Abu Dhabi: Celebrity Chef Ranveer Brar hopes to start conversations with his dishes

Catch him this weekend in the UAE capital



by

Ambica Sachin

Published: Fri 28 Oct 2022, 5:50 PM

Celebrity chefs are dime a dozen in an eat-now-talk-later world bedazzled by culinary wizardry that includes but is not limited to wisps of smoke emanating from the most innocuous looking dish.

But Chef Ranveer Brar is an anomaly in that he favours a back-to-roots approach to cooking that relies heavily on his Lucknowi heritage. He is definitely not a proponent of molecular gastronomy eschewing all that smoke and air play for desi fare that he grew up eating.

Brar is currently in Abu Dhabi where he is curating an ultra-exclusive Chef’s Table experience at Rangoli at Yas Island Rotana. Best known for hosting popular TV food shows including his current stint as a MasterChef India judge alongside Michelin star Chef Vikas Khanna, Brar is also a well known cookbook author and a restaurateur who boasts the feat of being the youngest executive chef of his time.

Until October 30, diners can experience a five-course dinner menu that includes Shades of Tomato, Seared Foie Gras, Galawat, Khichada, Nihari, Biryani, and Shahi Tukda brûlée as part of Yas Plaza Hotels ongoing Diwali festivities. True blue gastronomic adventurers can also take part in a cooking competition with the chef and lay their hands on a signed copy of his new cookbook. Excerpts from an interview with Brar.

Indian food has always enjoyed global popularity, But of late it seems to be even more sought-after. To what do you attribute this?

Till some years ago, one’s typical tryst with Indian food abroad and opinions formed thereof, used to be limited to the fare served by pan sub-continent restaurants. But now overwhelming access to information on digital platforms and chefs offering more native dishes from not just regional but also sub-regional cuisines have brought in a sea change in people’s perception of Indian food per se. Added to this, during the Covid years, the importance of Indian food practices and their inherent benefits took front stage for the world to see. What is widely acknowledged now was written/handed down generations ago!

Reality shows and good-looking chefs (!) seem to be a sure fire recipe for television gold. You are on MasterChef India - what do you like best about the medium?

Home food has been a dominant part of the Indian cuisine in more ways than one. What I especially like about the format of the show is the opportunity it gives to budding home chefs to showcase what they know and cook best and for us to appreciate our regional cuisines even more.

Tell us what can diners expect at your Chef’s Table at Rangoli this weekend?

Diners can expect a lot of Lucknow, in the conversations, in the flavours, about my upbringing, around the food of Lucknow. It will mostly be the food of Lucknow represented with original flavours in a modern rendition.

Food is an intrinsic part of our cultural identity - as such how do you ensure your dish tastes/looks different for diners considering there are only so many ways to make Palak Paneer or Malai Chicken!

For me, food is feelings transferred on to the plate. While we ‘taste’ food first with our eyes, which of course, makes presentation important, it’s essentially the flavours that need to hit home. And that comes from your connect with a particular dish. Or how you have seen it being prepared. I personally like to ensure that my food evokes memories and nostalgia in my patron; it’s important for me to create food that starts conversations.

What’s your criteria for success in the restaurant business?

On the food front, stick to what you relate to best. It’s important to find one’s niche and convert it into a USP.

For many people, especially women, daily cooking sometimes takes the joy out of the act. As a professional chef how do you keep your relationship with food alive?

More than the recipes, it’s how I connect with food that works for me. That’s why I love travelling, even if it is a quick jaunt to an erstwhile eatery or hole in the wall place, just to feel the flavours as they should be, to connect with the people who prepare it. These are the stories that keep my culinary battery charged!

How do you unwind away from food?

I typically like to retire to my favourite reading corner at home or pick up my camera and travel.

Today we are all so used to eating global while being local - how do you as a mindful chef bring sustainability and seasonality into your kitchen?

Sustainability and seasonality become very important factors, especially in this day and age and post Covid era. We have always followed it. I just go back to my traditions to understand what our culinary ancestors did, my grandmother for instance.. to eat what is seasonal and keep it sustainable.

Social media has taken over our kitchens by telling us what to eat, how to eat and when to eat. How has that impacted your profession?

I personally don’t think social media can take over our kitchens and culinary preferences. Social media I feel, is helpful in creating aspirations, food will always create comfort. The WOW factor, the representation ‘drama’, the frills, can vanish after a point in time. But what remains is real taste, comfort and the real joy that only food close to our heart can give.

QUICK TAKE WITH BRAR

Secret ingredient to your success

Persistence and faith in my skills.

Your earliest memory of a favourite dish:

Churi that my Biji would make.

Most overrated food item:

Creations using Molecular Gastronomy.

One dish you will never get tired of making:

Nihari.

The one ingredient you can never cook without:

Ghee/Coriander, it’s a tie!

Catch Chef Ranveer Brar’s special Chef’s Table at Rangoli, Yas Island Rotana till October 30. There’s also a cooking contest at Crowne Plaza Yas Island on October 29 and a meet and greet with the Chef at Radisson Blu Hotel on October 30


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