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Welcome to the chefs' cookhouse

Basic wooden cabinets and a clean, uncluttered look are what strike you about the chef’s style. So, here's exploring the home kitchens and personal favourite kitchen gadgets of the top chefs in India.

india Updated: Aug 27, 2011 19:04 IST

What do the home kitchens of professional chefs really look like? Here’s a look

Chef: Sabyasachi Gorai
Claim to fame:
One of the top ten chefs in India

With 17 years of cooking experience, chef Sabyasachi Gorai literally has celebrities eating out of his hands. He has composed a brunch menu for Prince Charles, cooked for the Ambani family at their residence, and counts much of Bollywood among his fans. Actor Abhishek Bachchan has publicly stated his love for Saby’s food.

Chef SabyDespite all this, chef Saby, who works at Olive, Delhi, and takes the credit for demystifying Japanese cuisine with his award-winning restaurant Ai, also in Delhi, likes to keep things simple. And you can see this in both his dream kitchen at Olive, and his kitchen at home.

Basic wooden cabinets and a clean, uncluttered look are what strike you about the chef’s style. Since his wife is a vegan and he spends more time cooking at Olive than at home, it’s Olive’s Tuscan style living room-kitchen that is chef Saby’s dream kitchen. Designed by restaurateur AD Singh’s wife Sabina, the kitchen has lots of open space and two cement corner tables with high stools that are comfortable spaces for friends to sit around and chat while chef Saby works. Chairs and open space are things he swears by even in his kitchen at home.

The cooking utensils at his dream kitchen are all copperware. “They are fabulous to cook in,” he swears. At home, he uses cast iron utensils. “I am very old school. I like simple cooking utensils. I hate nonstick with a vengeance.”
Chef Saby’s at home has basic plastic jars to store things while the ‘masaladani’ (spice box) is the quintessential steel one. Modular kitchens are a big no. “I don’t like modern-looking glass kitchens. I like mine to look old-school and wooden.”
Knives are chef Saby’s favourite kitchen accessory. “I have 20 knife sets. I love picking up knives on my travels for their artistic value, handles and carvings,” he says.

Chef Saby’s faves
Kitchen Gadgets: A microwave only for reheating because “I hate microwave cooking with a vengeance”, a waffle grill, sandwich grill, coffee blender, sugadi’ (small grill for barbecues) and a steamer

Pride & joy: His collection of glasses for wine, whisky and beer

Chef Nishant Choubey
Claim to fame: Executive chef, Cibo, Delhi

Chef NishantSimple things matter to Nishant Choubey, executive chef, at Cibo, Delhi. And cleanliness is everything. So his kitchen at home has white and off-white walls, so that the slightest hint of dirt is clearly visible.

This doesn’t mean that there are no quirky touches. There’s a red fridge, a chargeable gun-shaped red lighter and bright blue plates, adding a little colour to his pristine white kitchen. But for chef Nishant, functionality comes first.

"The first thing I look for in a kitchen is the drainage," says chef Nishant. "That has to be efficient. I hate wet kitchens. The other important thing is fresh air and a good exhaust system. My kitchen can be small, but it has to be efficient."

Chef Nishant uses his microwave oven extensively. But he is also a huge fan of slow cooking and relies on a four-burner gas stove. Another kitchen favourite is a blender. "It’s not a must but I like having one."

When he travels, chef Nishant always shops for his kitchen. "A visit to a utensils store is a must," he says. "Recently, I bought wooden platters from the US and I absolutely love them." Another favourite is an abalone shell plate he bought in Kolkata and always carries with him. "I use it to serve special presentations to guests."

Chef Nishant’s faves
Kitchen Gadgets: A microwave oven, a blender and a smoking chamber
Pride & joy: His red fridge

Chef Vicky Ratnani
Claim to fame: Head chef at Aurus, Juhu, Mumbai

‘Cosy’ would be the perfect way to describe chef Vicky Ratnani’s home kitchen. The open kitchen is the first thing that catches your eye when you enter his house, because it’s inviting and homely. “I wanted an open kitchen because I want to be able to interact with my friends when they come over,” says the head chef of Aurus, Juhu, Mumbai. The kitchen, though suited to chef Vicky’s needs, was set up according to vastu shastra. “We spoke to an expert and decided where the fire and water should be placed,” he explains.

Chef VickyA large counter with bar stools separates the kitchen from the living room. "We prepare our drinks at the counter and then everyone can stand around and eat the snacks while I prepare them, so this makes for a good place for a get-together," says chef Vicky.

There are sea-green tiles placed on one wall where the chef has hung his favourite pots and pans. This wall is next to his cooking area, which makes it easy for him to select the utensils he requires. And there are two large black slabs that he makes optimum use of. While one slab is used when he cuts his vegetables or meat, the other is a platform for his gadgets.

The most prominent feature of chef Vicky’s kitchen is the large window that covers the entire span of the wall at the back of the kitchen, allowing plenty of light to come in. "It’s important to have a nice view," says chef Vicky, adding that he loves sitting there, facing the window, in his spare time. Because the window is the major source of light in the kitchen, he has installed only two simple yellow lights in this part of the house.

The interesting part about chef Vicky’s kitchen is that it’s full of surprises. It looks minimalist but if you ask him about his gadgets and devices, he’ll take out more from his cupboards than you can count. "You don’t need them on a daily basis so why show them off?" he asks.

There is a kitchen-aid, which is used to prepare dough, mixes and batters for foods such as cakes. Then there is a vitamix used to grind and cut vegetables and prepare juices from them. There is also a third kind of blender that chef Vicky refers to as ‘heavy-duty’, which he uses to makes things such as hummus and smoothies.There is also a pasta machine, which he uses to make strands of pasta after he’s prepared the dough. Apart from this, chef Vicky has all the usual stuff, such as a microwave, refrigerator, toaster, and so on.

Chef Vicky says he hardly cooks at home except on holidays. But when he does cook, he’s quick. His favourite spices are kept in a box on the slab itself, along with other basic ingredients. But since he has many ingredients, he prefers to keep them in a drawer in the kitchen.

From HT Brunch, August 28

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First Published: Aug 26, 2011 19:29 IST