He’s been there, done that — done cuisines, which have made him popular world over, worked at best of the hotels and restaurants, was selected as one of the few to attend Master Chef classes at the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore and became one of the six chefs from all over world to train at the John Folse Culinary Institute of America in Louisiana. Chef Nishant Choubey has done it all.
However, he believes, there is a lot to accomplish yet. An executive chef at Roseate, he has worked at Taj, Oberoi, Jumeriah, Olive, Lapp and Cibo, “I want to innovate with food, create flavours and experiment with cuisines.”
Nishant first tasted international success when he co-hosted a famous cookery show, The Great Chefs of India in 2013. Here’s what he has to say about his sugar and spice journey over the years. Excerpts from the interview.
What inspired you to become a chef?
My inspiration is Chef Thomas Keller, one of the top chefs of New York. I would watch his shows and get motivated to leave a mark in the culinary world.
What has been the high point of your career so far?
There have been many, but the opportunity to go and learn the Creole Cajun cuisine at the John Folse Culinary Institute, Thibodaux, after being selected to represent India in the US is a feat I cherish the most. It made me really proud. I also had the opportunity to host a unique fine-dining event with Chef Gaggan at Kiyaan. I learnt about molecular gastronomy-inspired Indian cooking, which further honed my culinary skills.
How are Indian chefs regarded internationally?
With the growing popularity of Indian restaurants like Indian Accent and Gaggan globally, Indian chefs have gained more recognition and appreciation. I have curated pop-up restaurants at Bangkok, Argentina, South Africa and Nairobi. At each one of these places, I was treated with great hospitality and warmth. There is so much India can learn from the world and a great deal that India has to offer in return.
Any interesting incident of your journey you would like to share.
One of my esteemed guests found a bone in the fish he had ordered at my restaurant. He was dissatisfied with my services. Extremely disappointed with myself, I apologised to my guest and changed the dish. But, he was very happy with his meal the second time around, and is now one of my best friends.
What is the definition of a perfect dish? And which is your favourite cuisine?
A dish that is simple, yet creative, is one that defines my food philosophy. I also like to cook with fresh ingredients. There is a sea of a difference between the flavour of the food cooked with fresh ingredients and with frozen counterparts. New World is my favourite cuisine. It is not very popular, but is slowly gaining traction. My favourite dish is miso mustard fish with lime.
An advice you would give to young chefs and to diners as well...
I think attitude is the key. A chef has to have a positive attitude to make things happen. Passion, commitment and desire to excel are also equally essential to fare well in this field.
Willingness to work hard, sincerity and honesty is inevitable to make a career as a chef. As for diners, they should show maturity and respect the concept of the restaurant.
What are the major trends and innovations in the food industry today?
The Indian F&B scenario is on an upscale mode as more and more Indians are travelling abroad and trying out new ingredients and flavours. This has resulted in new concepts entering the market where chefs drive as well as partner with restaurants. Restaurants such as W, St Regis and Andaaz give utmost importance to the quality of the food and are doing so well. Over the time, the Indian palate has become more refined and demanding, which ensures that chefs move with the times and continue innovating. This has an extraordinary impact on the Indian food industry.
How would you like to change or contribute to the Indian restaurant scene?
I think for me or any other chef for that matter, it is very important to travel, learn and use the knowledge and experience gained in innovating the Indian cuisine. There are a lot of ingredients which have not been explored and we should bring them to the food lovers. For example, olive oil from Rajasthan, truffle mushroom from Manipur in particular and smoked meats from North East India.
What are your dreams that still have to come true?
I will be off to Japan soon to create another pop-up restaurant. In the near future, I would definitely like to open my own restaurant I am looking forward to creating an epic Indian dining experience in Japan, Kenya, UK and South Africa.
Who would you like to cook for?
Cricket hero Sachin Tendulkar for one. He is a remarkable sportsman and I would be proud to cook for him. He is an inspiration to many youngsters.
Who are the famous personalities you have cooked for?
I once did a slow-cooked chicken burger for Saif Ali Khan, and, he said it was the best burger he has ever had. For Hrithik Roshan, I cooked an angus tenderloin and corn-fed chicken breast, which he absolutely loved. Both experiences are happy memories.
On being a chef
I think attitude is the key. A chef has to have a positive attitude to make things happen. Passion, commitment and desire to excel are also equally essential to fare well in this field. Willingness to work hard, sincerity and honesty is inevitable to make a career as a chef. As for diners, they should show maturity and respect the concept of the restaurant.
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