A travelogue of taste buds

Chef Sukesh's journey across global kitchen

If you were to declare your love for food in the 1960s to your family that held high hopes for your future in law or medicine, you were liable to be called a deranged youngster, as I was when I resolved to learn the art of being a chef, when few of my classmates considered it a sane choice. It gives me great joy to say that today, Bangalore from what it was then has matured, like fine wine, into a city that is not only tolerant of new tastes and flavours that life offers, but one that thrives on diversity. How else can you explain the proliferation of cuisines that spoil us for choice?

But until not very long ago, I used to wonder if there would ever be people in our city who would understand just what it meant to imbibe the flavours and tastes of another culture. We choose to read their books, listen to their music and watch their dances, but we shall never truly appreciate another culture unless we sit at the same table and taste the food that makes them who they are. We need open minds and hearts, but we first need an open mouth, ready to savour morsels from another time and place.

It is with this question in my mind that I joined a remarkable team that was about to put together a restaurant with a concept. Kyra was to be a destination where the fine dining connoisseur would find an experience unmatched, and what better way to do it than to trace the Spice Route itself. After it scales the impossible snow-bound passes in the Karakoram, the caravans laden with India’s choicest condiments would make their painstaking way through Afghanistan and the Middle-east and finally come to rest amongst the heady aromas of the streets of Moroccan cities of Fez, Marrakesh and Rabat. Morocco it was, and off I went, to live and learn the Moroccan way.

Morocco, for those who have not been there, is a veritable melting pot. Everyone from the French to the Spaniards, the Abyssinians to the Arabs have fought and died, lived and loved in this land of immense mystique. I can safely say that I have never had a more enriching learning experience than I had in the couple of months I had staying at the home of the Berber tribal elder Hassan El Bouleh. Despite being over 60 years of age, he was a sprightly, passionate master of his craft: the Tajinn. Simmering on a slow fire in its own juices, the Tajinn’s conical earthen covering ensures that every nuance of the spices is retained until it becomes a heavenly dish that only the fortunate can savour. I soon learned from the venerable elder that if you follow a recipe, you will never get a dish right. You must be inspired! You must add your own personality to what you create, and only then will it give off an aroma that the world will be mesmerised by.

Bangalore has come to be a bit of a melting pot itself, with people of vastly varying nationalities calling it home. I recently saw a Cuban and a Swede play American songs with some Indian musicians: a litmus test of the existence of a global village. We are now intrigued, and even seduced by the promise of an experience that takes us, even if for a moment, into another land and among its people. 

The wonderfully delectable truth in it all is that now, our taste buds wish to travel the world, too!

(Chef Sukesh Srinivasan is one of India’s few Michelin 4 Star certified maestros in culinary arts. Having travelled the world in a quest for cuisines, he is now the Head Chef at the Kyra Theatre and Restaurant)

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