You recently became the first Indian woman to receive a Michelin star rating for your restaurant, Gaa, in Thailand, which is just one and a half years old. Receiving it in such a short time is quite an achievement. What do you feel really stood out?
It is how unique Gaa is—the flavours, techniques and combinations we use. One of our favourite dishes today is a jackfruit bread course in which unripe jackfruit is paired with ripe jackfruit bread. Combining the two, we serve it with a lot of pickles on the side. It is unique and different, yet common to both cultures. That is a very good example of how we do things.
You worked with Rene Redzepi, co-founder of the restaurant Noma in Denmark, who challenged the idea of service and traditional dining room hierarchy. What were some of the takeaways of working with him?
Noma had a major influence on me. What I learnt there is that cooking is more of a cerebral exercise. You have to think about everything, challenge dining norms and come up with your own signatures. Individuality in your food is very important.
What made you change course from journalism to become a chef?
I was covering the pharma beat as a journalist. But I understood that if you want to work in a kitchen, you have to start very young. I quit six months after working as a journalist and moved to Paris to study. I was 21 then.
Do you see any bold food trends from India?
All of us in general should look more inwards than outwards for food trends. Our food culture and history are very important. Preserving them is paramount. It is so easy to ape the west and do what restaurants outside the country are doing. We have a highly technical cuisine. These are the techniques we need to talk about and give to the world. What about the food techniques in the different tribal areas of the country? Religious food or temple food? That is what modern Indian food should be. It is not ‘deconstructing’ butter chicken or dal.