Aylur and Gopinathan at The Taj Mahal Palace kitchen. Pic/Bipin Kokate
A fortnight ago, London met America in Mumbai, when Chef Sriram Aylur from Quilon, a coastal Indian cuisine restaurant at Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences London, and chef Srijith Gopinathan of Taj Campton Place, San Francisco, teamed up to present a four-course meal.
The star chefs, who have been friends for many years, were cooking in India for the first time in over two decades, since they moved to their respective outposts where they earned their Michelins (Aylur has one and Gopinathan two). The two put up a four-course menu which included a special seafood platter called Fisherman’s Catch. "It has got shrimp, black cod and scallop. A simple dish but high on flavours and texture," Aylur tells us, pointing out that the latter is overlooked by home cooks.
Michelin-star chefs don’t do anything differently, he explains. "There is no guide to follow that will ensure us a star. The key is to look for consistency and innovation in taste, textures and overall presentation," says Aylur. So then, what keeps home cooks from presenting a Michelin-star dish at family dinners, we ask him. "The biggest constraint I see, is overcooking, be it meat or vegetables. They are cooked till they lose their character, flavour and texture. Take the example of chicken — the quality of chicken has improved so much over the years, but we still treat it like how we got it 20 years ago. The trick is to cook to the optimum requirement," he says.
The Fisherman’s Catch
Offering his inputs, Gopinath says, "The other problem is using a lot of spices. We want to see colour in each dish. Be it cinnamon, star anise, or mace — they all have to be used like medicine, in small quantities," he tells us. He adds that one must not shy away from using technology at home either. "Most of us have combination ovens at home. Take time to go through the manual and use it. You will be able to appreciate your meats and vegetables better," he adds.
Aylur has a last tip for the young generation of home cooks, "Don’t try to be us, as we second guess a lot of things. As a beginner, don’t shy away from using a recipe, be it from your grandmother or a cook-book, and follow it to the T. And, never assume cooking is as easy as it looks on television food shows. That is all gimmick."