While India’s streets may not have the cleanest reputation, our kitchens are another deal altogether. According to three-star Michelin chef Jacques Pourcel, he was pleasantly surprised to see how neat and clean they were. “I’ve cooked all over the world, and in some places like Vietnam, I found the kitchens were in a poor state and very badly organised. The chefs, though were very well-trained.”
In the chef-eat-chef world of cooking, Michelin stars are hard to come by. So what made Pourcel pursue three? “The first puts a lot of pressure on you, the second comes quickly because you know you serve good food.
But the third is the hardest because you have to maintain very high standards and live up to people’s expectations,” Pourcel explains. “Earning a Michelin star depends on the quality of food and standards of service. You also need to have a good wine selection and a well-trained sommelier.”
Pourcel admits that maintaining his reputation at restaurants like Le Jardin des Sens (two-star) and the newly opened Maison Pourcel in Shanghai, China puts quite a dent in his wallet. “But on the upside, people are willing to pay more because they know you have three Michelin stars, so it balances out in the end,” says the man who has tossed dishes for French President Nicholas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni.
With his old-school style of preparing traditional food using local produce, what does this stickler think about molecular gastronomy, where chefs like Ferran Adrià use hydrogen and basic chemistry to reinvent food? “It’s interesting, but won’t last long,” feels Pourcel. “It doesn’t bring any nutritional value and the products aren’t real, so it’s not a satisfying meal.”
Now that he’s cracked the Asian market with a restaurant in Shanghai, will he turn his eyes on India? Pourcel says, “There isn’t a demand in India for this kind of continental food yet, and even getting basic products is difficult.
For the food experience at Zodiac Grill, we found that the butter and cheese that you use here is very different. But it’s something that we could look at in the future.”