Cook from Your Heart, Says Vineet Bhatia
We're all familiar with Vineet Bhatia's success story. After a stint at The Oberoi, the Mumbai boy left for London, where he jointly ran Zaika, for which he won his first Michelin star. He picked up a second star for his own Rasoi, also in London. In India, Bhatia has been associated with Azok and Ziya at The Oberoi-Hilton in Mumbai. For his latest project in the city, Bhatia has worked as consultant chef at F Lounge.Diner.Bar and has created innovative dishes like the bhel martini, Tava Ravas with Tequila lime glaze and Patiala chicken with whisky flambe.
The celebrated chef talks to us about good food and his passion for cooking. Below are edited excerpts.
What's your comfort food?
For me, comfort is having the luxury of my family around me. I constantly travel due to work and just sitting down and having a simple meal like pasta, pizza or chicken tikka is very comforting to me.
What's your signature dish?
I do not have one particular dish alone. For me it is more of a signature approach towards cooking. My approach is one that is unique and covers various aspects of Indian cuisine.
What places have influenced your cooking the most?
Honestly, the grey cells and inner depths of my mind are the places that influence my cooking the most. Experiences like sitting in a London bus, being 30,000 feet up in the sky, watching the sun rise seated in an aircraft are the ones that motivate me to recreate them and put them on a plate. It doesn't matter where I am as long as my grey cells don't get dull.
In the kitchen, what's your trademark saying?
The kitchen environment is very tough, especially when there are 10-15 orders flying in at one time. Many a times I have seen that even seasoned chefs cannot handle this pressure and tend to break down or lose their temper. One saying that is constantly used in my kitchen is:
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
Can you give us tips for cooking at home?
The prime piece of advice I would give is not to overdo it. Keep it very simple; simplicity is the main key to good food. Keeping it minimalistic, using good products and cooking from your heart is what it takes to create a sensational meal.
If you could cook a meal for anyone in the world, who would it be?
It would have to be Mother Teresa. She has looked after the poor, fed them and dedicated her whole life to their betterment. It would have been a real joy to cook for her if she was alive.
If you weren't a chef, you would be…
When I was younger, I wanted to be a pilot. Cooking just happened. However, if I did have another career option I would definitely do something artistic and creative. I have a wandering mind and would have probably designed clothes, automobiles and engines. Food is something that just fell into place.
What, besides creating good food, is your passion?
As a child I wanted to be a pilot. I've always loved aircrafts and cars. I find joy being around big engines. Apart from that, I love to capture memories and I enjoy photography to the fullest. I have 64,000 images in the library on my laptop. It isn't even necessary to use a fancy camera since technology has advanced so much in the last 30 years.
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