Chef Peter Wyss on the pairing of Indian wines with international food

Stepping into the cool confines of Ottimo Cucina Italiana at ITC Grand Chola is a blessed relief from the searing Chennai heat.

Through the open kitchen one can see Peter Wyss, who has been part of the luxurious Gstaad Palace in Switzerland for 41 years now. Chef Wyss is in India as part of a four-city tour organised by Four Seasons Wines to promote the pairing of Indian wines with international food. Ironically, Four Seasons Wines is not registered in Tamil Nadu due to state government regulations, and so the restaurant is not permitted to serve the home-grown wine.

Nevertheless, we sit down to lunch with Abhay Kewadkar, chief winemaker and director of Four Seasons Wines and Ajit Bangera, senior executive chef, ITC Grand Chola. Our meal begins with a refreshingly pink cocktail of re-carbonated white wine blended with lychee juice, pomegranate seeds and crushed ice. The cute little tartlets filled with Gruyère cheese, served as starters, are quite delicious. The salad that follows is pretty basic, greens and pine nuts, with tomato marmalade adding an interesting element.

Chef Wyss says, “What I liked about cooking here in India is that everything on the menu is seasonal. Back at Gstaad, we source ingredients like strawberries and mangoes from all around the world.” Hence, his Swiss version of risotto, which is thicker than its Italian counterpart, comes with a generous smattering of fresh, diced vegetables, topped with mountain cheese. It turns out to be a tad too salty and quite heavy. One can imagine savouring such a dish in a chalet on the Swiss Alps, but for Chennai’s muggy weather, it doesn’t do much.

A potato röschti topped with succulent grilled chicken and mushroom sauce follows. It’s excellent paired with a glass of red wine. Dessert, as they say, was truly the icing on the cake. A tart composed (there’s no better way to describe this creation) of melt-in-your-mouth puff pastry topped with sliced apples, caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream is the highlight of the meal.

Chef Wyss says, “India could be making better wine than France in 20 to 50 years. There is a lot of competition and it takes time, but I believe it will happen.”

He then passes us some freshly-made macrons and delightful Lindt chocolate: what better way to end a feast.