Ever since our interest in food began, we were awestruck by the big stars in the food industry like Sanjeev Kapoor, Vicky Ratnani and Imtiaz Qureshi to name a few Indian chefs. But casually sitting and talking to Michelin star chefs, face to face!? Didn’t imagine that in a hundred years!! 4XFour, a pop-up for all chefs Michelin, has come to India with two superstar chefs, Laurent Peugeot and Grand Chef Giovanni D’Amato with his son Federico to show us what the Michelin experience is all about. Also all your budding Chefs from India, who want to make it big by switching restaurants and being on TV, this interview is a must read to get a new perspective! Mezzo Mezzo, at the JW Marriott in Juhu is hosting these meals for all people of Mumbai and you can book your seats for Chef Giovanni on www.4XFOUR.in . The Bombay Foodies went for chef Laurent’s meal but couldn’t make it for chef Giovanni but our good friend Reem, from Madison PR, sweetly got us an interview with them both!
Here’s why we think their Stars are well deserved :
Chef Laurent Peugeot
Since we ate Chef Laurent Peugeot’s food, we had sh*t load of questions to ask him. When we did meet him during our meal he seemed a li’l busy, but that didn’t stop him from coming out and meeting us and even though he isn’t very fluent with his English, he did so with a big smile on his face. There was also a table for media personnel that day, so our conversations were cut short. On Sunday, when he came and sat with us, we could see his calm and relax nature. Andrea Koh, who is with Savour Event (Singapore) was also with chef helping us translate. Our dialogue began firstly by thanking chef for the lovely meal, it indeed was a great experience (We shall write our blog post in a few days.)
Culinary discipline and respect for the cuisine: On asking chef about his life in France and Japan. He told us how when he was in Japan, the one thing he noticed was the sincerity and the respect Japanese people pay to their food and the discipline they maintain. Be it a simple Miso soup or the most complex Maki roll, a lot of soul and thought is put into all their food. In a Japanese kitchen there is a dedicated cook for each job. So while preparing sushi, which has multiple processes involved, one cook makes the rice, while the other is dedicated to processing the fish. For the next 15 years he and only he will be making the rice for grand sushi master. Chef had to watch and learn in the beginning and learned a great deal in these Japanese kitchens.
Ability to take risks: French and Japanese, odd combination, right? When we asked him as to how he managed to mix the grandfather(French) and grandmother(Japanese) of culinary traditions, he simply answered, “Why not?”. Having spent 4 years in Japan, he learned a great deal and understood different flavours and combinations, in depth. He returned to France to mix the delicate flavours of Japan with the French cuisine.
Close attention to authenticity: It is known that people of France are very familiar with the Japanese flavours. Infact, Paris has a good number of Japanese restaurants all over the city. Chef Laurent’s obsession for authenticity is reflected when he points out that most Japanese restaurants take the easy way out by serving just tempura, teppanyaki and sushi. He firmly believes that there is much more to Japanese cuisine than that, and using bouillon cubes instead of authentic dashi, to make a simple Miso soup, does not cut it.
The ability to improvise and appreciate: We asked him if working in India for the first time was difficult for him. With the language barrier and availability of ingredients. He insists that the skill required for learning Japanese cuisine and those for French cuisine are very alike. He loved training the eager chefs and cooks at Mezzo Mezzo, he told us that food doesn’t need a language, its all about improvising and seeing things.Chef Laurent did not get to go out of the Hotel to try the different delicacies Mumbai has to offer, but he did go to the market and both chef and Andrea were surprised by the fresh ingredients that were on offer. Quality of simple things like turnips, pumpkin and aubergines, they got to see, was very exciting.
To remain humble and let the food talk: We asked the Chef Laurant, if it was his childhood dream to win that Michelin star. (We say childhood because Chef started cooking in his first restaurant at the age of 15! ) The Chef sweetly shook his head saying, “No…”. It came to him as a pleasant surprise, one morning, as he was walking to work and a friend called him up saying “Have you read the paper?” And there it was, mentioned in bold that he had received a Michelin star. Chef Laurent always was disciplined and that led to him getting the star. He opened a restaurant when he was 15 years old and has never looked back, striving to become better and better. He says,” It only through hard work and strict discipline” that he achieved these great heights. In the end he said that he wants to come back to India and taste the different flavors such that he can implement them in his food!
Chef Giovanni D’Amato
After chef Laurent left our table, we were told by Reem that she will also get us to talk to Chef Giovanni, and when our chef from the Bombay Foodies heard that he had goosebumps all over!! Chef Gio is a Masterchef when it comes to Italian cooking.
Extremely proud of his Italian roots: Before beginning he said to us,”Wait for my son Federico to come as he will translate my Italian. I can speak English but i want to speak in Italian.” When his young son arrived we got cracking. We realized how similar Italian food is to Indian food. Being inspired by Madri Cucina, or Mothers kitchen, both of the cuisines hold their mother’s cooking, very close to their heart. Such strong love for our roots shows in the food..
A strong vision at a very young age: Chef Gio also started his career really young, working with many different chefs but at 26 started his own (2 Michelin star) restaurant ‘Ristarone Il Rigoletto.’ Federico told us that ever since chef Gio was young he wanted to be the best. Not really aiming for a Michelin star but acknowledging its importance, nonetheless, he only concentrated on the food.
Respect given to all his ingredients: We asked Chef Gio which ingredient was his favorite, to which he replied saying, “To me all ingredients are equally important”. He said for him ,”Caviar and a simple Spaghetti Pomodoro are both exquisite!” We told him that Italian and Indian cooking is very similar in terms of fresh ingredients, their sauces and our gravies and the use of herbs. Chef Gio just like Laurent also stressed on the fact that he worked hard, and after a lot of cooking he received his Michelin stars. A chefs jobs is to keep his head down and cook, everything else will follow. Federico has been working with his father a few years now but did his training under a lot of different chefs.
Ingredient shopping is given equal attention too! They had just landed a day before, but Chef Gio insisted on going to the market and buying the fish himself. He doesn’t like ordering it in. He likes to personally go pick his fish and meat shopping early in the morning. Therefore an early trip to the docks was organized for him. But he had not got the time to move around a lot. They really wanted to go about and try the local food that Mumbai has to offer.
It was great talking to these chefs and was made possible only because of our friend Reem Iqbal. We must say that this was quite a delightful experience and more people must go for these fine-dine pop-ups. A lot of people call this pretentious food, but sometimes what we fail to realize is that cooking is also like art and it takes so much thought, hours of practice and a great vision to bring these delicate flavours and textures together to give you that one perfect dish. These are experiences, as a foodie, you don’t want to miss out on!
We are also grateful to Andrea Koh from Savour Events who really helped us understand the chefs better. Mezzo Mezzo at the JW Marriott was a perfect place for the meeting and finally 4XFOUR who got the chefs to town. They are planning to bring down two more chefs in November and we cant wait for that one!!! Also stay tuned for our blog post on the 8 course French Japanese meal by Chef Laurent.