Chef Grze­gorz Odalak

The Ma­gi­cian Chef Miche­lin Missed

Luxe Beat Magazine - - Front Page - By De­van­shi Mody

Each time I’m em­bark­ing on a voy­age, Chef Grze­gor Odalak of the Park Hy­att Chennai calls. “We’re do­ing some­thing new. It is very nice. You must come.” I can­not refuse the most cre­ative ex­ec­u­tive chef of all my trav­els. Prob­lem is, this “some­thing” he’s do­ing, it tran­spires, is a vol­ley of glam­orous gourmet events, each miss-me-not, which de­tain me end­lessly.

For in­stance, over a fort­night, Chef Grzeg or Chef G, as he’s fondly known, or­ches­trated a week-long fes­ti­val Masters of Food & Wine, swiftly suc­ceeded by a chi-chi Brunello Wine Din­ner, a wacky Whisky Paired Din­ner and, the apoth­e­o­sis of them all, a Choco­late Din­ner. The ho­tel’s new ex­ec­u­tive chef, who hav RHGHᦐNHG H[HFXTIYH FHHI hoog has re­vamped Masters of Food & Wine (MFW), a sig­na­ture Park Hy­att event, mak­ing of it epi­curean artistry. More­over, Park Hy­att’s Sh­nfhant Ior ᦑy­inj oyhr in­ter­na­tional guest chefs and pro­duce notwith­stand­ing, Chef G has taken to ex­ca­vat­ing world-class pro­duce lo­cally, ever as­ton­ish­ing the city’s snooty gourmets who dis­dain the in­dige­nous. If In­dian and French cheeses seem like chalk and cheese, thhn &HHI * Vniffv oxt FHHHVHV magh lo­cally (by French­men, bien sûr) to tickle the snooti­est French noses that wrin­kle at any­thing but the smelli­est French cheeses.

Chef G is Pol­ish but can pooh-pooh Ital­ian pre­dom­i­nance in pasta realms with his silken parcels of ravi­oli that seem­ingly lev­i­tate on the plate, Fxvhion Voit Jnoffhi that GHᦐHV even Miche­lin-starred chefs and per­fect pesto made with basil from his own gar­dens, mind you!

At the last MFW, Chef dis­played his global gamut with mas­tery over Moroc­can cui­sine. An ex­ec­u­tive chef who ac­tu­ally cooks and not just com­mands, he stands be­hind a live Vta­tion Givhinj oxt tajinh that ᦑOZV like lava down pearly mounds of cous­cous. The show-stop­per is his dessert “tableau”- that’s what it is. Chef G and his new pâtissier, Sel­varaj Fleck, splash, dash the “can­vas,” a half-ton slab of mar­ble, with “paints” of creams, mousses and coulis, em­bel­lished with pas­tries, Sroᦐthroohv ang VAEO«V to Frhath “desserts of vast eter­nity” (pun on poet An­drew Marvel un­in­tended). The ladies clap and coo with ec­stasy. Thus Chef G art­fully sur­rounds him­self with damsels.

When his deputy Chef Balaji’s tra­di­tional ba­nana leaf meal Ela Virundhu, un­veiled as part of MFW, proves thun­der­ously pop­u­lar, Chef G de­cides Sun­day lunch at the ho­tel’s Din­ing Room restau­rant be ded­i­cated to Balaji’s sapada com­pris­ing about 28 “cour­ses” that dot the con­tours of a blaz­ing green ba­nana leaf. Au­da­ciously Chef G has waiters swish around in crisp white sarongs, dol­ing out cur­ries, tra­di­tional style, from steel ves­sels -- all this at the scar­ily chic Din­ing Room. More mav­er­ick still, he wishes to dis­pense with cut­lery. “The food must be eaten tra­di­tional style, with your ᦐNJHRV ,t FHANJHV thh tavth ang the ex­pe­ri­ence en­tirely,” he avers, smil­ing boy­ishly. The chef who has hith­erto had Chennai’s con­sid­er­able ex­pat pop­u­la­tion eating from his hands now has them eating with their hands! It isn’t usual for ex­pat chefs in these parts to con­serve and cel­e­brate rather than cor­rupt eth­nic culi­nary cul­ture with that Fom­soafhnt VHNVH oi RHᦐNHG su­pe­ri­or­ity. Too of­ten I’ve had to com­bat the stratospheric egos of chefs. RHIRHVHINJOY Giffhrhnt thiv taohnt doesn’t un­belt reels about his pedi­gree: Cor­don Bleu, Miche­lin­starred train­ing, etc., etc. Chef G is self-cul­ti­vated. Like any true artist, ac­tu­ally. “We put our hearts on the ta­ble,” he says. A sharp ming too VXRHOY to Hffhft thovh clever cre­ations.

At the Brunello Wine Din­ner so­phis­ti­cated com­po­si­tions be­to­ken tech­ni­cal dex­ter­ity and imag­i­na­tion. Lush sweet potato and leek soup is smartened with a slap of smoked cumin jalapeño yo­ghurt. There’s H[traorginary AVSARAJXV VXNᦑOZHR seed-and-edamame risotto and ᦐYH VSIFHG GXFN Erhavt Zith Fon­vomm« ang IHNNHO ang Jrashirxit salad. For dessert, Chef G and 3¤tivvihr 6HOYA FONFHIYH GANGIᦐHG pump­kin pana­cotta ac­com­pa­nied by an arch car­da­mon crum­ble, witty oranjh TH[TXRHV ang VMXJ Vaf­fron basil frozen yo­ghurt.

If Chef G and his deputy Chef Balaji har­monise like a dou­ble vi­o­lin con­certo, then Chef G con­ducts a gas­tro­nomic sym­phony with ᦑoxrivhhv Ior ᦐnh TXNHG INGIYIGXAOV At the Choco­late Din­ner he high­lights (in ev­ery sense) award­win­ning young mixol­o­gist Ab­hishek Shukla, who won sil­ver at the Monin Cup 2011 in Paris.

Herald­ing the Choco­late Din­ner is a dra­matic choco­late can­nel­loni en­rob­ing stri­dent blue cheese soft­ened by dul­cet caramelised onion. Bestrewn are pert edamame, sup­ple shimeji and grav­elly choco­late soil. Chef pours over the en­sem­ble a GHOIFATHOY ᦑAYOXRHG Fon­vomm« from a translu­cent teapot buoy­ing with mush­rooms. A seem­ingly dis­cor­dant med­ley of sweet, sharp ang ᦑat nothv ang mo­tohy ,taoian )rhnfh ang $Vian INᦑXHNFHV RHVOOYH in what must be called a supremely im­pres­sive piece of culi­nary art. The Fon­trooohg VXAYH inthrsoay oi ᦑay­oxrv iv OINH a ᦑHHT Ioothg GANFH oi Iair­ihv on the palate. In­vig­o­rat­ing this bal­let is Ab­hishek’s molec­u­lar cock­tail, Choco­late Mi­mosa (cham­pagne with bob­bing beads of burst-in-your-

moxth Fho­fooath VHRYHG Zith ᦑimvy choco­late-or­ange ravi­oli). Course II: palm heart and zuc­chini salad in an au­re­ole of or­ange carpac­cio blaz­ing through choco­late snow com­ple­mented by Ab­hishek’s vel­vety Choco­late & Man­darin Mo­jito.

With Course III Chef G beams, “This is home­made ri­cotta with home­made caramelised yo­ghurt slow-cooked for 12 hrs.” If choco­late & red wine JAVTRITXH ang Foffhh ha]honxt crust aren’t heady enough ac­com­pa­ni­ments, Ab­hishek lands me Zith &ho­fooath $ffair EXT ,ܟm Voon suc­cumb­ing to Chef Selva’s dessert with its prissy pouts of choco­late Sroᦐthroohv ang NNOFN oxt ZHIVNHY TRXᦓHV (thrnaooy thoxjh &HHI *ܟV com­po­si­tions linger on the palate ang RHYHREHRATH on thh mingܟv ᦐnh epi­curean strings.

Too of­ten chefs with lit­tle prow­ess and much pom­pos­ity ven­ture the ex­or­bi­tant, un­leash­ing grandiose menus bet­ter on pa­per than on the plate. Chef G’s pre­ci­sion strikes. But pan­e­gyrics weary. Let’s just say he ever ren­ders me speech­less.

I must only add that af­ter re­view­ing Ital­ian restau­rant Al­le­gro at the Four Sea­sons Prague, I wrote it would be “East­ern Europe’s ᦐrvt 0ifh­hoin Vtar­rhg rhv­taxrant ܣ Six months later when, in­deed, they got starred, the ho­tel wrote me: “Per­haps Miche­lin heard you.” I await Miche­lin’s con­cur­rence that Chef G is Miche­lin ma­te­rial. Ex­ec­u­tive chefs don’t get Miche­lin­starred. But their cre­ations might yet have Miche­lin see­ing stars.

Un­til then Chef G, en­am­oured of Chennai’s great culi­nary her­itage and re­mark­able lo­cal ta­lent, is for­sak­ing his fam­ily in Poland to H[hieit Javtronomif ᦐRHZORNV oyhr New Year’s Eve in Chennai.

I’m once again about to depart. Once again Chef G says, “We’re do­ing Vomhthinj Giffhrhnt Ior 1HZ <Harܟv Eve. It is very nice. You must come.” 2NFH ajain , ᦐng MYVHOI Fhan­jinj my ᦑi­jhtv &HHI *ܟV Fx­oinary FRHGHNTIAOV are many. He has the fur­ther dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the only man for Zhom ,ܟYH FHANJHG my ᦑi­jhtv

Chef Grze­gorz Odalak

Dish from Brunello & Whisky Din­ners Dish from Brunello & Whisky Din­ners

&ho­fo­late $ffair cock­tail at Choco­late Din­ner

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