We managed to grab a few minutes with celebrated chef, Vicky Ratnani, while he was busy rolling out fresh pasta dough, and got him to answer a few questions for us on his favourite culinary trails and dishes. By Amitha Ameen
1. Farm-to-table is a rising trend in the culinary space. What’s your take on this?
Farm-to-table is definitely the way forward. I am a big supporter of that because at the end of the day you are supporting the farmers and you are encouraging and promoting them. Secondly, you know the credibility of your food. You know where your grains are coming from and how they have been grown. Whether they have been pesticide tested, organic or hydroponic… So, it is building a whole eco-system and eco-community among the chefs and the food and beverage industry.
2. What’s unique about the cuisine in Zanzibar? What are your top three food recommendations from the region?
Zanzibar is a great fusion of Indian, African and Arabic food with hints of Portuguese influence in it. I love the whole blend of spices; so there is a lot of aroma and flavour in the food. There is a whole barbeque culture where different kinds of meat and vegetables are cooked on the fire. My recommendations would be to try the Mishkaki (BBQ meat delicacy) which is the Zanzibarian barbeque, the octopus curry and a popular street dish called Urojo. Another dish I really liked is the Zanzibar pizza, which is not really a pizza.
3. I believe, you ate sea urchins in Australia recently. How was your experience?
Sea urchin is one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. I paired my sea urchins with guacamole, avocado and chillies.
4. In fact, what is the craziest thing you have ever eaten and cooked?
5. Tell us about some memorable culinary trails you’ve undertaken in 2019.
6. How is the food scene in Peru? Do they have any similarities with the Indian cuisine?
Not really. Peruvian food is very different and has very different styles of cooking. One of them is the Nikae, a Japanese style of cooking. Peruvian food is very ingredients based. There is a bit of Chinese, a bit of Japanese and there is also the typical Amazonian food as well. Everything is really ingredient-driven there.
7. When we say Middle-Eastern food, the first thing that comes to mind is hummus and mezze platters. However, you were in Abu Dhabi this year, tell us some lesser-known delicacies from that country that Indians must try.
In Abu Dhabi, if you go down to the suburbs there are some great Pakistani restaurants there. One of them is called ‘Lahore Garden Grill’ which serves the most amazing chaapli kebabs and the Afghani naans.
8. With so many new innovations and technologies bursting into the food scene these days, how does a chef stay relevant to the industry trends?
I think, first of all, you have to keep an eye out. You can’t live in a bubble. A lot of young chefs are doing really good work. I always believe that there is a lot that you can learn from young chefs. Also, at the same time, I travel and read a lot, and I am quite an inquisitive guy so that is how I keep myself in tune with everything.
9. Your recommendations for the best eats in San Francisco?
There is a place called Tartine Bakery & Manufactory, which is really good. Flour + Water was another really cool restaurant that I went to. I also went to a really good Hawaiian fusion place called Liholiho Yacht Club, which I really enjoyed.
10. Of the dishes you prepare, which one would you never eat yourself?
If I can’t eat something then I can’t give it to somebody else to eat.