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Chefs are not temperamental

Follow the basics Mark Poynton bats for common sense while following recipes  

Mark Poynton is aware of the irony of coming to India to cook curry for us. The chef patron of the award winning Alimentum restaurant in Cambridge, was in town for the Taste of Britain Curry Festival at ITC Windsor Bengaluru. Over a meal of blue cheese, broccoli, pickled red grape and almond praline salad, saffron and pecorino risotto, red onion jam and chicory salad with a divine mango mousse, passion fruit jelly, mint and pine nuts for dessert, the 35-year-old Michelin star chef spoke of cooking, television and ethical practice. Excerpts.

This is your third visit to India after Chennai and Chandigarh. What are the lessons you learnt?

I found the food in Chandigarh too heavy and spicy. I learnt about spices in Chennai. I was inspired by the visit to create my version of Indian food at my restaurant — scallop, spicy tomato sauce cumin, dal apple and coriander. I find Bangalore softer on spice.

Is curry still popular in Britain?

Yes it is. Unlike in India, where curry means gravy, in Britain going out for curry is Indian cuisine. It could be kebab, bread, rice…

Could you describe your journey in the culinary world?

I started as a waiter at 15 because I needed the money. I noticed the chefs seemed to be having a good time, so I decided to become a chef!

Do you prefer being a chef or running a restaurant?

I have run Alimentum for seven-and-a-half years. Running a business is difficult and fun — a different kind of fun. When you are a chef, you are just concentrating on cooking, while when you run a restaurant, you have to focus on creating the whole experience.

Do you eat out often?

I eat out once a month. I always think like a customer — what is trending, what works, what doesn’t…

Which cuisine do you enjoy cooking?

French, because it is disciplined, regimented.

What is your favourite cuisine to eat?

Japanese because it is light, the flavours are distinctive and the food is cooked just a little bit.

Should one rigidly follow recipes or can one be creative?

Follow the basics, use common sense and you will not go wrong.

If not a chef what would you be?

I would probably have been a very bad sportsman. When I was younger, I played football. I was good at the game but wasn’t disciplined.

You said you like to cook French cuisine because it is disciplined…

Well, yes, when I grew older, I realised you need to be disciplined to be good.

What do you have to say about the current trend of chefs as performers?

It is good for the industry as more people want to become chefs. But the publicity needs to be fair. A chef is not successful in isolation. Service is equally important. At a restaurant, if the food is okay and the service is good, people will come back, on the other hand if the service is bad, even if the food is great, people will not return.

You have contributed to The Great British Cook Book. Is there a book in offing?

Maybe a recipe book

How much of television is cooking and how much is show?

Well, we shot 18 hours for five days for a half an hour show. So yes, a lot was talking and things apart from cooking.

Could you comment on the image of chefs as divas — losing their tempers and throwing things at people?

Chefs are not temperamental. The kitchen is a high-pressure environment, chefs want to get it right, they are running on adrenalin and if something goes wrong, then the chefs are conscious of the waste of time and effort. I’d just say do it again, definitely not throw dishes or food!

You won the RSPCA Good Business Award and Innovation Award for attention to animal welfare…

I believe in working with the farmers with best animal husbandry practices. I am all for local produce. I want sustainability. It is no use spending a lot of money on something that is not sustainable.

What is the kitchen implement you cannot do without?

If I were marooned on a desert island, as long as I have my blender, salt and lemon, I will be fine.

Do you cook when you are not working?

I am married with two children, I do what they tell me to! At home I cook simple traditional foods — pastas, roasts…

With lives seemingly lived online, are restaurants on their way out?

No, restaurants are still a meeting place. While street food continues to be big, there are 10,500 restaurants in London.

What do you have to say of people obsessed with photographing their meals and posting it on Twitter and Instagram?

It is okay to take pictures of food and post it online — it is free publicity!

Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential speaks of chefs and rockstar lifestyles of excess — snorting cocaine and a never-ending parade of supermodels...

Most of it is not true, definitely not in my restaurant!

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2020 3:54:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Chefs-are-not-temperamental/article14572802.ece

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