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