take two chefs

Posted on Back of House May 2010 - by Tandoori Magazine
take two chefs

Two chefs in the kitchen? That’s exactly what the newly opened Massala is doing in Cobham. Its chefs Sunil Sinha and Pradeep Asawa talk to Tandoori.

You wouldn’t think that there would be two talented chefs heading up a restaurant kitchen, now would you? Massala, in Cobham, Surrey, seems to have found the answer and seems to be all the better for it. The two chefs, Sunil Sinha, who is senior and in charge of the cooking, and Pradeep Asawa, who takes care of the finished product when it comes to both tasting it and overseeing the presentation, work hand-in-hand. No surprise then that the pan-Indian menu produces some very fine and well-flavoured cooking.

Then again, the two also have a very fine pedigree. Both trained with the Taj hotel group in India, and not only did they serve in a gamut of kitchens within that group across the country, they have also steered the kitchens of several UK restaurants between them. So how do they conduct their duties together?

“Once I’m done with the cooking of a dish,” says Sinha, “I pass it on to Pradeep.” The latter states: “I take care of the quality control and dress the dish to make it look as good as possible. I’m the final link in the chain before the food is sent out to customers. I practically smell the dish to see if it’s giving off all the right aromas and that it’s eye-catching.”

For both chefs what’s important is that the cooking remains authentic and full of flavour.

“At the same time,” notes Sinha, “we make the food as refined as possible. We are in a locality where people are very well-heeled and understanding of sophisticated cooking. This is also reflected in the dishes we have chosen to put on our menu. It may cover all regions of India and be the most popular ones from a particular region, but we have also had to ensure that they are suited to most palates.

“Pradeep and I have been very fortunate in that we have worked in most parts of India even though we both originate from north India. With the Taj group’s hotels being nationwide, we have been able to learn and absorb a lot about regional cooking.”

Both Sinha and Asawa work in harmony and state that they understand each other’s cooking methods very well. At heart, they add, what is important is that their talent comes through and the customer always leaves the restaurant happy. Between them, their specialities on Massala’s menu include tandoori paneer khaas, onion and potato bhajia, samudari ratan, ajwaini jhinga, murg tikka lababdar and roast lamb laziz.

“We grind all the spices here and make our own spice mixes,” says Sinha. “This may be an intimate restaurant that isn’t trying to win any Michelin stars, but Pradeep and I will do our best to ensure that everything is first rate.”

So what do the two think of each other’s cooking and do they ever disagree in the kitchen?

“We absolutely love each other’s cooking,” admits Asawa. “And yes, of course we disagree with each other, but it comes out of passion and a real admiration ignore each other and what we have to offer. If we can make our dishes better out of any heated discussions we may have then it’s all the better for our customers.”

Sample Dishes - Massala


-Tandoori Paneer Khaas £4.95
Indian cottage cheese filled with piquant chutney and pickles and marinated and grilled with vegetables in a clay charcoal oven

-Samudari Ratan £6.95
scallops, mussels and squid infused with mustard garlic and cumin- flavoured spicy Goan sauce


-Murg Tikka Lababdar £9.95
chicken tikka cooked with fenugreek- flavoured onion and tomato massala sauce and finished with coriander and cream

-Roast Lamb Laziz £10.95
leg of lamb steeped in whole spices, ginger and garlic, and slowly pot-roasted with a cardamom-flavoured spicy massala sauce

-Patrani Machchi £14.95
A whole sea bass is prepared in traditional Parsi fashion where it is steam-cooked with coconut, sesame seeds, coriander and mint enveloped in banana leaves


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