Food

Hanging out with Huang at Bengaluru

Chef Anthony Huang admits that Bengaluru played a big role in his culinary story

There are not a lot of things this small-made man with a big heart can’t whip up in his kitchen. Bengaluru-bred Anthony En Yuan Huang, is an alumnus of St. Joseph’s High School and Christ College and currently Executive Chef at JW Marriott Bengaluru.

After the recent success of creating and curating a coffee-infused menu, drawing inspiration from the Kodava cuisine, and hosting it in an exclusive Coorg food festival, the chef talks about his love for coffee, his culinary journey and where his cooking is taking him.

The idea was to keep working with the hotel’s concept of going local, explains Huang. “It only seemed fitting that we visit Coorg, which has some of the best coffee plantations in Karnataka, and try to capitalise and use the fabulous produce the State has. We did some research and found coffee actually goes well with food and doesn’t have to necessarily be looked at as a beverage. That’s where we started thinking about exploring the opportunity.”

Hanging out with Huang at Bengaluru
 

After experimentation, Huang found that coffee, with its robust flavour, lends itself extremely well to grills, roasts and meats. “We chose to use coffee with our barbecues since its finest flavour comes when you’re roasting it. However, we did not tamper with the cuisine itself – pandi curry remains a pandi curry. We used coffee in various forms, including expresso, roast and coffee extract after decoction with higher antioxidants.”

So where did his interest in cooking begin? Huang fails to recollect the exact moment because he is a third generation chef, albeit the only one with formal training in the family. “It was always in the blood. As a child I’ve always watched mom and grandmom cooking. They come from a line of wedding caterers in China. I have tons of memories with food and I guess it came very naturally to me.”

He adds that at one point in his life, “Like all kids, I also wanted to be a pilot, a vet or a farmer. Eventually, fate won. I was a typical Bengalurean guy hanging around everywhere except college. But I did want to be a chef. I missed my deadline to apply for hotel management. I went to Christ College anyway to put in a word with the principal. I did not expect in my wildest dreams that he would call me in a few days and allow me to join.”

Hanging out with Huang at Bengaluru
 

He pauses to pop a yummy hot rasgulla in his mouth and continues: “The Bengalurean in me remained and I continued to bunk college. But I was the first graduate to get though Oberoi School in their campus interview. I got through OCLD which is like the IIT of hotels. I scraped through attendance and the rest is history.”

Huang went on to work in Oberoi Hotels in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru before moving on to propping up free-standing restaurants that were not doing so well. “I wanted something challenging. I went on to Hyatt and then came to Marriott. This is my fourth year here and I’m loving it.”

He admits that Bengaluru played a big role in his culinary story. “Given the fact that I studied in St Josephs and Christ, I grew up as a hard core Bengalurean. He’s the most easy-going guy in the country. He accepts anything in his stride. A third person can come join our table and he will be welcomed. We, as a city, accept people the way they are. That has been drilled into my DNA since school and it has thought me in my professional line to take every input and add it to my development.”

A lot of that reflects in Huang’s food.

“Nothing is wrong – as long as I’m comfortable with it. As long as I’m happy with every plate that has my name on it, I’m cool with it. I don’t have to go by the rule book. Had I not looked at food that way, this coffee trail would have never happened. However, I’m also quite a purist. I like to keep things authentic.”

Hanging out with Huang at Bengaluru
 

Ask him what his signature dish is and he says, “That depends on my mood and the ingredients I have around me. I’d like to take a walk and see what’s available. I believe in freshness. I like to also keep it simple. You will never find my food hiding behind a lot of fluff or garnish. If there’s something on my plate, it means it’s meant to be eaten and adds value to the dish’s taste and enhances the way it looks.”

While a large part of his life was spent as an Asian chef with Vietnamese and Chinese cuisines and he dabbled a bit with French food, “Deep down in my heart I’m an Indian chef. I love South Indian and North Indian food. I love my biryanis. When I’m at home I’m mostly cooking that for the family.”

Describing the psyche of a chef, Huang says, “They are driven by passion and work with their heart. When you choose to work in this artistic field, it is equivalent to falling in love with someone. Cooking has a lot to do with emotions.

“Never ask a chef who’s in a bad mood to cook for you.”

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 2:22:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/chef-anthony-huang-is-in-a-bengaluru-state-of-mind/article22396805.ece

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