'Every kitchen has its own smell'

'Every kitchen has its own smell'

Chef Christopher Koetke views the ‘chef’ before his name as a doctor views ‘Dr’ or ‘PhD’. Vice-president of the prestigious Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, former dean of School of Culinary Arts, host of the Emmy-nominated cooking show ‘Let’s Dish’ and co-author of the award-winning ‘The Culinary Professional’, he has 30 plus years of experience in some of the best kitchens and classrooms worldwide. 

His achievements are truly more than most chefs can brag about. He spoke to Metrolife about his multi-flavoured tryst with food during his visit to the ITC Windsor.

“My parents aren’t chefs though my mom is a terrific cook. My first memory of food is the smell of the kitchen. Every kitchen has its own smell and I remember feeling strange in a professional kitchen because the food and equipment were very different from those in my own house. Shortly after that, I tried sweet breads at a French restaurant. I remember tasting them and thinking that there was a whole other world I didn’t know about. And that was it,” recalls Christopher.

 “I don’t have any signature dish but tend to make what I’m in the mood to. When I cook, I feel the same way as painters must feel when creative juices flow from their soul and make time just go away,” he adds.

Asked whether cooking is an art or science, Christopher replies, “Both. It’s a part of your soul and something you feel. As a result, it’s intensely satisfying. But it’s also science as everything we do can be explained. I always say that one should get really good at the art but learn the science because that can take all the mystery out of it. If something doesn’t work, it’ll tell you why and help you become a better artist.”

As a food educator, he sees an increasing scope for culinary arts. “The reason for this is that in a lot of countries, the profession of being a chef is being recognised for what it is. Before this, chefs were seen as common workers. But one doesn’t realise the work we do until we list out all the things,” notes the chef. 

Despite being in the industry for 34 years, does he still encounter bad days every now and then? “You make lesser mistakes as you get older but no one is perfect. There will be days when everything goes great and you are happy beyond belief. And there are days when everything goes wrong and it kills you because as chefs, we’re always after an elusive perfection,” he shares. 

Christopher’s first visit to India has been an enriching one, especially for his taste buds. “I’m still spinning from all the food I had and can’t wait to come back. I can’t describe the joy I feel when I eat foods that inspire me. And Indian food is very inspirational! I had a beautiful fish dish from Kerala and parathas, which were the best I’ve ever had,” he wraps up.

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