interview with reza mahammad
Famed restaurateur Reza Mahammad of London’s Star of India is also a TV chef and cookery book author, his latest being Reza’s Indian Spice. He talks to Tandoori
Sanjeev Kapoor is a globally renowned Mumbai-based Indian TV chef and his own food empire. He talks to Tandoori.
What made you become a chef?
It was something quite different to take up at the time as a career. That was over 25 years ago and it wasn’t as though in those days it was my ambition to become a chef. It seemed challenging and quite unusual. The more I got into it, the more I liked it and my parents were quite supportive of it.
You have the kind of successful of successful career few Indian chefs can muster. Has there been any one particular aspect of being a chef that you have enjoyed most?
There hasn’t been any one thing but in fact all of them. There have been so many highlights. I have been so fortunate in having made people so happy with my cooking. It’s so gratifying.
Other than the fame it brings, how does being a TV chef differ from being a restaurant chef?
Each is satisfactory in its own way. In a restaurant, you can be cooking in a hot kitchen with a team of people and instantly feed a whole bunch of customers. Their reaction can also be very instant and you know immediately whether you have managed to please them or not. With TV, what you are doing is teaching people how to cook. They may not be there in the studio with you, but you know they are at home watching and taking note of every single thing you are doing. So what they are doing is not just enjoying what they are watching but also learning.
How do you think restaurant cooking has changed in India during the past decade?
I don’t think that it has changed that much. Food wise, the scene has remained stagnant though gradually there have been attempts to bring in more regional influences into menus, but there is some way to go. The crop of Indian chefs nowadays in the UK is fantastic and overall I quite like what is being done by them in restaurants, particularly Amaya.
That said, there are times when I feel that what is meant to be Indian cooking just loses its identity to become what is neither Indian nor European. I can understand the pressure that chefs and restaurant owners of high-profile Indian restaurants can be to impress the public and the critics, but dishes can be so manipulated with certain ingredients and presentation styles that they are no longer in tune with their origins. One can’t deny though that there is a tremendous amount of fabulous food being prepared in upmarket Indian restaurants which is why they are winning so many awards.
What do you like to eat and drink yourself?
How do you relax?
I love to sleep.
You have a new recipe book out in the UK entitled Mastering the Art of Indian Cooking. Do you have any particular favourite recipes in the collection?
It’s very difficult to select favourite recipes from a list of over 500. There are always though some which for one reason or another have a certain appeal whether it’s for their simplicity of just flavour.
How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who has brought pride and joy to Indian cooking.