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All for the love of food

Streetfood connoisseur Bobby Chinn checked out the most expensive shopping street in India. A conversation with Paramita Ghosh.

delhi Updated: Oct 02, 2010 22:39 IST
Paramita Ghosh
Paramita Ghosh
Hindustan Times

The chef with the most famous crinkly eyes in Asia, takes off his glasses and scours the landscape. A urinal stands next to an eatery selling southeast asian cuisine. An electric box gapes open; its wires and switches come under the electrician's hammer. At a shop window, the backroom boys of a fast food shop roll out a batch of orange chicken legs in foil. "This is Khan Market," one says to funny man and feted TLC host, Bobby Chinn, on his maiden trip to the 21st most expensive shopping location in the world.

"Says who?" says Chinn. The answer: A 2010 survey by real estate consultant Cushman and Wakefield. It was 24th last year. It moved up three spots this year.

"You don't say so," says Chinn. "Who was first?"

Fifth Avenue, New York. Khan's landmarks aren't so big, one offers. It has no pop culture reference to match a Breakfast at Tiffany's. There's no Woody Allen who will talk and film its neuroses.

What are its attractions? Shawar Ali trying glasses at an optical store. Spotting Rahul Gandhi having a brownie at a coffeeshop.

A line of broken cobble stones lead us to Al-Bake (in a previous life it was Khan Chacha), where chicken shawarmas are being piled on a plate. It reminds Chinn of a Sri Lankan dish. Name unknown. What does he look for in a street for a shoot? "Sometimes directors select places because of the light, the location. I look for the food. You can't fake that," says the half-Egyptian, half-Chinese chef. "You can't hold up an asparagus and say it's a wonder unless you mean it… Nigella has her pastel settings, that great English pronunciation, I am a man who cooks on the street. I wouldn't be a good Gordon Ramsay."

A salt and pepper haired lady attends to Chinn as he enters her home accessories store. A Victorian-style teapot catches his eye. "What's Indian in the shop?" asks Chinn. Turns out it's just the cushions.

Khan Market, indeed, is more like an Indian bazaar. It houses big brands; on its sidewalk sit hawkers selling magazines. But with the rents at $ 264 per square foot, an increase of 15.80 per cent from 2009, the old mix of people will be moving out. And that includes the president's dentist.

"So basically it's the little guys doing the little things who will be worst hit," says Chinn. "And then one day you'll have another real estate agent saying you don't need a market, you need a mall…"

(Bobby's new series World Cafe: Middle East will premiere on TLC from October 11 every Monday at 10 pm)

First Published: Oct 02, 2010 22:20 IST