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What is your earliest childhood kitchen memory?
My childhood kitchen memories surround my mother, I used to often accompany her to the markets to buy the finest of produce. Then after coming back, I used to give her a helping hand while cooking. This kind of warmth and love is what I feel the most special ingredient that’s needed to upgrade a dish from being just good to excellent. I do remember clearly the omelette and tea that I used to dish out for my brother and myself when we were young and I guess the seed to be a chef eventually was sowed then on.
Which is your favourite dish?
A tiramisu, for an obvious reason that I love cooking it the most. As a matter of fact, I have also have experimented with it quite a few times and it has every time surprised me with its versatility. The universal appeal to the dessert also has attracted me to this rich and creamy Venetian coffee-based dessert.
If not a chef, what would you have been?
A writer for sure though not clear about whether I would have written for newspaper editorial or an author per se, however growing up in literature backed Bengali household that was an obvious choice. Having said that my profession does allow me quite a bit of an opportunity to write, like this one! On a different note, I do read and write a blog on travel and food.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received as a chef?
There has been many but if you ask me to choose one that it shall be the one that my mentor Chef Amit Chowdhury gave me of “The Buck Stops at You”, it has stayed with me still and helps me to motivate, check and recheck things to ensure that the quality of food going out from my kitchens are always nothing shorter than the best.
What has India given to you as a chef?
India has taught me the power of ingredients in food, the concept of unity in diversity through food and most importantly the power of our cuisine, Indian it is. I firmly believe we have been able to discover only 25 per cent of the diverse cuisines that India has to offer.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Every day comes up with new challenges which drive me to get more out of myself. Hence I welcome all challenges that come my way. However, one specific challenge worth a mention for me is to ensure that every guest leaves my restaurants satisfied with the food and service at offered. Since this is so subjective, it seems to be a challenge that varies from person to person.
What’s your idea of a perfect meal?
For me, a perfect meal is the one that creates a long-lasting memory, irrespective of how luxurious space is.
What’s your favourite comfort food?
Khichadi, which has now officially become the national dish of India.
Which culinary destination(s) do you wish to explore?
At the moment I am looking forward to travelling to Himachal and Kashmir for some new discoveries.
What’s your personal mantra that influences the way you cook?
Keep it simple, play with your ingredients and do not let them go through many cooking steps. This helps each ingredient maintain its individuality.
What made you fall in love with cooking so much that you chose to be a chef?
Cooking happened to me by accident and the sweetest possible thing that could have happened. It was only during my training days with Oberoi hotels when I realised that I belong here and I guess the creative side of this profession lured me, the heat in the kitchens attracted me and my excellent mentors made me stay on.
What is your favourite cuisine and why?
I have a slight inclination towards Italian because of its bold flavours and simplistic cooking style.
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Gaurav Achpalea is a qualified journalist, digital content creator and digital marketer. He has acquired his Master’s degree in Media and Communications from University of Wollongong Australia and is also a Google certified Digital Marketer.