Gold Rush’s World On A Plate — India’s largest gourmet food festival— has arrived in the capital with its fifth season, and brought along globally acclaimed celebrity chef Marco Pierre White. During his maiden trip to New Delhi, White will be curating exquisite dinners and holding Master Classes at the DLF Avenue’s Philips Taste Theatre on February 15 and 16. We managed to steal a little bit of his time at JW Marriott Hotel New Delhi Aerocity to know what brings the youngest three Michelin star chef back to the Indian lands. By Sushmita Srivastav
1. This is your third time with . What is it about the culinary festival that makes you keep coming back for more?
There are multiple of reasons. Firstly, it’s in India. For me, India, without a doubt, is the most magical country in the world. In India, you get what you don’t get elsewhere. You are given too much respect, and the people care for you here. To them, it is important for you to be happy. There’s no other country in the world where people are so humble. And then, of course, there’s the food at WOAP, which makes it all so amazing.
2. What should people be expecting from the fifth edition of WOAP?
People who have expectations tend to be left disappointed. The last time I came to India, I came with a blindfold and had no perception of what to expect. When I arrive, I take that blindfold off so I can experience India for what it truly is, rather than being spending my time being disappointed. So, I’d say don’t come to WOAP with any expectation. Just come to enjoy yourself. That’s how you will discover new incredible food!
3. What’s your opinion about global events like World On A Plate?
In my eyes, WOAP is Michelin of India. It requires chefs to work hard and inspires them to do better. It acknowledges their work and rewards them. That’s exactly what Michelin has done for chefs over the years. What you need to remember, most importantly, is that this recognition makes people want to cook, makes them want to eat, makes them want to discover themselves through food and helps them make a living out of it.
4. How is it like cooking with chefs from India?
It’s interesting. Firstly, each cuisine is different from the other, so the techniques differ. Unlike other cuisines, in India, a lot of work is done before the food is served. The chefs here want to feed you; they want to share with you. Also, I have noticed that the chefs here do not feel the need to use measuring spoons for their spices. They touch and feel, and breathe in the aroma of the spices, and bung them directly into the pan. It’s amazing!
5. What do you love the most about India?
Food, obviously! The food here is sensational. There’s no country in the world that understands spices better than India. Cooking in India is more philosophical than simply following the recipe. I remember the first time that I arrived in Mumbai, the visual and the emotional impact from the airport to the city silenced me. There was a certain sweetness of spices lingering in the air that amazed me. Also, while eating in India, I get an excuse to use my fingers. I love to eat with my fingers!
6. That begs the next question—what’s your favourite Indian dish?
All of them when they are cooked well. Since the time I arrived here, I’ve eaten lamb curry twice because it was cooked with the bones. This helps balance the spices and the flavours. I also particularly love black dal. Even though I’ve eaten black dal many times in England, but the one I ate in New Delhi the other day was incredible.
7. What’s your take on the Indian culinary space? And what can be done to make it better?
Indian cuisine, when done traditionally and accurately, is one of the greatest cuisines in the world. It’s designed to feed people, not just to impress them. And, that’s the best sort of food. I don’t think anything that’s working so beautifully should be changed. One can may be refine the sources, but don’t change anything else.
8. What’s the one place that you love to go to for food?
I go to this particular restaurant in Bath for its Szechuan cuisine. I have been there 15-20 times in the last six months. It’s a simple place, nothing fancy. The owner and the husband are always welcoming people, while their children are playing in the seating area. I love that place, because I don’t go to a restaurant for its decor, I go there for what’s on the plate.
9. Any word of advice for all the aspiring chefs coming to the festival?
Find the confidence within to push yourself, to drive yourself, to read, and to respect the classics. Serve your food, hot because that’s your tradition. Stop being obsessed with the presentation. Food isn’t designed for Instagram, it is designed for eating. Be generous while serving food. Also, remember that Mother Nature is the greatest educator and artist. She helped me with my world and my work. So, let her guide you.