“Twist of Taste” returns with more locations and more experimentation

Travel and food are natural allies. A sense of place is often evoked by its food, and rituals of eating and cooking are defined by where they come from. “Twist of taste” with Vineet Bhatia explores this marriage of travel and food, and introduces an unknown element into it with unexpected results.

In the second season of the show, set to begin on the 28th of this month, Vineet, a chef-restaurateur, travels to 13 cities, including Varanasi, Bikaner, Coorg, Darjeeling and Puducherry, among others. Here, he transforms local delicacies into exotic items with his expertise. In Darjeeling, for instance, he prepares Roast chicken by using its famed tea as marinade; in Ahmedabad, he transforms the dhokla into a bruschetta; and in Coorg, coffee is used in preparing lamb chops and desserts.

The transformative is a central aspect of Vineet’s philosophy as a chef, who runs the Rasoi chain of international restaurants. “The principles are the same. Our experimentation is because we want to put food on a global platform. I don’t have to be a South Indian to enjoy curry leaf and coconut in my food. It is about getting someone else who doesn’t have that natural flavour to enjoy that food,” he says.

Explaining the concept of the show, Vineet says, “Everything is very organic, there is no script. We literally go into a city and absorb what we can. But we don’t go blindfolded either. We have a basic idea of what a city has to offer and work with the ingredients available.”

On his jaunts through various cities, he is accompanied by a local food aficionado. In Varanasi Vineet meets Jai, a guide who introduces him to a sweet made out of palwal; in Darjeeling he meets Jamling Norgey, the son of Tenzing Norgey, who inspires him to cook the tea roast chicken; and in Indore, he meets Richard Holkar, a descendant of the royal family of Holkars who shares Indore’s food history with him. This marks a departure from Season 1, where he was accompanied by his wife Rashima.

A stranger to television, Vineet confesses to having had doubts about doing the show and credits Rashima with convincing him. “It was difficult because for him it meant he had to come across as a different personality. It meant fitting certain criteria. And then it meant convincing him that you can be in this medium and still attract the audience that you like,” she remembers.

Years of training and experience as a chef insulate Vineet from the threat of an experiment turning into a disaster, but it doesn’t prepare him for the surprises that travelling to a new city brings with itself. He recalls feeling “like a kid in a candy shop” after visiting Thalassery and seeing its famous pepper. About Darjeeling, he says, “Everyone knows that you have a Tamil quarter and a French quarter. So what are you going to get? French food and Tamil food. But the amalgamation of the two cuisines, which I’d never had, was a real surprise and it told us ‘you are not the only one doing a twist’.”