It’s not often that a hot shot chef comes to the country to share his knowledge, his insights and his ‘World No. 1’ expertise with Indian chefs.
Argentinian Italian chef Mauro Colagreco who has a sunny, trailblazing restaurant in Menton, France called Mirazur, came down to Mumbai to meet and greet with the city’s chefs, food journalists and bloggers at the palatial St Regis hotel, of the Marriott International group of hotels.
The new culinary group Culinary Culture that was launched in India on March 3, 2020, was responsible for this fantastic meet-and-greet. It was in June 2019 that Colagreco’s restaurant Mirazur was named the best restaurant in the world.
Culinary Culture is a pet project of Vir Sanghvi, the veteran journalist who prides his obsessive interest in food, writing about it in columns, and Sameer Sain of Everstone Group, a private equity and real estate development firm.
Culinary Culture hopes to be like India’s Michelin, rating restaurants, and giving restaurants stars after judgements by juries that will include objective gastronomic experts, esteemed food critics, writers from across more than 15 Indian cities, and unnamed food referees.
The new collective seeks to be one of India’s most respected voices on food, and calls itself an “independent rating organisation” which will not give awards and recognitions away to restaurants only because they have gained popularity.
It endeavours to be unprejudiced, recognising true talent and only awarding the genuinely deserving in the ceaselessly growing restaurant industry.
Adds the enterprise’s CEO Raaj Sanghvi, “We are free of advertising and marketing campaigns. We don’t want those kind of influences in our decisions.”
Mentioning how the collective wants to reach even the most unsung of heroes, India’s street food vendors, Sanghvi shares, “We have even planned an award for street food sellers across India.
Apart from that we also take Indian chefs to work at restaurants abroad as part of our Culinary Exchanges. It won’t just be that foreign chefs will come here. Our chefs will go there too and all this is about creating a vibrant food community in India.”
At the event at St. Regis, Vir Sanghvi and star chef Colagreco got into conversation, where Colagreco spoke ardently about his journey thus far, having worked in the kitchens of other great French chefs like Bernard Loiseau, Alain Passard and Alain Ducasse.
Colagreco told an audience eager to know the secrets of the best in the world, about how he was the only Argentinian chef amidst a host of talented French chefs.
He recounted his early beginnings, how he started small in the kitchen peeling mushrooms which he did rigorously for a long time before his bosses developed confidence in him and put him on cooking tasks. He then spoke about how in 2006 he decided to start Mirazur, which he did on his own, partner-less.
Some secrets he shared, which makes his food a result of painstaking evolution, and extreme care, include giving every table at his restaurant a different menu.
Yes, every table at his restaurant has a different plan, and a stellar ingredient around which a dish has been planned. For Colagreco, the freshness of his ingredients is of the ultimate importance. He believes vegetables have a very short shelf-life, say a few hours, and must be consumed within that time.
That’s what makes him best. An idea of integrity, which he filters into his products, his appetisers and main courses. This elevated idea of food integrity and product superiority is a prime focus at Mirazur, also a three Michelin starred restaurant, a rare honour for any bistro in the world.
Says Colagreco, “This is my first time coming to Bombay and cooking for you. I was 29 when I opened my own restaurant. I wanted to develop my own voice. Loiseau influenced my style.
After he took his own life in 2003, since he was afraid his restaurant might lose its third Michelin star, I left. That incident, how the pressure can get to someone, made an impact on me, on my psyche.
When I started Mirazur in Menton, I didn’t know the land, the traditions. I learnt along the way. I was totally free to develop a new vision for traditional ingredients.”
On March 6 and 7 Colagreco and his team planned a 9-course meal for anyone who wanted to profligately expend Rs. 30,000 per head. At the sit-down dinner in Mumbai, the wavy-haired chef served goat cheese ravioli, fish lotus, and smoked eel and caviar tartlets, which are his signatures. An India motivated dish was also on the menu to please desi food connoisseurs who signed up for the kingly night.