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Feasting on Art: Modern India Cooks!

Feasting on Art: Modern India Cooks!

Essence of India - Sn 1/Ep 7Essence of India - Sn 1/Ep 7

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Interspersed with some of India's budding art museums, we seek out outstanding chefs who emphasize new techniques in Indian cuisine, bringing in a touch of the Japanese, French, and all around experimental styles of presenting food - to the point that it becomes difficult to know where the art ends and the food begins.

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- [Samira] Food in India is swiftly becoming more than just a bunch of elements with lots of spices, deliciously cooked and served up in large platters to feed family and friends. A handful of restaurants are becoming veritable museums thanks to their new attitude to food. In this episode, interspersed with the budding art museums, we seek out outstanding chefs who emphasize new techniques in Indian food preparations and bring a touch of the Japanese and French styles of presenting food. It becomes difficult to know where the art ends and the food begins. I'll let you be the judge of that. Wow look at this sculpture, it's a huge piece of modern art, and I'm thrilled as a chef. It has every piece, or every cooking utensil, one can imagine for an Indian kitchen. Just check it out. The Mumbai Dubbawala statue is a tribute to the effortless food system in India's financial capital, Mumbai. The 5,000 or so dubbawalas, or food carriers, in the city have an astounding service record. Every working day, they transport more than 130,000 lunchboxes throughout Mumbai, the world's 4th most popular city. Legendary for its reliability, this system has attracted worldwide attention and visits by Prince Charles, Richard Branson, and employees of Federal Express. This is the amazing thing about walking down beautiful corridors in India. You stumble on gorgeous pieces of modern art, and this is the classis dubbawala from Bombay, and he's made of all these tiny little clocks. And now I'm headed to a fabulous modern art gallery. A good way to tease some of the fabulous food, and of course the chefs behind the creations, I thought, would be to visit two of India's leading art visionaries. Not such a long time ago, art wasn't a valued commodity in a country where owning land and business reigned supreme. But as young India moves quickly into the 21st century, thanks partly to television and the World Wide Web, the importance of art has amplified. Kiran Nadar, the founder of India's first philanthropic art museum and Forbes Asia's Hero of Philanthropy, meets us at her modern Indian art gallery. - I look to build a collection which is complete, and therefore, if I have an artist when I find there's a gap in the collection, then I try and acquire those works which fill in the gaps. And so today, I have a pretty large collection. We have about 3,000 works in the collection. - [Samira] So where did her journey begin? - My first painting that I acquired in my life was a Broota. We were doing up our home, and I was looking for art for the walls, and I visited Broota in his studio, and I just thought it was phenomenal work of art. So I took an image, and I committed to buy it, and I took it and showed it to my husband. And my husband was horrified. He said that such a graphic work, and my mother lives with us, and our daughter was barely seven or eight years old, and he said, "A male frontal nude? We can't buy it." So I said, "Well I've already committed so we have to go and apologize to the artist, so let's go. And then we'll give a reason and we'll back out." So we went, and he took one look at the painting and he said, "No I think you're right. We have to have it." Art can move mountains. - I would say you're a very forward-thinking couple. I don't know if my parents, or I would do that, but you're very brave. Now I understand why, coming here. I'm always amazed by the leaps and bounds with which Indian culture is going into the future, so can you just comment on that as someone who loves art, such a visionary as yourself? - Well I wish it ... more, there were more collectors, and more young collectors because unless young collectors come into the art scene, it's very hard to sustain. - [Samira] That was an incredible and informative session. Next, a man who is the president of the Oberoi Group of hotels, Kapil Chopra, who moonlights as an Indian visionary in the art world, where art is universal in its outlook and yet not out of bounds for an influential collector or the average collector. - Being into art, or being associated with art, is actually a natural extension of life. - And I see that this is a natural extension of your interest in ... obviously, you see your hotels as art, and therefore just tell me the ethos of this gallery. - I've been an art collector for over a decade right now. I just got fascinated, I thought it was all hocus pocus when I started, really. How can art be valued, I had no idea. And then suddenly, I had a show at one of my hotels and I saw it, and I was mesmerized, and I think the love story started then. And the natural extension of this place, which is Art District 13, why 13? Because 13 is ... everybody has a negative mysticism on 13. - Yeah, in my building in New York, there's no 13th floor. - And in hotels, there's never a 13th floor. - As someone who is Indian but lives outside, and I come back every few years, I see so much change in everything. Art, food, fashion, I see incredible change and it's moving in a direction. - I think, honestly, it's the sign of a growing economy, it's the sign of maybe the next powerhouse in the world economy really coming through. It's a sign of a maturing India, really, now really coming in with all its power, and I see it myself whenever I go out for a couple of weeks, I see the change myself. I see it every month. I think it's the return of experience, if you really ask me, because at the end of the day, life is all about experiential living. And I think that's what it is about, really. So I think India is about experiencing it there. Have some great food, have some great wine, and live well. Deepak Nainwal works in the medium considered to be the food of gods, chocolate. If I were to be stranded on a deserted island, I would love to be stranded with him. First of all, he's an artist, and I love art, and he's a chocolatier and pastry maker, so I wouldn't go hungry. The shape of India, look at it, it's just beautiful. How long does it take, tell me how you make these. - It's just a block of chocolate, and we carve it by using different kind of tools. - These kind of tools? - Yeah, we use the tool according to the situation, molding and all. - What did you make this for? - I made it for Republic day. This beard is representing Islam, this cross is representing Christianity, and by cap, he is Hindu. - [Samira] So chef, I'm very intrigued by this piece. Can you tell me what it's about? - This is Christmas Day special, it's Jesus resting on the lap of an angel. - I've never seen anything so beautiful, and I have one question. I'm wearing gold earrings and this looks like gold. Did you put real gold, how did you achieve this gold? - No it's not real, actually, we get edible proprietor gold in powder form, so we generally apply it with a brush, and then we blowtorch it. - So it's edible gold. Is it expensive? Is this art from the wall, what is it I see here? - No, this is complete chocolate painting. - It's a chocolate painting? - Yeah, it has chocolate, emulsified are edible colors, and it has cocoa butter. This block is completely made with chocolate. You can see this block. - This whole thing is made of chocolate. So I can just take a bite of it right now. No, I wouldn't do that it's so pretty. - And this is dark chocolate, and this is white chocolate. - I don't know whether to just look at it or eat it. - [Samira] The old saying, you eat with your eyes first, I know some of the old plating tricks, height, using odd numbers, contrasting colors, keeping things just slightly asymmetrical, and my food can look pretty good. And at a lunch catch-up with David Mathews, the GM of Gurgaon's Oberoi Hotel, says India's becoming eco-friendly as well, starting with his hotel in the city of Gurgaon, the home to over 50% of the world's Fortune 500 companies. I love the way you've maintained the authenticity of the food. - What I love about Indian food is it's the cuisine that hasn't been invented by chefs in restaurants, it's an evolutionary cuisine that has come from homes, from grandmothers, mothers, daughters, wives, and is therefore a labor of love. It's about putting that smile on your family's faces when they dig in to dinner. So we like to go back to almost your grandmother's recipes, and make sure that we get the right stuff done the way it should be done. - Well this does not look like any of my grandmother's recipes. This is fabulous, look at this beautifully presented- - This is just chef's creation. I think what they love most is the fact that they get this canvas, which they can then create on. - Speaking of fusion, there's the man himself. We're just admiring your food, chef. So what is it, tell me. - We've got some Japanese scallops, Scottish salmon, with green pea gel, and some cauliflower foam, and that's mizuna lettuce. - And then what's David got in front of him? - A braised pork belly, so the technique is oriental, it's a star anise flavor. You have an apple yogurt at the bottom. Some caramelized onions, and fresh cranberries. This is a lamb loin, New Zealand lamb loin. And it's got some charcoal dust on it. And with some vegetables which are baked in the oven. - This looks like a very, very beautiful goat cheese salad. - It's bocconcini, and some fresh tomatoes and parsnip hearts. - So how would you describe this cuisine? - I would say it's a lot of specialty cuisines, which have merged together and taken the best of all the worlds, and put them into one single plate attractively. - Very attractively, I must say. I don't think I could do this at home. I don't know many people who could do this. Is it hard? - No it's very simple, I mean this is ... I could probably show you how to do it right now. - [Samira] Next, a quick plating class from master chef Ravitej Nath, known for being the king of creating the gorgeous plate. He claims it's super easy, so I ask him to show me some tricks. - This is some pesto dressing. The key is to make things flow a little naturally. - So are you designing the plate as you go, or do you have an idea in your head and then ... - I have a fair idea of where things should be, but you just keep adding as you go. - So there's a flow, there's sort of a concept behind it. You set the parameters with the pesto, - Yes, and now this is the key ingredient, which is the bocconcini, so that's simple. It's a fresh cheese. - Is it like goat cheese, or more like mozzarella? - Yeah, more like mozzarella. - It's more of an Italian sort of a cheese. - Yeah, mozzarella and tomatoes go very well with basil. So you have pesto, tomatoes, and some olive oil, of course. - Yes, olive oil is essential. So I would describe this almost like a very modern, nouvelle Italian salad. - You could say it's a variant on the salad caprese. - And these are ... ? - These are microgreens. - [Samira] Wow, I never thought that we could use flowers in a dish. - These are just some organic flowers, edible flowers, which we've been growing. And as they come along, we keep adding them to our various dishes. - [Samira] I love that he's using edible flowers, and I love his juxtaposition of colors. Purple, yellow, orange, everything just seems to pop, and beautifully. Boccancini cheese, and look at this. It's like a beautiful medley, it's like a perfect quartet on the plate, or sonnet, beautiful sonnet. This is poetry on a plate, created in about five seconds by master chef. - See, I told you it's easy. - You make it look easy, it's not that easy. It's gorgeous, though, thank you. - [Samira] We have a lovely chat over a fabulous meal. - Just like to leave some sort of a little memory that we can give you to take away of your time from here. - [Samira] And then they had a surprise for me. Oh my god, I love it! Oh my god, just look at that. It's me, in chocolate, I love it? Can I smile like that? I'm thrilled, thank you so much, and thank you. - Good enough to eat. - I don't know if I can eat this. I don't know if I can carry this back to New York, I'm gonna have to freeze wrap it or something, but it's pretty amazing. The talented chocolate chef, Deepak, whom I met for barely an hour, has created something for me in chocolate, they say. What do you think? - I've seen better ones. - Oh, stop it, you're just a sassy age, I've seen better ones. He is impressed, I can see that. - Can I have one of these? - No, you can't, not allowed. - I'm keeping this, this is for me. Now we're meeting up with Prashant Kalra, and old friend who's giving me a snapshot of the Primo Privilege Club he's starting, as India makes its move into the uber cultured and sophisticated world of fine dining. He's launched a brand new club, which allows select members privileged access to some of the best spas, restaurants, and stores in the country. And Kalra explains this new concept to me. So Prashant, I have a black box in front of me. Has India come so far that there are places you can't get into? In India, you could walk into any restaurant you wanted to, and now there are men like him creating Soho houses in Delhi. What is this, explain it to me. - It's not as complicated, we've tried to create a privileged program where people can get benefits at restaurants, spas, shops, online platforms, whatever. And the idea is, it's difficult to get in on both sides. Only if you're someone who's doing exceptional work in your field can you be admitted into the program as a cardholder, and on the business side, you need to be offering top notch service, food, or what have you, to be included in the program as a business partner. But once you become a part of the platform, it's basically a means to connect the best businesses with the best clientele. - [Samira] And then of course, I have one very important question. Would I be allowed in? - You apply, we do a background check, and if you make the cut, then we add you. In your case- - I'm never gonna make the cut. - [Prashant] We do make exceptions, so consider yourself included. - Thank you. The downside, or rather the upside of tasting menus in fine dining is that there's a lot of wine. - [Samira] Now we take a delicious and hearty North Indian cuisine and give it an artistic twist. It's no easy feat. There's a chef in town I must visit, Chef Satinder of Punjab grill, and we're making something called a makki ki roti cheesecake, or a cornbread cheesecake. I know that this roti's a flatbread used during one's main course, usually with a vegetable of spinach. So how is he gonna do it, make a cheesecake out of something that's a basic Indian flatbread? Hey chef, what are we making today? - We are making makki ki roti cheesecake. - For me, makki ki roti takes me back to my childhood. And then you're telling me you're mixing it with cheesecake? - Yes. - A New York City specialty? - So it's a novel cuisine, mixing traditional Punjabi in house ingredients, like grinded cornmeal, with a New York City cheesecake. We have 650 grams of Philadelphia cheese, two and a half cups. - Two and a half cups. Okay that's a lot of cheese, okay. - We'll be adding full cream in it. - Cream cheese needs more cream, because that's what cheesecake is all about, right? - Yes. After cream, we're adding four egg yolks. And 30 grams of refined flour, four tablespoons. So we'll be mixing it. - Okay, do you whip it, or you just mix it? - [Satinder] We whip it. - Whip it, all right so whip. - [Satinder] It's perfect now. - [Samira] This is fun. - Then we'll be going to fold four egg whites. - [Samira] So I have a question, this is baking. - Yes, baking. You have folded it up, then we'll add 150 grams of sugar, six tablespoons. It's done. - That was quick, okay. - [Satinder] Next, we have to do for the crust. This is cornmeal, makki ka aata. My personal favorite, jaggery. Then we add some fat into it, white butter. - Fat, white butter. - [Satinder] So we are adding three spoons of clarified butter. - How many calories in a piece of this? - [Satinder] 500 calories. - I see everyone has their surgeon's gloves on. Can I have a glove, chef, just 'cause once you stir it, I always want to feel it, 'cause that's the only way you know how things feel. - [Satinder] We'll be adding some more of butter. - So clarified? - Clarified. Two more spoons. That's it. So our crust is ready. - I like it. - [Satinder] So for the crust, we'll be adding all our mixture into the mold. - Can I help you? - Yeah, please. All yours. - See, I need to actually do these steps to learn. Oops, give me a little more wire. - Just even it up, then we'll pour our mixture. - [Samira] He first adds the bread, and then he adds the cheesecake mix to the crust before popping it in the oven. About 45 minutes at 250 degrees celsius. - Our cake is done, so we are just removing it from the oven. - The moment we've all been waiting for. Makki ki roti cheesecake. Okay you've never seen or heard or tasted anything like this before. - [Samira] And now it's done, it's refrigerated for about 20 minutes, or so. Oh my god, look at that, I don't care about calories when I see something like this, it looks delicious. And then we eat, after he slathers it on top with more jaggery, just for a little crunchiness on top. This is nerve-wracking. This is 21st century India, the kind of food that would make any French chef want to visit. Tasting this dish brings back so many emotions, because it brings back memories of childhood. I never thought that a combination like this could taste so good. This recipe reminds me of the phrase, If they cannot eat bread, then let them eat cake, and I do, it's mind-blowing. The cool hipster clubs of the world's largest cities are becoming the rage in India as well. This place looks like a hole in the wall on the outside, until you slip the magic key into the slot and voila, you're in an insider's paradise. - One lasagna, follow one pana goat cheese, one fish. - Oui, chef. - [Samira] The boyishly and handsome and insanely young and talented chef Ashay, who trained in London at one of Gordon Ramsay's award-winning restaurants, Savoy Grill, gives me the inside track on how he makes his diners eat with their eyes. He first makes a signature dish. It's a lasagna with a Thai curry bisque, and he's bringing some French techniques too. You can't accuse us of bringing boring chefs or recipes, that's one thing. - So what we're gonna do now is the lasagna of Thai curried bisque. - Wow. Lasagna with Thai curry- - Thai curried bisque, so lot of things going on there. Lasagna, Italian, the bisque is French, and curried is our green Thai. Thai and Indian. You get the lasagna sheet on the plate, here like that. Now, next step, we start heating the Thai curried bisque. That's the bisque. Okay, so these are our prawns, and our snapper. - So what's the spices on the prawns, what have you got? - There's a tiny bit of cayenne pepper there. - Cayenne pepper, okay. - Yeah. So all that is in there. - So just a little pepper, and just lightly blanched. - Yes. - And what fish is that? - [Ashay] This is Indian red snapper. These are the tiger prawns. Let me just get that cream from there. - Cream. - Yes, a little bit of double cream in there. - [Samira] Cream always adds so much flavor to everything. - Yeah, always, everything else, French food, so a lot of butter. So basically, when you add milk or cream and butter at the last minute, it helps to retain the froth. That's what makes the sauce foamy. So as you can see, it's beginning to froth up now. There we go. - [Samira] That's incredible, that looks so good. - Okay, now to finish off, our second lasagna sheet. - Oh, 'cause it's lasagna with many layers, of course. - [Ashay] That goes on the top there. If you don't mind passing me that plate down there, please. - That one there, oh yeah, sure. Is this part of the dish, it looks so pretty. It looks like Italian crostini. - Yeah, it's again, the idea is Italian crostini, and the flavors are all Thai. You've got pickled ginger, you've got chopped parsley, and you've got a bit of Thai glaze. - You really meld cuisines so well together. This is incredible, I've never seen anything ... And I live in New York, there's so many restaurants. But this is absolutely fantastic. All right, a little more froth? - Yeah, just a little bit more blitz at the last minute. Of course, this is, again, a very comforting evening dish, so there goes your red mullet. Why don't you try just drizzling a little bit of that on there? - A little bit of this? - Yeah. Okay, is that good? - That's not too bad. - It's not too bad, okay. - Finishing touch is paprika oil. - That looks so pretty, it's just gorgeous. - And that's your lasagna. - Oh my god, look at this unbelievable lasagna. It's multi-cuisine, I think you got Italian, Thai, I don't know, Mexican, French, everything. It's just unbelievable. A key ingredient in nouvelle cuisine, again, I could have spent a fortune on plating lessons, and I did get a few back home in Manhattan, but getting my food to look as good as his, I'm lucky the chef's giving me the time of day. I sit with Chef Ashay as he talks me through his star dishes. So chef, in front of me I see art, I see different cuisines, I see nouvelle, I see a bit of Indian. How would you describe your food? - Mostly my influences, as you say, are both British and French. And then obviously, born in India, was raised in India, so that's where the Indian part comes in. So it's basically a mix of British, Indian, and French. - And would you say that you have an element of the artist in you? 'Cause there's so much artistry on the plate. It's so visually beautiful. - It's the culinary arts, isn't it? There's a bit of an artist in every chef, I would say. - That's true, but you've taken it to a whole new level, and what's this, what do we have here? - Those are your wild hedgerow garlic dumplings. Hedgerow wild garlic's native to Britain. We can often import these. - You brought them from Britain? - Yes. - That looks incredible, well you've certainly created quite a visual feast. And tell me about this dish. - That's one of our best sellers, our star dish. That's got goat cheese, beetroot puree with port reduction, apples, and these are granny smith apple jellies. - [Samira] Well, that was mind boggling in so many ways. I'm a little overwhelmed after that. My cuisine is fairly simple and straightforward. He's just showed me wizardry in the kitchen. Okay, let's not forget the alcohol, a very important element. I'm meeting up with some friends. We're gonna have a few drinks in this lovely bar at ATM. - Every time I come to India, things change so much. - I know, it's really changed. It changes every day, I think. - That's so exciting. - [Friend] It's quite exciting. - It's a new window. - Hey guys. - Hey Armand, how are you? Good to see you. What's with the beard? - It's winter fur. - It's winter fur, I like that. You need a drink. Bartender, we need a drink for the gentleman. So I have to say, I was just commenting that India's changed so much. You live here, so you probably see all these changes. - You couldn't be more accurate. There's a complete metamorphosis. They've unshackled themselves from limits, and everybody wants to experience what's out there, it's just a lot of buzz and a lot of energy out there. - I love coming back to India and seeing all the changes. Oh, there's your drink, thank God. - Cheers, guys. - Great to see old friends, and catch up. - Good to see you too. - [Samira] It's a cozy spot where we let our hair down and have some wine and relax as I get to digest my incredible day. The new philosophy in India where food and art meet and flavors explode have me at hello. Home chefs, some great lessons to be learned as some pretty major Indian food conventions are broken. Stay tuned for more great food and fun in our next episode of Essence of India with Samira.

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