In an exclusive interview to Restaurant India, Chef and restaurateur Hari Nayak talk about his first restaurant in India.
Indian food and its love are known to global diaspora all thanks to chefs who are making India proud in these countries. Continuing with this legacy Chef Hari Nayak an Udupi born chef has made waves in global land. From starting restaurants like Dosateria & Frankie Bar in New York city to spreading his wings and opening restaurants in Kuwait, New Jersey and Philadelphia he defined Indian cuisine in all together a different avatar.
Started as an international restaurateur, chef and author in WGSHA, Manipal graduating in 1994, Hari is widely acclaimed for his Modern Indian Cooking. And, today when Indian born global chefs are coming back to Indian bringing their culinary expertise to their home land, Hari Nayak is all set to open his restaurant Alchemy in Bengaluru by end of this year which will represent Global Cuisine under an Indian Spell.
Tell us about your journey in the world of food?
I started experimenting with cooking at an early age of 14 at my home kitchen alongside my grandmother. I always loved watching my grandmother cook and also watching my favorite cooking shows on TV. Never thought that I would ever become a chef. It was later when I joined the Hotel Management Institute (WGSHA) in Manipal, that I started thinking about it as a profession. I started putting in extra hours in the hotel kitchen that was part of our school. I knew that I needed to further educate myself and I chose the best cooking school of the world – CIA or Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park NY. It was probably the best decision of my career. That is how I entered into the world of cooking.
What was the inspiration that made you play with flavors from around the world?
I love bold flavors and cooking with new ingredients and fresh local produce. I am lucky to be living in New York city , one of the greatest city in the world and a global melting pot for culture and cuisine. You will find people and ingredients from all over the world here. This is where I got exposed to flavors from around the world. I love to travel and do so often. I bring back inspirations from my travels into my cooking too.
Starting from India, what made you venture into the global market?
After graduating from CIA, I got an offer to stay back and work in the New York area. The door to a world of opportunity opened up. It was not planned; it was a journey that evolved over time.
Today you are more than just being a chef. Whom do you attribute your achievement?
There are so many people who have influenced me in my career. I always feel that my parents and family have been the most supportive and I will always attribute my journey to them.
Tell us something about your restaurants?
I operate and consult for many restaurants. All of them have a strong foundation of Indian cuisine. In each of them I have taken a different approach to make it unique whether it’s the presentation of the dishes or adopted a local cultural influence on the cuisine. You will find most of the information about my restaurants under the portfolio section on my website. http://www.harinayak.com/
Talking about trends. What trend do you see in India over the next years?
I feel the trend of eating out compared to cooking at home will increase over time in India. Healthy eating and foods that are good for your well being will have a stronger market presence. More international brands and well known chefs will enter the Indian market to cater to the new age of young generation who have plenty of disposable income, are well travelled and have global awareness for good food.
Chef we have also seen that Indian chefs who are based out of India are coming back to India opening their restaurants. When can we see you opening one?
I will be opening a restaurant in Bengaluru in late 2016. It is called 'Alchemy' -Global Cuisine Under an Indian Spell
You are known for simple Indian cooking. Out of the various cities or locations you’ve worked in (London, Paris, New York, India), which have you found the most responsive to your type of Indian cooking?
I believe in cooking simple food based on Indian flavours and ingredients. I feel New York market is very adaptive and willing to try new dishes. I have done a few pop up restaurant events in Bangkok and done events to showcase contemporary Indian cuisine in Mexico, Caribbean, Australia and I was very pleasantly surprised with the positive response I have received everywhere. It goes to show the world is ready to explore Indian cuisine beyond the stereotype of the Tikka Masala and there is no reason why we cannot take it- with all its diversity and simplicity, to a global level like French cuisine.