Who’s the city’s top chef? Each week, we will feature one of five chefs who are doing exciting things in Delhi kitchens. The American Express Chef of the Year winner will be announced on the night of the HT City Crystals People’s Choice Awards 2010
* Sabyasachi Gorai (Olive restaurants - Delhi, ai and Lap)
* Manish Mehrotra (Indian Accent and Tamarai)
* Pitamber Dutt Satyawalli (Sartoria)
* Naveen Thapa (Zanotta)
* Vikramjeet Roy (Wasabi by Morimoto)
Today, we feature a one-on-one with...
Name: Naveen Thapa
Senior Sous Chef at Zanotta, The Leela Kempinski, Gurgaon
At what age did you want to be a chef?
At 13, when I started taking an interest in what mom was cooking and watching cookery shows on television.
Your favourite cuisine?
Indian, Italian, Japanese and Spanish, and everything cooked by my mother.
Best dish you’ve ever made
The best is still to come. But, the dish I like most till now is Blue Fin Tuna Tartar and Sea Urchin Roe with Scallop Carpaccio and Citrus Thyme Mayonnaise.
The worst dish you’ve made to date
Anda biryani. The eggs dissolved in such a way that it was hard to say that eggs were ever added.
Whackiest dish you have created
Penne Pasta with Indian Keema Kaleji Bolognese.
Favourite restaurant in Delhi
Spice Route. One gets the feeling of sitting in a temple, and a lady chef preparing food just like at home.
Favourite street food in Delhi
Bittoo Tikki Wala and paranthas of Paranthe Wali Gali.
Best thing about being a chef
The multitude of everyday life experiences. Not too many people have the ability to get up early, do a strenuous amount of physical work, etc. and still wake up the next day loving what they do.
What separates a good chef from a great one?
Being a good chef is about using techniques to develop your own recipes. But the most important thing is love — when added to the recipe, it becomes great.
Worst thing about being a chef
When I go to market and mall after finishing work, there is no crowd.
Most memorable moment
When my favourite Hollywood actress Julia Roberts entered Zanotta.
Chef(s) that have inspired you
Chef Thomas Figovc. He’s the coolest chef I’ve ever worked with. Abroad, it’s Chef Ferran Adrià, ‘the most imaginative generator of haute cuisine on the planet’.
Best compliment you’ve received
When an Italian guest told me, ‘You are my favourite chef in world’. And once, a Spanish lady told that the Paella I made was the best she has had.
Thoughts on Delhi’s current food scene?
Delhi has all the possibilities of becoming the food capital of the world.
Your professional strengths
Creating wonderful dishes out of local products or simple things — like my Haryana Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Carrot Foam.
Plans for the future?
To become the executive chef of a prestigious hotel and to open the best cookery school in India.