'Chefs should try to make every dish their own'

Chefs should try to make every dish their own

Table talk with Ponraj Daniel Jebakumar, Head Chef, Bazxar, DIFC

Published: Wed 17 Jan 2018, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Thu 18 Jan 2018, 1:00 AM

What is your favourite memory of food?
Camping with school friends at our farm in Tamil Nadu. We would make a quick meal out of ingredients we'd find around us, such as onions, garlic, fresh veggies, rabbit and chicken - all grown and raised on the farm, which also has ponds and lakes, where we'd fish for fresh anchovies, crabs and fresh water eel. It was a great way for us to stay connected with the environment.

What's the most challenging part of your job?
Nowadays, thanks to social media, ease of travel and blogs, guests are just as - if not more - updated as chefs are, when it comes to the latest and hippest food offerings. I would say the most challenging part of my job is to keep up with the trends, but this also makes my job all the more fun and challenging!
Do you have a personal mantra or motto that drives the way you cook food?
I believe that every chef has their own personal touch. Even if I have the best recipe in hand, I encourage each chef to find their own unique factor to add to the dish, enhance it and make it their own.
If you could cook for a high-profile personality, who would it be and what would you serve them?
I see everyone as equal individuals, and would treat George W Bush just as I would my colleagues. My father has done everything for me, so he is the greatest personality to me. My father perceives me as his son and as a family man, but he has never seen my true cooking capabilities. That's why I would love to cook for him, and recreate a few Indian classics, such as tandoori lobster thermidor and lamb biryani, which I have added my own twist to.
How often do you eat out? What's your favourite place around town?
I don't eat out very often, as I enjoy home-cooked meals. But when I do, I am very fond of The Al Qasr brunch, The Beach House in Anantara The Palm, as well as El Sur.
After cooking all day, do you cook for yourself at home too?
I do on my days off. Occasionally, I invite friends over and we have a big cook-off, which is always good fun.
You are asked to invent an unusual dish - what would it be?
A dessert made from green chillies would be very unusual. I would make it so that the spicy chilli flavour would be converted to a sweet taste. I once made a very unusual dish, in which I used spinach to make ice cream - and it turned out great, as it had a tangy aftertaste!
Who do you admire most in the culinary world, and why?
I admire Marco Pierre White a lot, as well as Sebastian Nohse, who is the Executive Chef at Bazxar, as they have both had a huge impact on my culinary journey. Both chefs bring out great food, and encourage other chefs to push their limits.
What is your favourite comfort food?
That would be vegetable bhaji and chicken wings, hands down!
Name one ingredient you can't stand, and why?
The ingredient I like the least is eggplant, because of the aftertaste and texture.
If you could choose a last meal, what would it be?
Mediterranean sea bass paired with any Indian dessert. I'm not picky about the latter - I like them all!
Your favourite culinary destination, and why?
Bangkok, for its street food offerings and the vibrant atmosphere surrounding every food stall there.
- Staff reporter

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