Dec 26: For the dinner organised by the Hill Zill Winery Resort where a 2-day Conference was organized on fruit wines by Priyanka Save and her husband Nagesh Pai, TV Chef Varun Inamdar came especially from Mumbai to curate a meal that was perhaps once-in a-life time opportunity for most, writes Subhash Arora who loved the forest to table Menu using local ingredients and each dish matched with wines from Sula/Fruzzante that inspired him to chat with the Chef at length the next day about his journey to becoming a Celebrity TV Chef
Chef Varun Inamdar is a Celebrity Chef from Mumbai and a product of internet and TV-a household name in Maharashtra and beyond, he claims a reach of over 220 million viewers and is one of the Top Ten Celebrity Chefs of India. He curated the special dinner on the first evening of the 2-day Conference in Bordi. Very much congruent with the ambience and environment, he created the Al-fresco dinner for 30 participants under the stars with a sprinkling of small lights in the designated area to give a festive look.
He started his career 18 years ago, as a dishwasher at Out of the Blue, a Restaurant in Bandra, adjacent to Olive Restaurant on Pali Hills. At that time it was famous for serving sizzlers and fondue. His break came one night when there was nobody to make fondue and he was given the responsibility by the owner and he came through with flying colours.
He has been always passionate about cooking as a child. ‘When I was 8, I told my father that I wanted to become a Chef. I told him I wanted to be like Martin Yan- the Chinese American Chef who had several TV cookery shows (Yan Can Cook was very popular in India too). He told Varun that in order to do that he needed to study. When he was studying at Rizvi College in Bandra, he used to work at the restaurant after 7 in the evening.
One day the principal of the college saw him working at the restaurant in the evening. She wanted him to sign an indemnity and get permission from his family. He convinced his supportive mother who fulfilled the requirement.
An opportunity came his way to attend an interview with the Oberoi Center of Learning & Development (OCLD) in Delhi. He cleared the technical part easily and was accepted. He spent 10 years in Mumbai working in different properties of the hotel.
He spent a decade with Oberoi-working in various departments -kitchen, culture, and designing the Menus etc. During this period he cooked for Barack Obama, Sarkozy. Putin, Amitabh Bacchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Mukesh Ambani and several other celebrities. Today it is a talking point and a story- about how a dishwater ended up serving Barrack Obama. But people forget about the journey in between, he says as he grins.
Continuing with his journey, he went to Kuwait to work for the Royal family after they came scouting around to Mumbai. He worked there 2 years and built 21 avenues for them. He came back to Mumbai where he did not know anyone in media-the area in which he was interested. He started meeting different people and making inroads and was soon writing for 28 publications. He wanted to be a Chef; so one day he gave up all assignments and started looking for work in TV- where he was rejected initially. But thanks to the internet he started having his own shows successfully.
Quick one to learn on the job, he also picked up a lot of knowledge and experience about chocolate making and today is known as the Prince of Chocolate and represents India at all the chocolate functions. He is on the Guinness Book of World Records for making the biggest chocolate mud pie weighing 3000 pounds. The feat required planning for 18 months including the design of special oven and getting it fabricated. He is a Brand Ambassador of coco from Ecuador and also represents India at the foreign chocolate events.
Chef Arun has done 25 internet and TV shows-he is the only one on Amazon Prime. Besides, he is on Voot, Netflix and Hotstar. He is the only chef who does shows in 4 different languages- Hindi, English, Marathi and Gujarati. He specialised in simplifying the recipes and using easily available ingredients. He also substantially cuts down the time taken to make a dish.
‘I wanted to keep the dinner traditional-starting from the table cloth setting with banana leaves to the Presentation of cheese board on specially carved mango wood by a local artisan adivasi. He had researched the area for a day, two weeks prior and discussing with locals what went best there- for example what plants could be edible. The Menu also had more to do with visual creativity.’
To give an idea of his dish selection, he chose to cook Risotto in a unique fashion, with local red rice, onions, salt and white butter only. In fact, he said, he did not repeat any ingredient except salt. Like Italian chefs he also believes in a simple, uncomplicated dish and feels each flavour must explode in the mouth.
It was interesting that he had cooked everything himself with a helper to assist only. He had started cooking at 3 pm and by 730 pm, all dishes were ready. Even Risotto for 30 people had been 80% cooked beforehand. ‘I wanted to make people feel they were sitting in the lap of Sahyadhari mountains enjoying my dishes with local ingredients,’ he added.
He has an interesting take on Molecular gastronomy. ‘Frankly I don’t think much of Spanish gastronomy that has taken the world by storm. But in India we have already had it in some for a long time. Think of Nimish (Daulat ki chaat) of Lucknow. It is the original molecular gastronomy of the world.
He is also agreeable with fusion foods if final dish does not lose its charm and flavour. ‘If it does, we have lost the plot. I am not ok with the chef losing the charm of a dish. Similarly deconstructing and reconstructing a dish is fine if it does not lose the essence of its flavours. Essentially, I think it is the beauty of chef-not to repeat any flavours.
Chef Inamdar truly made the evening surreal with his dishes that charmed the 30 participants of the Conference. It may be said without reservation that the wine dinner curated by him would add splendour to the future Conferences that might be organised by Hill Zill Winery.
For an earlier related Article, please visit:
Commendable Fruit Wine Conference in Maharashtra
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