Karan Mehta, the Chef De Cuisine of Le Meridien is a man, who at once draws your attention and makes you fall for his work, that he calls ‘art’. In an exclusive chit-chat with Smita Mishra of Spicezee.com, Mehta talks about his experiments with food, the significance of his work and the magic that he can create in a clay oven.
What made you choose becoming a Chef as your profession?
A natural inclination, perhaps. I loved experimenting with dishes. Though adopting this as a profession some two decades back was a daring task as it lacked the glamour quotient it enjoys today and was looked at with scepticism.
I joined this industry in 1988, worked with Taj Grand for three years, and then joined the Meridian. Went abroad and learnt the art to perfection…and I am learning still.
How important is nutrition?
Immensely. It carries 100% significance in each and every recipe.
These days our work has become very easy because people too are opting for foods that are high in nutrition value. For this very reason, organic, grilled and fat free foods have become very popular.
Tel us something about fusion cuisine about which we hear so often these days?
Fusion cuisine, as the name says is actually the mixing of two different cuisines. It is generally offered in hotels that serve continental food. It is still not very popular, as people perhaps take time to shed their loyalty to a particular cuisine.
This kind of food is not just nutritious but also very digestible.
Are foods losing their originality because of fusion?
Not at all! There are some foods whose original recipes are used in hotels since generations without any attempt to alter or modify them. For example Rogan Josh.
So in India, kitchens believe less in experimenting?
There is nothing like that. We have experimented with a number of dishes. We try fusion also. It all depends upon what our guests desire to have.
How important is food styling in a dish?
Styling is the soul of food these days. Many chefs are specially trained for this. The taste of food no doubt holds prime significance, but its presentation too is very important. In fact it should be such that the very look of the dish should tempt you towards it.
There are chefs these days who have acquired world fame for styling kebabs in different ways.
Which do you think is the healthiest cuisine?
French and Italian. There was a time when French cuisine was the hottest and very popular. But somehow it is no more as fashionable now.
But Italian food is packed with calories?
Don’t just talk about Pizzas. They have pastas, risottos, salads that are so healthy. They use less oil and butter in their food.
Is there some particular reason why European food has become so popular in India?
People are traveling more now. They are visiting places and experimenting with various kinds of foods. Since European food is healthier, probably it is being liked more.
With emphasis gradually shifting towards diet food, how are you managing this zero oil, less spicy fare?
It’s not difficult at all. For heath conscious guests we use canola oil, olive oil. There are varieties of bakes, grills and salads.
What do you think you can make best?
European food, hot and cold.
Hot and cold?
Yes, hot means meats, soups, starters and cold refers to appetizers and salads.
How satisfying is your profession?
Immensely. In fact, the role of the chef is very important. He wields a lot of power as he can make people healthy and exercise power over their tastes and preferences.