I am discovering my country through food, as I travel its length and breadth tasting and savouring new flavours, spices, local specialties and ingredients from local markets,” says gourmand and celebrity Chef Vicky Ratnani. In Chandigarh recently on the invitation of 35 Brewhouse to curate a Global Gourmet Menu, Ratnani is known to create an eclectic and peppy mix of international delights, fused with local seasonal ingredients to create a unique experiential palate.
Armed with a vast gastronomic experience, courtesy his travels across the globe, Ratnani is known for preparing traditional Indian delicacies with his signature global twists. “I was staying abroad for almost two decades, and have been classically trained in European food, but cooking with local ingredients has always been a passion, as I scout local vegetable markets wherever I go, to keenly explore all the seasonal ingredients and create menus and spreads that infuse local ingredients in international cuisines and also serving dishes with an Indian twist. The idea is to serve comfort food with a global appeal, while keeping its Indian soul intact. I travel for food, innovating and exploring. My cooking style is global, but soul is Indian,” says Ratnani.
Now back in India, he travels to create new recipes, and says he is in touch with local chefs and home cooks in various cities to learn the nuances of local food, with his latest lesson being in making homemade tomato ketchup. “I have a special affinity with spices, for cooking with spices is chemistry. This is such an amazing time for food in our country. New chefs are on top of their game and Indian food is very aspirational, as Western chefs want to learn Indian cuisine,” he says.
One of his signature creations is Mexicali Grilled Corn on the Cob Chaat, a fun entree with the best of Mexican street-style grilled corn served in a chatpata avatar of our street favourite, chaat. The Meat Pie on the other hand, has the authentic slow-cooked lamb topped with spicy and tangy mashed potatoes, simmered in Indian spices and tomato gravy in the traditional handi. Another dish created for the menu is the Italian calzone, spiked with Punjabi Butter Chicken and the Mac and Cheese Lobster with green chilli. “Each bite of the food must have a dash of new flavour combinations. Take the Crispy Fish Tacos, for instance, a Mexican delicacy that I have topped with an Indianised sauce combining the fresh flavours of beetroot, cucumber and yoghurt. Yet another amazing flavour pairing is of exotic vegetables and Rajasthani Mathania chillies, served in the plant-based calzone,” adds Ratnani.
“I like to cook more for the people now. People are very conscious of what they are eating, and want to trace the source of the food. As a chef, it is my responsibility to serve honest, healthy and delicious food. I support local farmers, local produce and sustainability in food creation,” adds the chef, who is now documenting his mother’s recipes as part of the Mother India Project.