A master of many cuisines and desserts. A food connoisseur, star chef and good person to connect with. This time we had a pep talk with Chef Nitin Pal Singh, recently in talks when the California Boulevard opened in Delhi.
Critics love him, and foodies ask for his special dishes everytime they visit. He is known for tweaking and experimenting the dishes to get a uniformly great taste to the dishes on the menu. Plus he is experienced in such many cuisines all over the world, he can carve out perfect combos out of any visitor whims. Below are some excerpts from the lovely chat we had.
1) How do you describe your style of cooking?
Keeping the combination of taste and health in mind, I prepare food that can be relished by all ages of people, regardless of their cultures.
If you see the way God has made us the food should be eye catching as people eat food from their eyes first. Second comes your nose which detects aroma or flavors of the food which also plays important role as it enhances our sense organs. Last and foremost is the taste that should be perfect in all the terms.
Hmm, looks like the Chef has the secret of attracting so many people with his sumptuous dishes.
2) How do you keep a kitchen running in chaotic situations? How do you calm everyone around you?
Planning is the first and foremost thing we should do before doing anything in the kitchen. I do a morning & evening briefing daily, which plays an important role to each and every person in the team. Also, the entire team works together to achieve guest satisfaction. These briefings will definitely help in managing individuals in chaotic situation because everyone knows what they have to do.
Concentration is another tool which keeps us focused on the target that we need to achieve in minimal time. Patience as well said is the key to success, and we need to work with ease even in chaotic situations and at the same time work smartly to carry out the work in effective way.
3) What was your inspiration getting into this profession?
I was always passionate about food from childhood, rolling chapatti, peeling, cutting, chopping with mother and helping her. If one could calculate it, I think I might have rolled the most number of chapattis in this country! Saying this, he lets out a chuckle.
And, we’re all working hard to earn and lead a good and healthy life, and food is a main factor in this everyday duel. Good and healthy food should be on the top of our list every day. I always wanted to choose such profession in which I can make people happy by serving delicious, good quality food.
4) What is your signature dish?
Minced chicken with Basil (Phad Kai Bai kappraow), it’s a Thai dish. It’s one of the most popular street foods in Thai cuisine. It tastes amazing, and you can also substitute Chicken with any other meat or paneer or soybeans.
5) Is there one secret ingredient or spice you love to cook with?
Star Anise… I simply love this ingredient. It’s one of those major ingredients that goes into food in all big restaurants and hotels. Many chefs use star anise to give a licorice flavor to savory dishes, particularly those with meat and poultry.
6) What is the most interesting or fun experience you’ve had while in the kitchen?
Once I was serving one of my regular customers and the accompanying lady wanted to marry her daughter to me because she liked the food so much.
I mean, you can laugh it off, but such instances grow our confidence and determination to make even more beautiful, delicious dishes.
7) One cuisine you would love to experiment with? Why?
I love to experiment with Indian cuisine because of its simplicity and diversity in nature. Plus, there are so many ingredients and varieties in Indian cuisine, there’s always so much more to explore. Even after all these years, there are many undiscovered dishes in rural heartlands of India that can be reproduced to recipes that look gorgeous and taste like heaven.
8) Name any other chef who inspired you at the start. And who is your best food critic?
The Chef who inspired me the most is Chef Surasak Niyomsin from whom I learnt my basics of Pan Asian Cuisine. Apart from being a good instructor, you should know that he cooks damn well. He did the Pan-Asian Food Festival, on at the Deccan Pavilion in the ITC Kakatiya Sheraton some time ago, and it was a feast for all fans of Eastern dishes. There were 48 dishes from those in Niyomsin’s repertoire that were served for 10 days, dishes including delicacies from such exotic cuisines as Malaysian, Singapore, Japanese, Vietnamese, Singaporean and, of course, Thai – that’s where Niyomsin hails from!
My customers are always my food critics. Real appreciation comes when I see genuine satisfaction and smiles on my customers’ faces, or that twinkle in their eyes when they taste the first bite of the food.
9) Favorite places to eat when you’re not cooking yourself?
I love to eat at Spice route at the Imperial Hotel. They have a great ambiance and some delectable Pan Asian food.
10) Who did you experiment your initial recipes on?
I experiment on my regular customers who always look forward to try innovative things made by me. From my childhood, there was my family tasting my recipes and pushing me to cook better. And a mother plays a very important role in every aspiring chef’s life, especially in India. The way they have excelled over cooking homely food over the years, no one can achieve that.
11) Where do you go when you need to escape for a breather?
I go to a park and love to see lush greens and rejuvenate myself. There are a lot of clean parks nowadays and seeing people spend some quality time there, feeling the fresh air and greenery makes me rejuvenated.
12) How did the love for cakes come through?
Love for the cakes was always there but it surfaced a few years back when I wanted to buy something for my kids but couldn’t find something good. I decided then and there, to start with cakes.
13) Any advice you would give to budding chefs?
My advice to budding chefs is that hard work, dedication & commitment is the key to success. They should learn with open mind and once learnt then they should try to innovate. These days budding chef’s wants everything instantly which is not the case or doesn’t happen. Patience is the key to producing good food.
After having some quality chat with the Chef, we headed off. Note: If you want to try some Chef specials, here is our suggestion.
If you love some cocktails, order the Dead Bastard, a heady mix of bourbon whiskey, gin, a bit of brandy, a dash of angoustra and topped with ginger beer. It’ll surely refresh you. From the appetizers you can have his Delhi Ki Chaat which is an excellent crunchy light snack made of crispy spinach leaves topped with sev, tamarind chutney, mint chutney and curd. Then there’s the Wild Mushroom Smoked Bacon Kulcha which is addictive. It has a wonderful texture, both soft and crisp, and a great smokiness imparted to it from the bacon. In the desert section, the Kulfi Gazak is something we would definitely recommend. A chocolate cup is melted with a blowtorch in front of you to unshackle a crunchy kulfi which will give a great ending to your meal.