Hello Aarthi. Thank you so much for talking to BUZZ Magazine. Firstly, we’d like to know how do you describe your style of cooking?
I use inspiration from my childhood and travel, love traditional techniques, keep my food light and exciting and have an amalgam of flavors.
What inspires you? How do you come up with ideas for the dishes in Kukree?
The chefs and restaurants I’ve worked in inspire my techniques. My flavors are inspired by my travels. I recently visited San Francisco and just moved to Seattle, so that has inspired my flavors at the moment. Growing up, falling in love with the street foods of Mumbai to my mom and grandma’s cooking inspires me always.
First word that comes to mind when I say, Foodie?
Foodie: A person who’s always looking for something new and exciting to eat wherever he/ she is. That’s definitely me. I travel in search of new eats, not for the sightseeing. I think about dinner while having lunch, I’m not afraid to try new food and I love home cooked meals.
You’re stranded on a desert island. What five ingredients would you want with you? What would you make?
I would need sea salt, garlic, cilantro, and lemons. My fifth ingredient would be my grandma’s homemade garam masala Assuming I can hunt a protein I would make something like jungli maas, a dish made by the Royals of Rajasthan when they went hunting. Even if I only found vegetables, I could roast them and season with salt and lemon. If I can’t hunt then I would ask for a nice white fish; I can eat fish all day every day.
What is that one essential item in your kitchen, apart from salt that you cannot do without?
Lemons or limes! I can’t live without the fresh and tart flavor of citrus.
The thing about cooking most novices get wrong?
Learning the basics. The new age Cooks tend to focus on modern techniques and global ingredients but forget to focus on learning the basics which are the structure of good cooking.
When you’re preparing a dish, what factors do you take into account? How do you strike the right balance?
When creating a new dish, I first look at the seasonal ingredients I can use, the theme of the menu, the coalition of all the flavors I want to put in it together and the next, how can I make it lighter.
If you had to pick a favorite, what would you pick as the star dish of Kukree and why?
The ‘Spring Chicken’ really exemplifies what we do at Kukree. We start with taking inspiration from a region, in this case, it is Mediterranean. The base is a blend of ancient grains such as amaranth and millet. Over that are gently simmered lentils. Spring vegetables such as asparagus and sunchokes are roasted. The free range chicken is marinated with cumin and coriander and pan fried. We add strawberries pickled in chili and salt herby green harissa on top. Its finished with toasted pumpkin, sunflower seeds and sesame and a fresh squeeze of lemon.
If you weren’t a chef, or in the food business, what would you be?
I would have been an actor. I loved theatrics classes growing up. I am a craftsman and an artist so an art form is my best expression.
Any message for amateur cooks?
Keep reading and traveling. Learn the basics then any cuisine or ingredient will be easy to cook.
When can we see Kukree on the streets of Mumbai?
We are hoping to bring Kukree to Mumbai hopefully within a year. That’s our goal. We want to give back to the community that brought us up.