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Winning over foodies

Italian Chef Alex Bignotti is enjoying his stint in India

GOING BY his looks - his spiked and streaked hair, tattoo on hand and his age one could easily mistake him to be a model but for his chef's attire. Alex Bignotti has the capacity to charm people with his looks and cooking, specially Italian. This 27-year-old, an expert in the culinary craft, has honed his skills in different places. Working with The Hub restaurant in Taj Bengal, Bignotti was in Hyderabad to conduct the Italian Food Festival at Encounters, Taj Krishna. Bignotti was the flavour at the Coffee Shop during the festival as people raved about his preparations.

Bignotti, who hails from Milan (actually about 15-20 kms from Milan), grew up watching his parents cook. "I used to help my parents particularly my dad as he would create something different. Then I started cooking on my own and after school joined the Culinary School at Varese for a three-year-course. During the course we were required to work in restaurants in and around Varese to gain practical experience," says Bignotti, whose strongpoint is Italian cuisine although he trained himself in French, Spanish and German. With short stints in Italy, Germany, France, Spain and UK (mostly with hotels of the Hyatt group), Bignotti picked up the essentials of the cuisine of these countries along with the languages.

In Kolkata he is getting acquainted with Indian food. "I was always interested to know more about Asia - its people and culture for their way of life is different. Also, I want to become Executive Chef some day and a pre-requisite for that is knowledge of all cuisines," he says in rather good English.

In the nine months of his stint he has taken to Indian food. He has familiarised himself with the tandoor. "I can make rotis and parathas from start to finish. Initially my rotis fell into the tandoor. But with practice I am able to remove them perfectly now," he says proudly. He has been observing the cooks in India. And his favourite Indian dishes include Murg malai tikka, Fish curry with rice (the Bengali speciality), kulcha and Luknowi chicken biryani. He has learnt to make the first two items. Does he not find the food spicy here? "I do sometimes though I like spicy food. Like the food differs from region to region in Italy, the cooking too is different in different parts of India."

It is surprising that he does not like making pizza being an Italian, though he likes to eat it. "I am trained in the fine-dining tradition. I prefer making pastas and other dishes."

He finds life in India "cool. In Europe everybody is in a hurry and they don't have time. Here there is more leisure. People are simple too." He is happy that his food is appreciated here.

Bignotti has travelled to Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan and he wants to work in Japan as he loves sushi.

His contract with the Taj is for two years but his Indian connection may continue for he is likely to marry a Mizo girl who is working in Kolkata.


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