Chef Hemant Oberoi’s Experiments with Flavour

Chef Hemant Oberoi’s Experiments with Flavour
The national drink of Peru, pisco sour, was invented by an American bartender in Lima in the 1920s , Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The well-known celebrity chef separates fusion food from confusion food—and fleshes out what the luxury dining experience means to him

Prannay Pathak
May 23 , 2021
03 Min Read

How do you describe redefined food, or refined cooking?
See, every restaurant and dhaba makes butter chicken—some with a lot of chillies, some with honey and tomatoes and so on and so forth. But when you refine butter chicken, the question is: how do you present it? How will the taste linger on the palate? We once did a dish called Can-Can Chicken where the chicken is sealed along with spices and tomatoes in a can, and cooked in vacuum. When you open the can, the aroma is completely different... that’s what I mean. 

The man himself, Chef Oberoi

What’s the story behind your famous chocolate shawarma?
I was going through an Emirates in-flight magazine on a long-haul flight once from Dubai to LA and there were stories about shawarma in Istanbul, shawarma in Dubai, shawarma in other Middle-Eastern countries. I wondered why there was no dessert shawarma yet. I wanted something that would go to the table and people would watch it like a food performance, so in two months’ time, when I went to London, I saw a machine in a kitchen equipment shop. I got it packed, got the base plates changed and the rest is history. 

What has your experience with fusion food been like?
One of the first restaurant menus that we did, we turned it into Cal-Indian cuisine—a fusion of Californian and Indian food. That was the time I created the Nazza—the naan-pizza. We did a caesar salad with chicken tikka, in 1991, and roasted corn soup with turmeric popcorn. Anybody who does fusion must know the basics of both the cuisines that they are dealing with.

If the espuma in kombucha cappuccino overpowers the kombucha or doesn’t gel properly with it, you are gone! Chargrilled prawns (Indian-style) with parmesan espuma—come on, a tandoori recipe with parmesan espuma? Rosemary chicken tikka—where’s the sense in that? 

Of late, you’ve done a lot of Peruvian cuisine...
I fell in love with the country. We have a lot of Peruvian picks in our BKC restaurant, like ceviche, corn crème brulee and a tortilla pizza. At a pisco factory in Peru I noticed guavas which are eaten a lot in the country. So one evening, I made a guava puree, added pisco and lime, and made a cocktail. In Mumbai, guavas are called peru, and so I called the cocktail Peru Peru! 

What is the concept at your Chef’s Studio?
A table of eight, a show-kitchen, cameras inside and flat TVs on top to show food as it is being cooked—the whole experience is about unlimited luxury. I brought in silver cutlery, crystal, luxury tableware from Rosenthal, Ercuis and Versace. Every course is served differently. The ingredients are sourced from all over the world; it really is an exclusive offering. 

Chef Hemant Oberoi’s Signature Creations

Chocolate Shawarma
Chef's creation, the chocolate shawarma
An inventive take on the sinful chocolate cake that undergoes roasting on a portable shawarma machine—crisping the exterior and turning the core mushy and gooey. Served with rose ice cream. 

Brie and Truffle Soufflé
The Brie and Truffle Soufflé

We took one whole year (1988-89) to perfect it. It is an iconic offering with its origins in the Zodiac Grill menu. The fluffy soufflé is known for its unique hit of umami and is doused in a creamy sauce. 

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