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Updated: June 23, 2014 11:59 IST
Melange: Chef Torque

‘Be a tough but fair boss’

Shonali Muthalaly
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Chef Willi
The Hindu Chef Willi

Chennai’s best known Chefs: Kitchen confidential with Chef Willi

What was on the menu for dinner last night?

Chicken with honey and cinnamon. With green salad and a glass of wine at home.

What are you reading now?

I j ust finished The Ramayana, and am finishing the biography of President Obama Dreams From My Father. I read nearly everything though.

Do you have a favourite recipe book?

I do not have one presently. I use Larousse Gastronomique to check classical items, and my wife Marika uses Julia Child a lot.

We both like Robuchon as his recipes are modern, stylish and very well presented. Now I use the net a lot to pick up ideas!

Next vacation? And what do you plan to eat there?

A visa run to New Zealand. We shall be having fresh seafood for sure. Lamb is a must and some very fresh salads with avocadoes, proper crumbly cottage cheese and sprouts.

I used to go for fish and chips New Zealand style, meat pies and hamburgers, all memories from my childhood, but am now more into healthier, fresher New Zealand style of cooking food with great ingredients, good combinations and very much lighter.

Also Gimblett Gravel wines, Gisborne whites and some Oyster Bay wines for sure.

Best meal?

Many have been had: Sour seafood soup in Vietnam, Vienna schnitzel in the original Vienna restaurant, tremendous kebabs by my banquet Chef in Calcutta, superb pork sorpatel in Goa, jambalaya in New Orleans, bouillabaisse in Marseilles, veal with mushrooms and roesti in Switzerland, handmade dan dan noodles in Chengdu and many, many more.

What is the worst?

Some of the food trials potential candidates do for me in looking for a position in our restaurants! Some bad cooking there.

Trouble is, there are also many meals that do not meet any standard that we are used to. When you are traveling in the backwoods of any country and still expect your “European” cuisine, then the results can be disastrous.

Lessons learnt in the kitchen?

Where do I start. Plan everything and leave nothing to chance (hard lesson that one!).

Learn to be a tough but a fair boss.

Learn to keep the sharp edges of knives away from your fingers, learn quickly that hot oil burns and burns nicely!

Also learn to stick with your standards because compromise only lowers the standard.

Any secret junk food confessions?

Used to love crunchy peanut butter on crisp-end cuts of bread. Now I just sneak in alittle chocolate.

I must admit I am still a French fry junkie – did you know that French fries are actually addictive? Very slightly, but it’s to do with the browning of the potatoes.

Last meal on earth.

After a life time in the kitchen (well nearly, except I was once a baby) let me go out with a double or triple Scotch malt whisky in my hand.

Ah, now that is heaven!

(Willi is COO, Tuscana Kryptos and Burgundy Restaurants)

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