Considered the pinnacle in the culinary world, getting a Michelin star is the goal of any restaurant. Some of the top restaurants in the world are awarded this prestigious accolade for being the best in a category. By Trinetra Paul
Michelin stars are conferred once ‘anonymous’ diners visit the establishment to assess chefs and restaurants based on several parameters, including quality of food, consistency between other visitors, the expertise of chefs and hospitality.
However, it must be noted that the award is given to restaurants and not chefs in particular, even though it is primarily the chef who steers the ship. Therefore, one chef can work for two Michelin-starred restaurants, or two chefs can bring in two individual Michelin stars for the same restaurant over the years.
Additionally, only the USA, the UK, Italy, Japan, Thailand and Singapore fall in the territory where the Michelin guide grading exists, India does not. Having said that, many Indian restaurants have been helmed by several chefs who have achieved this benchmark of culinary excellence for their restaurants elsewhere in the world. Let’s have a look at some of these world-famous chefs.
Meet 6 Indian chefs who have won Michelin stars for their restaurants
Born and raised in Amritsar, Punjab, Chef Vikas Khanna aspired to become a world-recognised chef and around 20 years ago, he left his hometown for the USA to follow his dream.
Since then, Khanna has seen a fair amount of ups and downs. His first restaurant, about a kilometre away from the Twin Towers in New York, came to a standstill after the terrorist attack. In 2006, Khanna launched Spice Route and got his big break with his small restaurant. He was invited by Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay on his show Kitchen Nightmares.
However, when the recession hit in 2008, and he was employed by a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris. Here, the brilliant chef was made to wash dishes and stack shelves.
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He moved back to New York and in 2010 and opened Junoon in Manhattan, New York. Since then, there has been no turning back. The following year, Junoon was awarded its first Michelin star, which he continued to win for the next six years.
From featuring in MasterChef Australia and judging MasterChef India to cooking for the Obamas at the White House, he has made a big name for himself.
Besides having several cookbooks to his credit, like Essence Of Seasoning and Khanna Sutra, Khanna launched a humanitarian initiative from New York called Feed India, which arranged for meals for millions of people in a COVID-19 pandemic-ridden India last year.
“Our restaurants celebrate the life and culture of India and its bounty of beautiful flavours, aromas and spices through menus of magnificent dishes,” says chef Atul Kochhar on his website. His signature dishes and recipes are a combination of traditional Indian dishes and those of the British. Every plate that he creates will leave you wanting more.
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Having spent over two decades in the UK, chef Kochhar returned home to launch Saga, with Delhi restaurateur Vishal Anand in Gurugram. From Dalim Shakarkandhi (sweet potato with ruby pomegranate and yoghurt swirls) to Ayam Tikka and goat curry, Saga will floor you with any of its dishes.
Bhatia introduced subtle flavours to minimise the robust taste of spices in the so-called ‘anglicised’ Indian dishes served in the UK at the time with his dishes Sevian Talee Jinghe (prawns deep-fried in a spicy vermicelli batter) and Multani Bateyr (quail stuffed with chicken and dried fruits in a creamy gravy).
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However, it was in 1999 that he opened Zaika in Chelsea, but soon moved it to Kensington High Street, and in 2001, he earned his first Michelin star.
In 2009, Rasoi by Vineet at the Mandarin Oriental in Geneva, Switzerland, was awarded a Michelin star. However, it was closed in 2016 only to be relaunched as Vineet Bhatia London (VBL). VBL serves modern Indian cuisine fused with international flavours with a master balance between both.
Apart from being a chef, Bhatia is also an avid traveller and adventure junkie. The former MasterChef India judge made a pop-up restaurant at the Everest Base Camp for 10 lucky trekkers in 2018.
An alumna of Le Cordon Bleu Paris, Arora became the first Indian woman to be awarded the prestigious Michelin star for Gaa in 2018. The following year, she also bagged the title of Asia’s Best Female Chef 2019 by World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
In a 2018 interview with Hindustan Times, she talked about her win. She said, “The dream is still a distant one, given the complications, the bureaucratic maze and the corruption. Just getting a liquor licence is such a long and expensive process.”
Winning a Michelin star in 2008 and retaining it for a record 14 years straight is an unbelievable feat only a few can achieve. Located at Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences, London, since 1999, Quilon is helmed by executive chef Sriram Aylur who has given coastal Indian food a global twist.
With consistency, innovation and top-class quality as its core principles, Aylur is on a drive to make the coastal food of southwestern India a global cuisine.
“We aim to convey our passion for South-West coastal Indian cuisine, through a quest for perfect ingredients and technique, plus a deep-seated desire to continue learning how to evolve and blend old traditions and modern tastes,” reads the Quilon website.
The signature dishes and the best-selling items on the menu include the black cod and coconut with asparagus and snow peas, Mangalorean chicken and masala dosa. At Quilon, Aylur also offers a tasting menu so that dishes can be tailor-made as per visitors’ tastes and preferences.
For over a decade now, chef Srijith has helmed the Taj hotel and has held a Michelin star for eight years for this iconic San Francisco culinary haven. It was in 2016 and 2017 that he went on to win the coveted two-star accolade. Gopinathan has given quite a modern twist to traditional Indian flavours and has defined a Cal-Indian taste palate at Campton Place.
From Maine lobster poached in spiced ghee, coastal curry, sweet peas and pea leaf oil, Kerala fried quail and smoked pepper sauce to Green apple variations, rose yoghurt, apple halwa, and snow and sorrel, his signature dishes are sure to leave a mark in your heart forever.
In February 2020, chef Srijith launched his own Cal-Indian restaurant in Palo Alto, California, Ettan. The team only had 22 dinner days before it had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Being the optimistic person he is, Gopinathan is sure the ensuing times will open new opportunities to explore.