A self-proclaimed ‘nomad chef’ and one of our cover stars, Prateek Sadhu is synonymous with innovation. His vision of using local and indigenous ingredients to create seasonal and sustainable dishes truly makes him deserving of this title. The 35-year-old visionary talks to our content manager about his time at Masque, the creative process, and his travels. By Bayar Jain
Prateek Sadhu talks to T+L
You set out to change the Indian culinary landscape four years ago with Masque. And now you have moved on from the establishment. How has the Indian culinary landscape changed between then and now?
The biggest change I have seen in the last five to six years is in the narrative of Indian food—not just in India, but globally. The kind of work that so many chefs and restaurateurs have done in India to change the narrative is really commendable. People are now talking about regionality of Indian food. We are talking about ingredients that we had never heard about.
Four years after opening, Masque received the One To Watch Award in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2020. This year, Masque is among the top 50 of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022. How do you see this achievement?
My team and I had the opportunity to create something magical and truly authentic. We had a chance to create and talk about India with a very different lens. What my team and I achieved in the last five years with Masque was commendable and is something that I’m extremely proud of. I think it will go a long way.
Your recipes are known to be innovative. What is the creative process like?
I think my creative process has always been looking at everything with a very different lens. For me, that lens has always been the ingredient. I wanted to put the spotlight not just on regional dishes, but also on lesser-known regional ingredients. Innovation is a team effort. We would see an ingredient, talk about it, and discuss what could be done.
How does travel inspire you?
Whenever I travel, I’m like a kid in a candy shop! I try to explore new ingredients and eat at locals’ homes. I observe the ingredients, cooking process, and techniques.
What is your favourite thing about the Indian culinary scene now?
The diversity! We have different ingredients and cooking techniques in different regions. If you travel from Kashmir to Kerala, you’ll find at least 100 recipes on how to cook potatoes—that’s how powerful Indian cuisine is. I feel Indian cuisine has not been marketed well. Only a certain portion of our cuisine has gotten recognition. I think that is where we lack. Indian food industry will explode in the next two to three years. The work done by chefs—within India and abroad—is phenomenal. I think the credit goes to chefs, food writers, and journalists who are talking about this change. The next couple of years will be exciting for Indian food.
What are the projects you are working on currently?
The biggest project I’m working on right now is myself. The kind of work we do as chefs comes with a lot of stress, and physical and mental commitment. I want to be absolutely ready for what lies ahead of me. I can’t wait for the next phase of my life—professionally and personally. I’ll be dropping hints very soon!
Speaking of mental wellbeing, how do you strike a work-life balance?
It’s important to have a work-life balance; I’m a big advocate of it. The more time you spend with your family and friends, the better you will be on the professional front. I’ve had times where I would be burnt out and could not think straight. It’s a stressful industry—be it running a restaurant, procuring produce, or ensuring everything is running. You should know when to step out and call for help.