Luxebook July 2023

What is the weirdest dish you’ve tried? My recent trip to Nagaland involved a lot of insects, which is shocking for most people. But it’s future food. I ate silkworm, red carpenter worm and crisp deep-fried Hornby. And I know when I post it, people are quick to comment because they do not like it – not trolls, but people who are just quick to comment, and I just get rid of them, or I respond if I think they are listening. But I post it and put it into the context of Naga life and Naga history. And then people are a little more reluctant to go, “Oh you shouldn’t eat that!” You’ve shared your love for Indian street food many times. What do you think about the difference between the food cooked in fine dining restaurants versus street side stalls? The best thing about street food is what we all know, repetition is perfection. And so, street sellers could be multi-generational – making one thing for their whole life and passing it down generations. Imagine just being there and watching these guys banging out kachoris, for example, and they’re not even looking at it. I was in Tamil Nadu watching a man throwing a paratha in the air, smiling as I film him. And I am thinking, I can do that, ‘cause I know how to make a roti or a lachcha paratha. And I go home, and my family is like what are we having for dinner, and I say we’re making paratha. And I am clumsily throwing a piece of raggedy dough, like it is so much easier when he did it. So, there’s a beauty and respect in the simplicity of the food you see in the street. Like watching a lady stretch seviyan by hand and marvelling at it and thinking it looks easy, but when you have a go and realize it’s going to take you a long time to learn how to do that. Have you ever tried making Indian food for your family? If I make something Indian, they’re either going to love me or hate me for it. Or like the recipe, they want to tell me that I’ve done it wrong. I’ve made medu vada and it took me about five different recipes from close chef friends to get it right. Kachori is similar. I’ll do a bit of a deep dive, I’ll make it. And if I make it once, I’ll make it again. Vaibhav Bahl (CONOSH co-founder) brought me a wet grinder from India, and it weighs about 20kg. And I haven’t plugged it in yet. I want to use it to make dosa. I love dosa and I make it in a blender, but I don’t think it’s quite right. So, things I would love to eat I’ll reproduce. When I was in Mathura, I had idiappam; it’s rice based, and it goes through a press, and it’s done so quickly. And when it’s done there’s coconut milk, jaggery and toasted coconut. And I’m the guy on the street just looking like, “Oh my God this is delicious!” What’s the difference between Indian and Australian cuisine? The love of texture! The love for temperature – cold and hot. You think about pani puri, golgappa or raj kachori. You take a hot kachori, smash it and cover it in dahi, you put pomegranate seeds, tamarind chutney and you’ve got a riot of flavour. Australians love that. We love crispy, crunch, and gooey. We talk about molecular gastronomy and for me, Raj Kachori is a kind of molecular gastronomy. It’s a beautiful construction of a slightly fatty pastry that is deep-fried and then we put a marvellous preparation of bacterial soup, which is what yogurt is. It’s incredible! What do you think about the patriarchy that exists in the cooking industry? My mum is a very plain cook, but my grandad, her father, was a chef. And he was the one who inspired me to become a chef. My grandad, when he looked after my sister and I, he would spoil us rotten, And I remember he cooked a cabbage dish. And it was delicious – my What do you think about the culture of food influencers, and the new trend of clicking food pictures for Instagram? When it started to happen, restaurants got really upset about it. There was a ban on photography initially, but in the end, people just accepted it, thinking, – You know what, if I’m looking to go to a restaurant, what is the first thing to do? I don’t know about you, but I’m going to check out their Instagram, check out what food they’re serving and decide that it looks good, and I want to go there. I just think it’s an incredible medium. I don’t take a lot of food pictures, but I would still much rather look at food pictures than a menu. I don’t take the pictures myself, but I do post them. What is your comfort food? Depends on the season. Right now, it’s winter in Australia, so Ramen, Vietnamese Pho. My coriander and mint chicken is one of my family’s favourite dishes. But it changes with the weather. sister and I ate it all up. And he told my mum that the kids love cabbage. But when my mum cooked it, it was the most disgusting thing I’d ever had. As I got older, I realized mum only boiled it, but my grandad would add a little bit of garlic, a little bit of butter – a French style, a little bit of bacon, hit it with some sherry vinegar and it was delicious. So, I asked my mum, “Why are you such a plain cook?” And she told me that when she grew up in the 50s and 60s, grandad was always at work. And her mother was from the North of England and her cooking was even more plain. So, it is a generational thing. But it has changed; in Australia it has completely changed. Boys are, of course, a little bit embarrassed. When I was a young chef in college, all my friends were becoming architects and lawyers, builders, very manly things. Suddenly, I realized that cooking wasn’t a particularly manly thing to do, which was ridiculous. And thank goodness! If you ask a man in Australia today if he thinks cooking is not a very manly thing to do, they will look at you like you’re a being from another planet. 24|LUXEBOOK|JULY 2023 JULY 2023 |LUXEBOOK|25