Chef Manish Mehrotra, winner of “Foodistan”, on his sweet success
Chef Manish Mehrotra won NDTV Good Times' cooking reality show “Foodistan” recently. In the final Manish defeated Pakistan's chef Poppy Agha. Manish says, “I am very excited to win this competition. This is very different from what I do daily as a chef. It is first time that I participated in a cooking competition after college chef competition,” says Manish.
Sixteen chefs from India and Pakistan participated in the show. An executive chef of restaurant Indian Accent, The Manor in the Capital, Manish is in this profession since last 16 years. The whole experience of the show was very good for him. He says, “We had to cook in a given time. It was a test of our culinary art, patience and nerve. Everything was real on the show. There was no cut and reshoot.”
There is not much difference in the cuisine of India and Pakistan. He says, “Pakistan's cuisine is not as diverse as our cuisine. We have North Indian food, South Indian food. Their food is mainly non-vegetarian. But, we have very good varieties of vegetarian food. Rest of the things are almost similar in both countries.” He got opportunity to know about Pakistan's eating out culture and about their restaurants. Manish says, “This show gave me opportunity to meet chefs from Pakistan and different parts of India. And when you work with different people you learn new things. I participated in the show without thinking whether I would win or not. I took it as a game and enjoyed each and every moment of the show.” His decision to participate in the show was not welcomed by his friends and well-wishers. He says, “People told me that you have a good name in this profession. Don't participate in the show. It will not be good for you if you get beaten by a junior or less experienced chef. But I knew that this show will give me opportunity to learn new things.”
The jury on the show included food critic Vir Sanghvi, actress Sonya Jehan and British chef Merrilees Parker. He says, “Judges were very knowledgeable. All of them are from different walks of life. Individually they are very strong but they didn't try to influence each other.”
Food is not only the bread and butter for Manish. He wants to please people with his food. He says, “I want to make people happy with my food. When I cook food first thing comes to my mind is taste. Colour, texture and other things come later for me. And best judge of your food is customer who comes to your restaurant and spends money for the food.”
Manish started his career after passing out from IHM, Mumbai in 1996. “I loved to eat good food. But non-vegetarian food was unknown for my family. We didn't cook and eat non-vegetarian food at home. I hail from Patna and in ‘80s there were no good restaurants in the city in comparison to the metros. And eating out culture was not popular at that time. When time came to make a career option, I opted for this field. During my course I found kitchen department very creative.”
In the final they had to cook three of their signature dishes. Manish cooked soft shell crabs with coconut for starter, grilled fish with Kashmiri haaq saag for main course and chironji makhana kheer with banana caramel for dessert. He says, “Final was easy. There were not any mystery ingredients. I had to cook my signature dishes.”
As the winner of the show he will write a cookery book and travel to three cities of the world.