The age of molecular gastronomy is over: Chefs Sriram Aylur and Srijith Gopinathan
Michelin-starred chefs Sriram Aylur and Srijith Gopinathan say the food trend is slowly falling out of favour globally. In India, however, it might last for a few more years.more lifestyle Updated: Apr 21, 2017 15:19 IST
Meeting chefs Sriram Aylur and Srijith Gopinathan, their chemistry, cheeky sense of humour and warm demeanour makes you feel as if you’ve known them for long. Chef Sriram Aylur — executive chef at Quilon, the coastal Indian cuisine destination at Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences London — is among one of the most progressive chefs in the world. Quilon has been awarded the Michelin star in 2008, which it has retained since then.
Chef Srijith Gopinathan is the executive chef of Taj Campton Place, San Francisco, USA. Chef Srijith is the creator of a refined version of contemporary Cal-Indian cuisine earning a Michelin star for six years in a row – most recently upgraded to two Michelin Stars, making him the only Indian chef in America to receive such a distinction.
We caught up with them at Taj Mahal Hotel in the Capital during their recent tour of India. In a candid chat with HT City, they tell us about latest trends in the culinary world. Excerpts:
How do San Francisco and London perceive Indian food?
SG: San Francisco is a young market. But it has grown 40% in last 5 years. The Indian generation that came in 70’s here, has kids now, who have all matured. And this created a different scenario. Hopefully, a few years down the line San Francisco will be like London.
SA: London is very mature, when it comes to Indian cuisine, which was introduced in the country 80 years ago. You are catering to an informed audience. But people still have preconceived notions.
Many chefs are experimenting with molecular gastronomy (application of scientific principles in food preparation). What is your take on it?
SG: Molecular gastronomy is gone now. Maybe in India, it will last for a few more years. No harm in creating new things but not for the sake of it.
SA: I think it was a phase that many evolving chefs went through. It’s true, you need to push boundaries to be creative. But at the end of the day, it should make sense, which molecular gastronomy doesn’t.
Indian food is considered one of the healthiest foods in the world, yet it lacks recognition. Why so?
SA: It’s finally happening. For the last 50 years, the representation of Indian food was being done mostly by the Westerners. Hence, it all went the wrong way. With the promotion of ethnic Indian food, people will soon realise how healthy Indian cuisine is.
How is the Indian culinary scene different from the West?
SG: In the West, people believe in integrity of the ingredients. So, the focus is more on ingredients. Diners in the West prefer longer menus with small plates — going for tasting sessions. While in India, it’s all about combined complexity of spices, ingredients and colours. Here, the focus is more on overly spiced mass production. Braised food is popular too. We don’t believe in subtler cuts of the cold meats.
SA: I think the availability of ingredients is the biggest difference. There are more options in the West as opposed to India. So diners have more diversity in their choices.
What is Cal-Indian cuisine?
SG: Cal-Indian (Californian Indian cuisine) is more relevant to San Francisco. I won’t call it fusion. Cal-Indian is about adapting Indian cuisine as per the ingredients available in California and cooking technique, which is French. It’s what you call an evolutionary mishmash. An example for Cal-Indian would be Lobster poached in spice butter, brûléed in flames to get a little barbecue flavour, topped with Kerala style fish curry sauce, and presented with puff rice.