The World’s MosT Fa­Mous In­dIan CheF You’ve never heard

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - INDULGE -

THERE ARE only a hand­ful of In­di­ans who have made much im­pact on the global food world. There’s Camel­lia Pan­jabi who, apart from writ­ing one of the most suc­cess­ful In­dian cook­books of all time ( 50 Great Cur­ries of In­dia), also set up the Bom­bay Brasserie in London, over­turn­ing Bri­tish pre­con­cep­tions about In­dian food. Af­ter she left the Taj, she joined up with her sis­ter Namita and Namita’s hus­band, Ran­jit Mathrani, to open a se­ries of suc­cess­ful In­dian restau­rants, two of which have Miche­lin stars. he in­tro­duced molec­u­lar tech­niques to In­dian cui­sine at his epony­mous restau­rant in Bangkok. Gag­gan has been rated as Asia’s best restau­rant two years in a row.

Al­most ev­ery time you go to a restau­rant in In­dia and find a dish that has molec­u­lar el­e­ments, you are eat­ing food that has been influenced by Gag­gan. The funny thing is that Gag­gan him­self is mov­ing away from molec­u­lar gas­tron­omy. His food, these days, is even more bril­liant for its stark­ness and sim­plic­ity, influenced per­haps by the grow­ing in­flu­ence that Ja­pan has on his cook­ing.

All of these men and women are leg­ends. The debt that we owe them for their role in tak­ing In­dian food to the world is in­cal­cu­la­ble. But there is some­thing that none of them has ever man­aged.

For many chefs, the acme of recog­ni­tion is a Miche­lin star. There are prob­lems with Miche­lin. Crit­ics say that while it is an au­thor­ity on French food, it can’t tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween good In­dian and medi­ocre restau­rant fare.

And yet, all chefs as­pire to get Miche­lin stars. Within the chef com­mu­nity, there is no greater ac­co­lade and the de­sire to win a star keeps top chefs mo­ti­vated while the loss of a star can lead to sui­ci­dal de­pres­sion.

So far, Miche­lin has been will­ing to hand out a sin­gle star to In­dian restau­rants in Hong Kong, New York, Geneva, London and more re­cently, Sin­ga­pore. But no In­dian restau­rant has ever won more than a sin­gle star while Ja­panese and Chi­nese places have of­ten got three – the top rat­ing – stars. I have won­dered why this should be so. Could it be that Miche­lin does not re­gard In­dian food as wor­thy of more than one star?

Then, last year, Miche­lin awarded two stars to Camp­ton Place, a restau­rant at the Taj-owned ho­tel of the same name in San Francisco. I was thrilled be­cause I have al­ways re­garded the chef Sri­jith Gopinath as one of the great In­dian culi­nary stars.

Still, I thought to my­self, this could be a fluke. Let’s see if Sri­jith can pull this off a sec­ond time? When he did – this year’s stars

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