In his new season of the show, ‘World Café’, chef Bobby Chinn is seen globetrotting in search of recipes that are simple and exotic. Juanita Kakoty talks to the world renowned chef about his passion for food and experiences during this show
Celebrated chef Bobby Chinn is all set to bring the food and culinary customs of Zanzibar, Sicily, Portugal and Peru to Indian television with his new series World Café, starting May 27 on weekdays at 10 pm on TLC. “The food that we do on the show is very accessible; they’re not haute cuisine and will not intimidate any cook. They are actually very simple dishes that we can film easily and articulate and teach easily,” says Bobby.
He enjoyed the travelling associated with the show and says that he met with mixed results when it came to acquiring a recipe. “For example, when we were filming in Zanzibar, it was very difficult to find recipes. We then tried going out and talking to people at cooking schools, to chefs in their restaurants, to as many resources as we could find.
Then when I went to Chengdu in China, I really wanted to learn how to make the duck there. I wanted to get that recipe but couldn’t find it anywhere; no one knew how to make it, no one would show us how to make it. And then we had a competely different experience when we went to Peru. We saw that they’ve got an established restaurant and culinary scene with recipes easily accessible.” So, in a sense, Bobby admits that the upcoming series of World Café has everything from the web to street to peers to restaurants to cookbooks. And that, “In this series we are able to get really good chefs who can educate us on different types of cuisine.”
Hunt for recipes
The difficulty in finding recipes at certain places could also be attributed to the approach to food over the years, says Bobby. “In food history, they talk a lot about the economics of it and the trades. And it’s rare that you see a social side and technique side in a lot of different countries, because they were not documenting the recipes; they were passed on generation after generation. Like in Vietnam, no one knows know who made pho, and that’s a national dish.”
Half Chinese and half Egyptian, Bobby is a graduate from Richmond College in London with a BA in Finance and Economics. He worked in many positions in the securities industries before he gave all that up to sell seafood. He had also done some bit of stand up in Los Angeles and San Francisco and waited tables before finding his passion in the kitchen. He worked and trained under some great chefs in San Francisco and France and went on to become a great chef. He has presented many food shows on TV and has done shows on Indian food too. “In earlier seasons of World Café, when we were filming in India, we chose recipes that are accessible; recipes from people who have a restaurant as well as recipes from the streets. And they showed us their secrets. They were very forthcoming with their recipes.”
Speaking about creating food shows, Bobby reveals that there are certain challenges involved, “When you are filming, you are dealing with the elements of rain, electricity failures, losing light, racing against time, etc. that happens all over the place.
So sometimes, it looks a little chaotic though I’m not sure if it comes across on film. And sometimes when I’m actually in the field, like when we were in Jordan, we filmed 15 hours a day. So by the second day, you are grumpy and exhausted but you have to look happy.” Yet he says, “But I don’t think anyone should ever complain if they have a job like this, because it is a privilege and a pleasure to travel and to meet inspiring cooks and people from all over the world.” He talks of learning experiences too, “In the first season, I was very excited just to be travelling. And then, as it went on, I wanted to be a better host, and do my job better. So I think there’s this evolution that’s taken place in this whole thing.”
Food inspires Bobby in many ways. “When you feed people, you make them happy and you bring people together in a relaxed environment. And then you also get to work with farmers and fisherman and get to know the seasons around and kind of have your fingertips to the ground almost knowing what’s going on.”
“And in matters of health, it is interesting how food can be used as medicine. So the thing with food is that you are working with all your senses: your sense of smell, touch, sight.” Bobby says that he eats the food he cooks. Therefore, healthy food is foremost in his mind, “I’m going towards healthier, lighter food.” And to that he adds, “I’m also learning how to use technology to make my job easier and to try and maximise the nutritional value of the food that I eat.”