In an exclusive interview with Restaurant India, Aditi Dugar, Owner at Masque, Mumbai's most ambitious restaurant talks about her idea of opening a restaurant focusing on freshest ingredients.
After leaving the finance world, Aditi Dugar toyed with a lot of ideas, before beginning to explore her passion for cooking. Months of writing emails to Michelle Roux Jr., led to being accepted in the bakery section of La Gavaroche. Working in a 3-Michelin star restaurant and bring surrounded by the most talented chefs, she confirmed her doubts and understood what her goal was.The more she travelled and discovered, the better she got at what she would do. During a trip to San Sebastian, Aditi ate at restaurants in the rich Basque region that drew her very close to the discovery of produce. She learnt how fresh and local ingredients formed a core of the cooking there. Aditi and Chef Prateek Sadhu met for coffee once and discovered that they were inspired by the same drive to localise production and remain rooted to the Indian agriculture scene. The ingredient is the most important part of the dish and they both recognise that good produce can be translated to a great dish.
Keeping the budget low
We spent a substantial amount as we didn't want to cut corners in offering India a culinary experience that would help put us on the world map.
Playing with the flavours
The menu revolves around products in their prime, some of which are grown in our very own farm. The menu is driven and inspired by what the farmers and purveyors offer on a daily basis. Our idea is to allow guests to explore new experiences using unusual ingredients. For this, our menus change with the season and we take our guests on a journey of discovery. Masque has also experimented with gastro-mixology offering an innovative beverage menu with all the mixers and syrups blended not by mixologists but by our very own chefs.
Finding peace in imperfection
Designer Ashiesh Shah’s practice is rooted in the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi, which has influenced his vision of space and his choice of materials. To find peace in imperfection rings home a philosophy we hold close to ourselves: that of finding beauty in all things modest and humble.Masque occupies an old warehouse in Mumbai’s once buzzing cotton district. The space is transformative where dramatic architectural details inspired by modernists like Corbusier, meet a sensibility that is more subtle and luxurious. The large site-specific sculptural installation by artist Rathin Burman acts almost as a pivot point for the restaurant, making an otherwise expansive space feel more intimate.
‘Farm to fork’
We work with the farmers and we are pro-nature while experimenting with our tastes. The farm to fork concept cuts out the middle man, gives us the freshest of ingredients that shine through all styles of cooking. Since we work directly with the farmers, they too understand our expectations and know that we will be appreciative of their every effort.
Focusing on the roots
In the course of our research for Masque, we realised that Indians traditionally ate food that was seasonal. Our food cultures follow the seasons and are reflected in how we eat. Yet, there is this misguided notion that India cannot grow exotic vegetables and fruits. We understood that to get optimal flavour naturally, we need to let the vegetables and fruits grow as nature has planned for them. Eating seasonal food is the best way to eat because the flavours and nutrition in the produce is at its peak.
Trading on numbers
The response has been overwhelming. We have been welcomed with open arms by the top influencers of the city. The media has been very supportive in spreading our philosophy. We have several repeat clienteles and this means the world to us as it was thanks to them that we got voted the No. 1 restaurant of the year!
It’s all about Location...
Masque is a discovery. It is a culinary theatre and it is a dine destination. We wanted to find a central location, however somewhere our concept stood and guests travelled to dine with us. Hence, Shakti mills with its rich history and art deco architecture made for the perfect choice.
We are targeting, Indians and International guests alike who are looking for a unforgettable culinary experience.
Maybe in the future, but for now we are concentrating on creating a name for Masque on a global scale. Diners are much more conscious of the food they consume, and hence I feel farm to fork culinary experiences where great importance is paid to the produce such as Masque will be the future