With a passion for freshness and lightness, Philip Abraham is introducing intriguing dishes to the foodies of Madurai.
He is not yet 30 years old but he is one of the rising stars in Madurai’s culinary world. He started attracting the city’s attention when he set up the Phil’s Bistro a year ago serving some marvellous contemporary cuisine. Many first time diners turned into loyal customers and fans helping youthful Philip carve a name for himself from his base in Anna Nagar.
“You have to understand what makes people satisfied with food,” he says, fully aware that 99 per cent of the items in his menu are alien and exotic for the locals.
But he is a hands-on owner-cum-chef of his 48-seater bistro. Everyday he cooks the best as possible. “I also go to every table and check what the customers liked and did not,” he says.
“Food is continuously evolving,” says Philip, “and one has to focus and go for perfection.”
Everybody is doing something what they like. Philip loves to cook what he likes without aping other restaurants. And of course, he puts extra love and feeling into his cooking and that is what, he says, the guests are able to taste as well!
Philip Abraham grew up humbly in the city. Son of a fruits wholesale dealer, he was always extremely fond of food and loved to eat well. He can’t pinpoint why he had a fascination for Western food and the farthest he got of that at home was bread and omelette for breakfast!
It was after his Class X exams that he decided to don the chef’s hat. “I started experimenting everyday at home. My first dish, however, was noodles and chilli chicken!” Young Philip was emboldened when everybody in the family appreciated. Next, he tried burger, then pizza, cheesy pasta, creamy lasagna…and he knew he had to enrol himself for a course in Hotel Management.
The small town lad began to dream big and after a brief stint at Hotel Savera in Chennai, he joined Marriott where his six years experience redefined and refined his culinary skills and knowledge.
“I got hooked on to the net constantly searching information and recipes and became a follower of Gordon Ramsay,” he says. Two winters ago when he was planning to go abroad for higher studies and experience, the Church pastor advised him to stay back and do something of his own.
That is when Phil’s Bistro was conceived. “I love the buzz of service, the banter and the camaraderie,” he says. He also loves developing people and has trained two young boys to assist him in the kitchen.
Since he does the major cooking everyday at the bistro, his hours and lifestyle are less appealing.
“Especially to my wife,” he smiles.
“But I understand ingredients more than I did when I was 20 and I am a more confident and competent cook now,” he declares.
A thinker in the kitchen, it is Philip’s aim to always do and give the best. He understands the importance of freshest produce and the freshness of food, the perfectionism in handling a knife and selecting and mixing the right ingredients in correct measure and sequence. “When a product is freshly prepared, it is automatically healthy,” he says.Christmas plans
Revealing his grand Christmas plans, Philip challenges that the dishes he offers can satisfy the best trained palate. From 24th December to January 1, customers will be welcomed with ‘Blue Angel’, a Hawaiian citrus fruit syrup mixed with aerated drink and wind up with a slice of the Christmas rich plum cake. In between, from the soup and salad to starters, main course and dessert, everything will beckon the Yuletide season.
“Many dishes still are and may be new to the locals here but the repeat walk-ins of older generations and high-profile guests reconfirms the good quality of food that I am providing,” says Philip. And if he is offering spicy smoked turkey soup or Phil’s cobb salad, shepherd’s pie pizza, seafood and sundried tomato crostini, roasted turkey with cranberry sauce, berrymisu trifle, it is sure to have his style and signature.
Pan seared bassa fish with salsa is his favourite and also the chef’s special at the bistro. But nobody else cooks it for him. Yet, he says, his mother is an expert in cooking Indian food.
“Like every other mother, she is better than all the chefs in the world,” he smiles.
Philip enjoys his family support as they all chip in from time to time either for purchasing items, overlooking kitchen operations or supervising the service. Yet there are days when things can go wrong.
Out of several excellent reviews one bad review of his food on the Trip Advisor had him down recently. But when a customer requested him to make an item based on a recipe she tasted in the U.S and complimented him for delivering exactly the same, he was overjoyed and has included the key lime pie in his X-mas menu.
“I am happy the way it is going but would like to run the restaurant from a place of my own,” says Philip, because he does not see himself ever stopping cooking.
“Even 20 years later,” he says, “I will still feel the need to cook.”
Executive Chef Philip Abraham’s Christmas special
Chicken Breast: Two;
Spinach: Two bunch;
Cheese: 30 gm;
Pasta: 150 gm;
Garlic: 20 gm;
Bread crumbs and assorted vegetables: 80 gm each;
Olive Oil: 20 ml;
Black pepper: 10 gm;
Oregano: Five gm;
Cut the Spinach and clean it well. Saute the spinach with oil and garlic and keep it aside. Flatten the Chicken breast, marinate with oil, salt, black pepper and oregano. Stuff the chicken with spinach, cheese and roll it up. Beat the egg with a pinch of salt and pepper, apply it on the rolled chicken and finally roll it well on bread crumbs. Take a pan with oil and put the rolled chicken breast on it, when it reaches 74 degree Celsius, remove it from the pan.
Next, boil the pasta and keep it aside. Take a pan with olive oil and sauté garlic well. Add blanched dice tomatoes with basil and add the pasta. Season it with salt and oregano. Saute all blanched vegetables on plate with pasta and chicken.