Conversations With IWBS – Udit Maheshwari

We got to know and work with Udit in certain projects and it gave us an insight into how his mind works and just how infectious his love for all things gastronomic is. Needless to say a lot of wine bottles were uncorked in the nurturing of this relationship. So here are a few questions answered by Udit in his inimitable sincere and humble manner.

My journey in this industry has been a really unusual one. I studied law & worked here and there for a couple of years. Not being entirely happy with what I was doing, I decided to pursue the one thing that I loved – food. I pursued the Grande Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu in London where I was trained in the hot kitchen & patisserie.

I have been working with Café Lota & the Melting Pot Food Company for 6 years now & have recently set up a restaurant in Aerocity called Monsoon. Monsoon celebrates regional Indian food & produce along with some great wines & beers.

What inspired you to become a chef?

The obsession with food. I was obsessed with it even before I joined the industry. I even remember what I ate when I was 4 or 5 year old. Someone told me that you should only do something that you are really passionate about. That made me think that food was something that I was really obsessed with & should pursue a career in it.

What’s the ideology behind your recipes?

Firstly, it has to be delicious. Second, it has to be something out of the usual. Third, it has to be well balanced. If the primary flavour is sour, it has to be balanced with something sweet. There should be a range of flavours & textures in each dish.

The guiding path for my recipes is using obscure & long lost ingredients, cooking techniques etc.

What’s the most unique dish/ingredient you have tasted?

There was a green coloured, almost ‘barfi’ kind of sweet dish that I had eaten in Langkawi in Malaysia. It was a dessert made from potato!

This was sometime in 2009.

Chitterlings

I also had this dish in Paris. It’s called ‘Chitterling’. I confused it for a ‘chipolata’. Chitterling is basically a kind of sausage made with a pig’s intestine lining & stuffed with chopped up pig’s intestine. Even eating it with a whole lot of moutarde, it got the better of me.

Monkfish, rhubarb (had never seen or heard of it in India), rabbit, venison, foie gras.

Is there a dish/ingredient chef Udit hates?

Chef Udit’s has revived unexplored Indian ingredients in his recipes.

As far as ingredients are concerned, I absolutely hate methi dana. I cringe every time I bite on one. I also don’t like ‘Daal baati’. Even though I am a Marwari and it’s made at home quite often, there’s always something else that’s made for me because I just won’t eat it

Who is your role model?

I don’t have any role models as such. But Chef Manish Mehrotra is really cool! It is really admirable that someone who had never worked with Indian food has done such a great job of reinventing it.

Which is your dream restaurant or chef to work with?

Would love to work with Chef Thomas Zacharias at The Bombay Canteen

But also having seen David Chang’s shows and reading about Momofuku, I would give an arm & a leg to work with him & pick his brains about food.

How relevant is beverage knowledge for an aspiring chef?

In today’s market & scenario, its extremely important. Guests these days are increasingly looking for a holistic experience and beverages are a very important part of it.

Chefs often pay attention to only food and not much to beverages. Good beverage pairing is what will set great restaurants apart from the good.

What is your favourite tipple at the end of a busy day?

Whisky sour, in any form. For me, there can never be a bad one.

What is your advice to young professionals seeking employment in the kitchen space?

I see a lot of youngsters looking at only the romantic things in the industry. But, like everything, its not all romantic. There is a lot of hard work & grind that you have to do. Kitchen work is mostly very monotonous & repetitive. Do it only if you are really passionate. If you aren’t, you won’t last.

One more thing that I would say is that avoid being gimmicky with your food. Foams, smoke, etc. will only get you this far. Customers can often see through the gimmicks. First ensure that your food is delicious, the gimmicks can come later. And please don’t modernise dishes just  for the sake of it. If the contemporised version of the dish isn’t better than the original, there’s no point in doing it.

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