His warm and easy-going manner belies the tempestuous talent that he wields in the kitchen. From his much-aped Chocamosas (chocolate samosas) to a vast number of unique ingredient pairings and ways to present Indian food, Chef Vineet Bhatia truly adds a novel twist to every food story.
Meeting this maverick magician was a revelation. With Michelin stars for three different restaurants around the world under his belt, he has won global acclaim. Chatting with him for over an hour after a spectacular meal at the sea-facing Ziya in Mumbai’s Oberoi Trident that I reviewed for Luxury Launches (Ziya’s all-new Gourmand Menu) was a special treat.
Excerpts from the chat…
On ‘evolved Indian’: That’s what I call my kind of cooking. I realised quite early that I wanted to innovate with Indian cuisine. When I first started cooking using less fat and more British ingredients, plating it in individual portions, people thought I was mad. But that’s what has worked. It’s about being creative and playful, yet respecting the essence of the traditional flavours. If you look at my tasting menu carefully, you’ll realise that it’s essentially a typical thaali, just prepared and presented in a modern way.
On plating: These days, it’s an organised mess. It’s like kisine phek diya khaana plate pe (as though someone just threw the food on the plate)! Like the burnt onion powder is dusted on at random, the beetroot saar is just splashed on or the chhenna is crumbled on… But there’s a reason behind it all. It’s how the eye sees the combinations, colours and textures. It brings the dish alive. The focus is moving away from clean lines to asymmetry and a very rustic feel.
On inspiration: I find inspiration everywhere I go. I love to travel and that really allows my creativity to blossom. I could be inspired by something that I see in a market, taste in someone’s home or even by an airline meal on one of my many, many flights!
On social media: It works! I love to click pictures of my food and things that interest me and share them on Twitter (@vineet_bhatia) and Instagram (@chefvineet). Even my team in my various restaurants has got hooked onto this now. It’s a great tool to share creativity and inspiring ideas. Of course, there are people who plagiarise some of these. For example, there’s one chap who not only stole my pictures but even all the same hashtags I had used, pretending that it was all his. He has even named his eatery Rasoi (a rip-off of the very popular and critically acclaimed restaurant that Chef Vineet and his wife Rashima run in London)! People tell me to sue him. Maybe, but I think that he won’t get very far doing this, as the ideas and experiences will never be truly his.
On his celebrity clients, from Hollywood’s top stars, the world’s most famous musicians to high-powered politicians: (With a smile) Yes, there are loads of stories.
The Hungry Happy Hippy gets to hear many of them, but shhh… it’s all off the record 😉
I could be inspired by something that I see in a market, taste in someone’s home or even by an airline meal on one of my many, many flights!