In an evolving world, food is no different. When you talk about Chinese food, it isno longer just the indianised ‘Chin-dian’ but an array of choices. From a time when your only dining options were Indian, Continental or Chinese we now have a choice of Japanese, Mexican or even Spanish, the culinary world is changing, adapting and striving for newer better things. And for foodies like me it is a welcome change.
But this great big tidal wave of change however fascinating and exciting, is also expensive and for most out of reach. Let’s face it not everyone has the spending power to dine at 5 star hotels or expensive stand alone restaurants frequently. So when food festivals like ‘TASTE OF MUMBAI’ come to town, it’s a haven of culinary delights and one festival food lover should NOT miss.
I think food festivals and events like the Taste Of Mumbai are golden opportunities to understand food a little better, hone your cooking skills and sample some fine cuisine from top notch Indian and International chefs and restaurants.
The Taste festivals happen in cities all across the world from London, New York, Dubai and now its come to Mumbai. This three day festival had various restaurants like Aurus, Koh at the Intercontinental, Prego at the Westin, Caperberry from Bangalore, Impressario hospitality that runs Smoke House Deli, Salt Water Cafe etc and a lot more putting up stalls and giving guests the opportunity to sample their favourites and even their iconic dishes at a relatively affordable price.
Lots of food demo’s by various chefs like Nadia Lim who is the Masterchef New Zealand winner, Ritu Dalmia who is seen on TV and has her own Italian restaurant in Delhi, Bill Marchetti who is the executive Chef for the Spaghetti Kitchen chain of restaurants across India, Celebrity chef Vicky Ratnani who is the genius at Aurus in Juhu and also has an extremely popular show on tv called ‘Vicky Goes Veg’ and many many more.
The Taste Theatre At Night – All The Demos Took Place Here
The festival also includes a farmers market where organic stalls like the baker’s dozen, Samsakara and Danz breads took part.
Breads By The Baker’s Dozen
I spent two whole days bouncing from demo to demo stall to stall trying to absorb every inch of it. While most publications and writers will sum up the festival for you and tell you what was there I thought it best to share with my readers my personal experience.
The festival for me was this very Alice in wonderland experience. It wasn’t about just watching some fancy chef cook or eating food at a cheaper price, it was about meeting the people who are responsible for the ever changing food culture in the city.
One of the first demo’s I sat for was Gresham Fernandes executive chef for Impressario Hospitality. The chain does a brilliant job with all their properties be it Salt Water Cafe, Smoke House Deli or even Tasting Room along with many more. Interestingly Chef Gresham was part of a privileged lot that was invited to intern at Noma in Copenhagen voted best restaurant in the world three times in a row! Through his demonstration he kept talking about little cooking tips that help make the dish better. At one point he spoke about aging meat, and how its best to marinade meat and let it rest which is something that immediately struck home because here I am stuck with my favourite chef- daddy dearest who refuses to cook his meat unless its ‘rested’ for a day or two ! Later in the evening I went up to say hello and tell him that I enjoyed his demo and didn’t even realise when my 5 minute hello turned into a 45 min chat about food, Mumbai, restaurants and everything else about food in the city!
Chef Gresham Fernandes At His Demo
Always a pleasure meeting the vivacious Zeba Kohli! A pity I missed her demo but once you’re in the fantasy chocolate stall it’s so hard to get out!! She was nice enough to let me have a go at the chocolate fountain and try some coffee flavoured chocolates.
What Was Left Of The Flavoured Chocolate Fountain
Bill Marchetti is someone I’ve wanted to meet for a very long time. Mainly because I think he’s a fantastic cook and doing a brilliant job as Executive Chef for the Spaghetti Kitchen chain of restaurants. I really feel that Spaghetti Kitchen is one of the few stand alones that has been churning out good Italian food, at a relatively affordable price, for quite a while now. In fact I’ll even go as far as saying they probably do one of the best Caesar’s salads in the city. And when I met him briefly I made sure to tell him that and was rewarded with a wonderful bright smile and a warm hug.
Chef Bill Marchetti At His Demo
His demo was informative and hilarious. He’s one of those chefs who is funny without even realising it.He showed us how to make a squid ink spicy risotto and I’m so glad I got a tasting portion because it was excellent.
Tasting Portions Of The Squid Ink Risotto
Aneesha Baig was seen with her camera man taking bytes and interviews at different stalls and I really wanted to go up and say hi. I enjoy watching her show and can relate to it because I really will travel for food and have done so many times. I was incredibly shy because there were so many people about and I didn’t want to seem silly so I just hung back. Thankfully I managed to catch her alone for a moment and went up to say hello and once again tell her I wish I could BE her! She’s such a warm person and the easiest to talk to.We talked about food, how Tony Bourdain can get away with saying the stuff he does on his shows and how that would NEVER fly here and even how we both think the berry pulao at Britannia is over rated. I didn’t expect to ever meet Aneesha but I’m so glad I did. Maybe one day when we talk again we’ll be discussing my show and the different places I’ve discovered. Oh well.. A girl can dream can’t she?
Aneesha Baig In Action
Despite the array of cuisines and so many chefs to interact with the highlight for me was meeting Chef Jehangir Mehta, owner and executive chef of Mehtaphor and Graffiti in New York. I’ve never eaten at any of his restaurants but the curiosity to meet him was tremendous because for the last 6 months my darling neighbour has been going on about ‘aapro Jehangir’ who makes ‘soju bhonu’ (excellent food). I find Chef Jehangir to be fantastic with his demos. The one with kids was adorable, where he picked up a little boy, plonked him on the kitchen counter and then asked him what he liked or didn’t like and cooked impromptu according to the little fellows’ choices. He got two other girls to come up and help him and it was a treat to see the chef whizzing about the kitchen and entertaining the kids and the audience. The one thing you notice is that Chef Jehangir is a pro with people and even during his adult demo where he was cooking to a packed audience he seemed to charm them through with his sense of humour and jokes about Gujarati’s, Punjabis and even Parsis ! No one was spared but the crowd loved him! So much so that Bill Marchetti the executive chef for Spaghetti Kitchen and a reputed international chef in his own right said Chef Jehangir was a talented delight to watch and had a brilliant sense of humour.
Chef Jehangir Mehta And Chef Nadia Lim
I was so hesitant to approach him but was too excited to miss the opportunity and when I finally did it was a pleasure to meet a chef who was more than happy to interact with everyone. I thought with all his reputation and celeb status it would be difficult to get a hold of him but he’s so relaxed and even chats up customers at the restaurant stall. Casually chatting with patrons and old friends who have come to encourage and meet the local boy (he grew up in Bombay and then left for America) you would never imagine you are chatting with an Iron Chef!
In the midst of all my stall hopping and chef chatting suddenly I spot my very own cousin who was working at the Grafitti stall assisting Chef Jehangir. Darius is a chef who’s worked at some super places like the Tratoria and Konkan Cafe at the Taj president hotel, Sanchos the Mexican Mecca and was even part of the team at Sassy Spoon till very recently. I have to say I was so proud watching him at work.A great bonus because I got lovely photos of Chef Jehangir and even took some sneaky ones of Chef Darius at work.
Chef Darius Madon And Chef Jehangir Mehta
Chef Madon At Work
One stall that really surprised me with brilliant food was Prego the Italian restaurant at the Westin Hotel. Ajay Chopra who is the executive chef and also one of the judges on the Indian Masterchef series was a delight to talk to. After attacking his spaghetti aglio olio and my friend and fellow blogger Richa devoured their tiramisu we ended up chatting with the chef for quite a while. Talking about the tv show, people’s reactions and perception to it, food of course, fresh produce and how the ingredients make the dish. For two days the one thing you constantly heard being yelled loudly at the festival was ‘ Prego Prego !! Come and eat at Prego !” and once you got to the stall you saw some of the most interactive things like clown noses and funny glasses and I can’t help but ask chef why the gimmickry ?He points out that food is about enjoying it and having fun.It is all about fun dining and Prego as a restaurant wants to endorse that. I think that’s a great concept and this being my first Prego experience I look forward to a meal at the restaurant very soon.
Chef Ajay Chopra With A Delighted Patron
Seafood Aglio Olio
One of my favourite Indian chefs is Vicky Ratnani. Dad and I despite being ridiculously intense meat eaters seem to really enjoy his show ‘ vicky goes veg’. We use to watch it quite often and I think dad’s even tried one or two of his recipes. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Chef Vicky at a previous food event and then again at a restaurant and I think not only is he talented (the stall at Aurus had stellar food) but he is hilarious! His demo was lovely and in fact along with Pooja Dhingraa’s his demo seemed to be the most popular one with a packed audience. However the real treat was in sampling the food at the Aurus stall. I think out of all the stalls present Aurus hit the nail on the head. In terms of taste, portion, pricing and over all decor of the stall I think they got it down perfectly. It wasn’t very expensive, you got a really good ‘tasting’ portion not some measly one or two pieces in a dish and it really filled you up. Again another restaurant that I can’t wait to visit. Something tells me the next date night might be at Aurus.
A Spicy Cottage Cheese Dish
A Tuna Dish
Chef Vicky Ratnani In Action During His Demo
Apart from these I also met Chef Mayank from Olive in Pune, Abhijit Sawa from Caperberry in Bangalore, Chef Viraf Patel of Cafe Zoe and yummy food from Kofuku Aurus, Caperberry, Impressario, Koh, Olive and many many more. I know I should be describing the food but instead I thought I’d share my experience and then the all the pictures so you get an idea of what kind of a food fiesta this festival was. Taste Of Mumbai, I cannot wait to see what you bring in 2014!!