The globe on a platter

Gourmet delights

Essentially, the word weekend spells ‘sales’ for a chef and it’s definitely no different for me! My restaurant ‘Junoon’ in New York serves Indian food in a very special, contemporary way. And heading a Michelin starred restaurant is no easy task.

I work crazy hours, starting at 4.30 am to prepare the sauces and then return home at 9 am for a break. There are about 150 of us in the team belonging to 29 different nationalities. No one else is allowed to make the sauces since the consistency is lost and one has to be very patient while working on them.

My average weekend is very strange! Fridays and Saturdays I can’t move out of the kitchen. I work an almost 48-hour shift since these are the heaviest sales days, when most Americans eat out. Infact, a few days back, a person sent me an email asking for a reservation at the restaurant for a Saturday in March 2016 – so meticulously planned are their weekends and that makes it a busy time for me. I leave the kitchen only around 2.30 am on Saturday night.

During this time, I am absolutely off any interactions, shoots or videos. That usually happens on a Sunday when am more relieved. That’s also the day when I indulge in a light-hearted brunch with my sister Radhika at one of our favourite places.

Earlier, I would cook for her but then she’d say yeh theek nahin bana hai (this isn’t made well) and we would get into a fun argument. I am off during the first half of the day and in the evenings, I go to the restaurant. I exercise regularly and visit the gym but on Sundays, I make time for a nice, energising run. The good part is that I have a big, open terrace in the Big Apple where I can get a wonderful view of the city. People say they get puzzled looking at New York, there’s just too much going on. As for me, I can sense
the energy around and it calms me down.       

Reading is something I enjoy immensely and it helps me unwind. It’s mostly about food, I don’t waste a minute on anything else! Two beautiful books really well-written are Toast and Ripe by English journalist and food writer Nigel Slater. Then there’s Cooked by Michael Pollan. I also follow American chef Ruth Reichl’s works. Often, I attend classes to keep abreast with new culinary trends and techniques. As chefs, we have to stay on our toes and be the best always! Am very emotional about food and each dish I create is special to me. At Junoon, there is no particular dish that’s popular. We change the menu every three months and there are only 16 items on it at a time. I want people to savour a wide variety of delicacies and not go only after chicken tikka or tandoori chicken.

I haven’t really gone on a holiday ever since I left for the US in 2000. If am travelling in Europe or anywhere else, it has always been for work.

There too, I am researching new recipes and learning from other chefs.    Whenever am in India, I visit my mother in Amritsar and nearly everyone I know flocks the household. We visit some of my favourite places in =town and I gorge on the lovely aloo methi and farshi matar she cooks for me. A visit to the Golden Temple is a must and every book I write is first devoted to this gurudwara.

 I have some fond memories of Bengaluru attached to my student life. I studied hotel management in Manipal and used to frequent the City often. I would take the overnight bus and in the morning, it was fantastic being here.

The interesting thing was that all my friends were locals and I would get to eat the most amazing authentic South Indian food. Had I not worked and lived in South India, I wouldn’t have got to sample its delicious cuisine and my perception of Indian food would have remained limited to North Indian.
My perfect weekend can easily be termed as ‘gloriously busy’ but that’s what keeps me going!  At the end of the day, I am happy and content for I serve the biggest religion in this world– food. If there are six billion people, they are food followers first before anything else. Truly, this profession is extremely fulfilling and am proud to be a part of it.

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