As Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris garner limelight in the country, Rahul Verma strikes a chord with the culinary maestros

I did an informal poll the other day. Most people, I discovered after some probing, would rather watch a food show on television than any other programme. And on top of the list was MasterChef Australia. Even a couple of little girls I know are avid fans of the two main chefs on the show — Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris.

The chefs were in India last week for a few events, including the launch of a book that they have together authored. I realised they were in town when I got an invite from the Australian High Commission to meet them. The venue was a farmhouse in South Delhi where another celebrated Australian chef — Bill Marchetti — lives and grows organic vegetables.

Chefs George and Gary didn’t cook for us. The food was overseen by Chef Tejas Bhoite, executive chef, North India, Pan Indian food solutions — a group that includes a host of restaurant chains such as the Spaghetti Kitchen, Copper Chimney, Gelato Italiano and the Noodle Bar present in various cities across the country. And the food was excellent.

Let me tell you what I ate. The dishes included goose biryani and jackfruit (katahal) biryani, served with an eggplant and raita. There was a suckling pig on a cross — barbecued in an open fire in what chef Tejas said was an Argentinean way. The pig had been cooked well, but wasn’t dry as barbecued meat sometimes is. The pig came with a Creola sauce — finely chopped vegetables tossed in vinegar, salt and pepper. Then there was a leg of pork which had been oven roasted and served with a sauce. There was a fresh green salad with leaves plucked straight from the farm, in a dressing of grapefruit and ginger. One corner was the barbecued counter — I could see zucchini, aubergine, coloured peppers and cottage cheese — but what was a lot more enticing was the harissa prawn. For dessert there was a black forest cake.

I had the biryani, the barbecued pig and the prawns and tried to chat with the visiting chefs. It was almost like trying to get a word in with Aamir Khan in the middle of Mumbai. People of all shapes, sizes and ages had gheraoed the chefs. But I had my chat, and was glad to know that they were going to visit Chandni Chowk. They loved jalebis, and had immensely enjoyed the food at Indian Accent at The Manor in New Delhi.

“How do you feel turfing people out of your show,” I asked them — referring to the unceremonious way in which all those who didn’t make the mark were booted out of the immensely popular television series. “I feel very good,” said Chef George.

I had an interesting time, eating, drinking some nice red wine, and chatting with people from different fields ranging from politics and the press to diplomacy and high society. And the most interesting, of course, were the chefs — the celebrities as well as those who have been cooking some brilliant stuff in India. I collected autographs for some star-stuck young friends and returned home happy in more ways than one.


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