideas and more.

From the Langoustine with eggplant dengaku to the wild seabass that comes in a sesame broth with a fondue of white turnip and even the organic chicken breast with yuzu, beetroot, and an India-inspired “curry ball”, Peugeot is obviously adept at combing the influences of his four-year-stint in Japan with his native French food.

The good thing is that these are flavours that seem to have worked well for him in India too. Priced at `7,000 per person (exclusive of taxes), the eight-course meal gets a warm reception in Mumbai. And JW Marriott that tied up with Singapore’s consultancy Fourx4, to fly in the chef for this pop-up, is now contemplating similar series with other chefs later this year. The hotel is hardly alone.

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Super chefs popping up India’s growing appetite for diverse food experiences means that more and more foreign chefs are now showing up in the metros, cooking up exclusive and exotic meals for “pop-ups”, dinners, events and short-term promotions at Indian restaurants and hotels. This is in sharp contrast to longer-term restaurant retail, especially in the upscale luxury segment, where heavyweight foreign brands and chefs that entered the country full of euphoria, have not had the best of showings. But that later.

In Gurgaon at the Leela Ambience, one of the popular events of this year has been something called the “Fiesta Latina”. Three chefs from Mexico, Peru and Chile came down for about two weeks to not just showcase their national cuisines at the hotel’s coffee shop but also helm a handful of ticketed dinners and cooking classes for about 50-60 people each.

Brands & Food

From brands like Fisher and Paykel to Zacapa rum, these dinners were not just joint marketing exercises for all parties concerned, including the tourism boards and embassies, who had brought in the chefs, but credible revenue earners for the hotel too. “Everything was sold out, whether it was the Peruvian cooking class or the Mexican tequila dinner,” says Nidhi Verma, director PR and marketing communications of the hotel. “This is the second year we did this and while last year people may have still been getting used to the idea of Latin food, this year, the response was beyond expectations.”

More recently, the Ritz Carlton in Bengaluru had quite a buzzy showing with its guest chef Raymond Siek, a master in Malay cuisine, cooking up a staggering selection of traditional recipes, including breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes.

Celebrity TV chef David Rocco was at the ITC Maurya in Delhi for the third successive year to cook a dinner, in continuation of an ongoing programme, which is part of a larger celebrity chefs programme that has seen The Ivy London’s Alan Michael Bird, Gordon Ramsay’s star chef Stuart Gillies and others running Michelin Star establishments coming to West View, ITC Maurya, Delhi.

Source: Economic Times

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