New Delhi, Oct 20 : Chef Pooja Dhingra says people are going into more local cuisine and trying to highlight what was overlooked. Everyone is going back to their roots and tradition and are trying to embrace their heritage, she tells IANSlife. Read excerpts from the interview as she speaks about her love for cooking, Indian food on a global platter and more:
Q) How did you get into cooking?
My first memory of baking is when I was six-years-old. My aunt taught me how to make brownies. I thought it was the super magical experience to see regular ingredients like eggs, flour, butter, sugar going into the oven and transforming into something delicious and magnificent. So from there I was hooked and started baking and cooking every weekend.
Q) How would you define your love for cooking? I love food, I love the memories it brings, how the families come together to sit down and enjoy the meal. I love the whole experience of it. I come from a family when we were eating breakfast, we used to discuss what are going to eat for lunch and what are going to eat the next day. All our holidays and our memories are around food. For me, that is very special and the fact that I get to bake and cook makes me love it.
Q) You recently joined Dewars' The Doers Club with Rhea Kapoor. Tell us more about the collaboration. How did it happen? Doubling up with Rhea for the common love of 'food' was amazing. People know of Rhea as a fashionista, what they don't know that she has an amazing taste in food. So The Doers Club brought us together where Rhea and I co-curated the menu. With this project, we are showing our love for scotch and food. It's exciting to share what we love to do with our friends.
Q) What are the three ingredients that are a must in your kitchen? Butter and sugar.
Q) How/what is your daily food routine? I am always on some kind of diet as I am around sugar all the time. I keep trying to challenge myself to do something completely different, so I am completely off sugar. It is as ironic as it can be.
Q) What's your favourite food/dish? It would be my mom's "Dal Khichdi".
Q) How do you manage to combine nutrition and taste in a dish? I think it's all about balance and it's also about the occasion as in when I am eating, like if it's breakfast, then I will make my eggs in a certain way and I'll make sure the plate is balanced. But if it's more indulgent meal, then, health won't be such a big combination of the meal, but it's also the time of the day, the purpose of eating and then I will add the health angle to it.
Q) Where do you see Indian food placed on a global platter? Indian food about a decade or two decades ago people thought that it's all about curries and north Indian food as such. Now people have started accepting it as a normal home cooked food. We have got great Indian restaurants around the world and people are recognising it. We have international chefs who are embracing Indian spices and recipes in their menu. So, now it is not only about "chicken tikka" and "butter chicken" but much more.
Q) How do you see the future of the Indian F&B industry? It's super exciting to see that everyone is finding what their niches are. I think people are going into more local cuisine and trying to highlight what people have overlooked. Now everyone is going back to their roots and tradition as to how their grandparents were cooking the recipe and are trying to embrace their heritage.
Q) As a chef, did you come across any kind of criticism? A chef is making food for the living and it's very subjective. One person might like the taste of something while others may not like it. So the like and dislike differs from the palate to palate or person to person. When you're a chef you go into it knowing that not everybody will love what you put in a plate but that's totally fine. As long as you are happy with what you have put in the plate that's what matters in the end.
Q) Cooking as a profession -- how do you think people's perception has changed over time? You know I think people think that it's like MasterChef Australia or it's like top chef. It's lots of fun, you get to cook for your friends and all but no, it's not like this, the truth is it's complete opposite, it's just that we have to do a really boring job day in and day out.
Q) If not a chef, what would you have been? I would have been a lawyer.
Q) What are your next projects? There are quite a few things that I am working on. I am working on my new book, my next season of the podcast on 'chef-hood'. I am also working on expanding Le15, so a lot is happening.
(Puja Gupta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)