In this weekly series, we bring to you a renowned chef who will reveal details on his/her first time in the kitchen and most memorable meals.
Chef’s profile: Masterchef Milind Sovani has played a pivotal role in putting Indian cuisine on the global map. He has constantly innovated and brought about a sea change in the culinary world. After spending 13 restless years in Singapore and being habitual to winning awards, learning and teaching the culinary secrets, Milind is now back in India to give back to his home country. His debut restaurant in India, April Rain is located in the prime areas of Aundh and Deccan.
Desijam (DJM): With Navratri approaching, tell us the must-have for this festive season.
Milind Sovani (MS): These nine days have many people observe fasts, so it is important for them to include dishes which are rich in carbohydrates, proteins and starch. These will provide them with energy to sustain fasting. It is advisable to have a lot of fruits, fresh juices and dry fruits. It will help them be active throughout the day. Sabudana is a good option to have. A recipe I recommend is Phaldari tikki. It has raw banana and sweet potato, a perfect blend of starch and carbohydrates.
DJM: What was your first experiment in the kitchen and what did it look like?
MS: I entered the kitchen at home at a very young age. It was when I realised eating and cooking goes hand in hand. There were two items I was a master at, puris and dosas. I remember my mom praising my qualities of making less oil puris and perfect dosas. It all started when I was in class six. Honestly, my interest was not in the art of cooking but more towards eating. I knew if I helped mom to cook, then I would be able to lay hands on the item before anyone else in the house! I would get to eat good food before everyone else.
DJM: What other than cooking excites you?
MS: I enjoy theatre. I have directed plays at state level in college. If not a chef, then I would definitely be in the field of theatre. I lost touch with regional theatre when I moved to Singapore. The other thing I enjoy is travelling.
DJM: Which has been your most memorable meal?
MS: I remember two meals distinctly one was when I was a part of six Singaporean chefs invited to the US. Internationally acclaimed French chef Daniel Boulud prepared a 13-course meal, which was paired with 13 different wines. We had the who’s who of the US food industry with us. It was a very memorable the dinner. The second one would be the romantic dinner in a cable car in Singapore. My wife and I were treated to a six-course meal for our anniversary. The cable car from Sentosa to Mount Faber was laid with a beautiful table. Everytime the journey ended a new course would be served. We were there for about three hours enjoying a meal served literally in the sky.
DJM: How often do you cook at home?
MS: Mostly on the day I am not working which is very rare! But maybe a Monday when I am slightly relaxed and excuse myself from the restaurant in the evening. My daughter loves pastas and pizzas that I make. My wife and she also enjoy Singapore chicken rice which they miss eating now that we are here.
DJM: What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you see Indian food?
MS: When I see Indian food, I find it amazing for its variation and range. No other cuisine can have that. But what also comes to mind is the commercial Indian food which restaurants and hotels serve. Sadly, it is in a confused state. It has become a mismatch of cashew gravy in red, green or yellow colour. Cooks are making unhealthy food with colours, cashews, butter and cream. Good food can be made without these. The perception has changed and I blame the cooks not the customers. What they make is undoubtedly it is tasty but that does not mean it is good.
DJM: What is your opinion on food-based reality shows?
MS: I think the cookery shows were basically about imparting knowledge from one source to the other. Be it a housewife or an experienced chef. It was about showing recipes on television. After a while, they felt the need to bring in masala and glamour to up TRPs. When glamour was brought, the quality of food was thrown out. It became only about good looking food and people, which is sad. This is not only about television. In my 30 years as a chef, I have noticed young chefs think Internet in inspiration. Innovation has become Google, which is dangerous from a food point of view. New dishes will not be born if this trend continues. We need to have more chef and culinary based competitions to bring out talent. There is a huge need for such competitions at a professional level.
Recipe by Chef Milind:
Phaldhari Tikki: (A tasty and unique vegetarian starter)
2 raw bananas
1 cup green coriander
2 sweet potatoes
3 green chillies
1 onion (medium)
1 tsp chat masala
Salt (to taste)
½ tbsp lime
½ cup maida
1 cup oil
8-10 cashew nuts
Boil raw banana and sweet potato. Peel the skin and grate it. Chop chilies, coriander and onion. Combine this with above grated veggies. Add the seasoning, lime juice. Mix it well. Divide the mixture into eight balls and shape them like pears. Dust it with maida, shallow fry it on the tawa until golden brown. Garnish it with a fried cashew nut. Serve hot.