Interview with MasterChef Aditya Bal,
Don’t forget to watch him every Friday on NDTV Good Times “Bachelor’s Kitchen”
AB – My journey so far has been very interesting. It has been a mix restaurant work stints and cookery show hosting. There has been a lot of travel related to work and it has given me a great insight into cuisine and culture and the link between them. It has also been extremely challenging in terms of the quality of work that we have strived to deliver and I hope the journey continues to be as amazing in the future.
MS – When did you first realize that you wanted to be a Chef?
AB – 6 years ago when I started cooking as a time pass at home and quickly realized how much I enjoyed the art and process of cooking.
MS – What are your fondest Food memories?
AB – I remember the amazing cakes my nani used to make for me as a kid. It was just too exciting to see what she would make for us each time. She was an amazing cook. My mom’s cooking at home will always be special too. Most of her dishes are still my favorite food today.
MS – What is the greatest compliment that you have received?
AB – I think I was once told by a viewer that due to the recipes she had picked up from me, she has been able to win over her in laws and her family’s heart and that she thanked me for the difference I had made in her life. That was truly a humbling moment for me.
MS – What is your favorite cookbook?
AB – Honestly I don’t have just one favorite book but many different cookbooks each with something different and amazing to learn from.
MS – Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks?
AB – Yes I do recommend at least some form of training. It all depends on how far you want to take your cooking experience. If you are looking at it professionally then it’s an important step in a person’s development as a chef and will help in getting a foothold in the industry. For those who want to keep it casual so to speak, then good cooking classes/ courses really help in brushing up and learning of new skills.
MS – Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
AB – Though I haven’t had too many mentors in the industry, I have leant a lot from reading and observing the works and cooking philosophies of chefs across the globe through their books and shows. Jamie Oliver, Ferran Adria, heston Blumenthal, Thomas keller and many more. Manish Mehrotra is another great chef whose work I really look upto today. Rahul Akerkars work has been instrumental in shaping modern european dining in our country as well.
MS – What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
AB – I like to keep things simple if possible. So classic herb and aromatic combinations along with sauces and spice rubs is what I use to flavor foods. Basil, garlic and chilly, coriander, green chilly and lime. Fennel and pepper for fish and seafood. Rosemary , lamb and potatoes, pork and apples, fish and grapes, ginger, galic and onions of course!! Beef and red wine.
MS – Any 5 ingredients that you keep handy?
AB – Pasta, rice, aromatic vegetables, smoked meats, extra virgin olive oil.
MS – What has been a major highlight in your career so far?
AB – To this point my work on Chakh Le India, and Kaccha Raasta on ndtv goodtimes has been the most unique experience and has given me a fantastic learning opportunity. I have had the chance to see places and meet people I would never had even dreamt off so yes its one of the highlights of my culinary career for sure.
MS – Besides cooking, what else are you passionate about?
AB – I’m passionate about football and automobiles. I also love music and aircraft.
MS – What is your favourite dish?
Ab – A good home style mutton curry with rice is pretty much it for me!!
MS – If someone has to cook for you, what would you prefer?
Ab – Anything seasonal and fresh, something that celebrates local produce and simple clean flavors.
MS – What is the most important skill you think a chef should have?
AB – A good chef is a great leader and motivator, someone who sets high standards for `him/her self.
MS – What do you enjoy most about cooking? What are your greatest stresses? Your greatest joys?
AB – I actually enjoy the process of cooking. For me it starts with the produce naturally as that is your canvas so to speak. I enjoy not knowing what I’m going to find on the market to inspire me to cook a particular kind of dish. You start out then with a whole lot of ingredients, which you then turn into something delicious for everyone to enjoy. For me it’s that joy of feeding people that keeps me going. I also derive immense satisfaction when I know I’ve cooked something truly superb. But I’m never really 100 percent happy with my output and that’s a good thing for me in a way. I need to keep pushing and have so much more to do in the field still. One my greatest stress is the high level of expectation people have from me. They sometimes expect me to know just about everything about cookery, but fact is no one knows it all. Also, they do expect even the simplest of dishes made by me to be something spectacular, and that is pressure for me. It’s not humanly possible to get it bang on each and every time!
MS – Do you have any humbling or humorous anecdotes from your career?
AB – Visiting the golden temple in Amritsar and seeing 80,000 people being fed in a single day was just mind boggling and so totally humbling for me. The generosity and humility of most of the people I have met in some of the most remote villages and town in our country has made me realize you do not need to have much to be truly wealthy in your heart. I’ve been humbled by the diversity and greatness of our nation and its people. I remember trying to offer money to a poor family somewhere in Maharastra a few years back in order for them to cook us a meal for camera. I wanted to pay for the ingredients for the dish. Instead they not only took mild offence for the gesture but made sure that they cooked a fed the entire crew till we were all happily stuffed with delicious local treats. Truly humbling for me and the crew too.
MS – Do you feel the necessity to learn more as a chef? What do you think you would want to focus more on?
AB – Absolutely, I feel I’m like a novice of sorts in the kitchen. There is just too much more to learn and observe. So many flavors to understand, techniques, tricks, cultures and cuisines to experience and learn from.
MS – What is your signature dish?
AB – Though I don’t have a signature dish, people do enjoy a lot of my regional Indian creations, but I like to cook simple food mostly. I enjoy rich luxurious flavors, as well so I cook some decent European food too. I do like a classic Asian chicken broth and noodles too for cooking!!
MS – Any piece of advice for novice and budding chefs?
AB – It would be to always respect food and the craft of cookery. To follow their instinct but more importantly to remind themselves that cooking is a fundamental science and the basics most be super strong. To strive for excellence in the kitchen and not worry about the results too much!!