Plating is not simply throwing the food in the center of the plate and garnishing it with herbs, it is much more than that. Yesterday at IIHM Bangalore in Foodcamp with Chef Kunal Kapoor, the chef demonstrated to students and food lovers the art of plating and the beauty of molecular gastronomy. Having seen the adaptation of molecular gastronomy only on television, it was exciting to watch the chef make mango caviar or yogurt spheres and plate them. With his food camp, chef brings in a lot of excitement, learning’s, and tips for the culinary students. Throughout the session, it was really nice to see the chef interacting with the students and explaining each technique in detail.
The foodcamp session started with the chef taking us through the various styles of plating using the same set of ingredients. We got to understand the different approaches to plating, whether one uses classic or contemporary – asymmetrical or linear approach. He further went on to show the different ways a sauce or puree can be used to plate food to make it sync with modern times. A splash or a swirl of a puree, a drop or smear of a sauce, we got to see how a simple technique could liven up the plate and make the food so appealing.
During his session, the chef also showed us the basics of molecular gastronomy like making spheres, foams, gels and making caviar using day to day ingredients. For a person who loves chemistry, it was exciting to watch the process of sperification by using sodium alginate to yogurt and then adding this to calcium lactate producing a beautiful Yogurt Sphere. We could see that there were no rules to plating, whether one uses tamarind foam or mango fruit caviar, the end result turns out so different from what one visualizes a traditional dish to look like. We ended the session with chef’s reinvention of a papdi chat.
Well, now that I have shared with you guys a glimpse of yesterday session, here is the quick chat I had with Chef Kunal (oooh so exciting…. my very first interview with a chef) !!! A chef who has worked in various restaurants, cooked Satvik food for our PM and his dignitaries and has traveled across the country to get knowledge on different types of pickles.
Question: Can you tell me little bit about your food camp and how you would like to take it forward?
Ans: My food camp is like a specially curated workshop for culinary students. It’s not about just teaching recipes, but also about teaching them techniques in food, plating, ingredients etc…trying to use the latest techniques available around the world and using them in the existing recipes and move forward. I would like to start these food camps for hotel management students since these students would become the chefs of tomorrow and would be representing the cuisine of India all around. I would like to try an bridge the gap between what the institutes teach and where the world is at.
Question: How do you plan to take molecular gastronomy forward in India?
Ans: Molecular gastronomy when it started, it started out with a big bang. Now it is used in subtle forms by various chefs. I trained in college to plate food in a very classic style. Now when I have completed 17-18 years of working in various restaurants, all of a sudden I see molecular gastronomy and realise there is so much to learn. As a chef one needs to keep learning so that one does not become obsolete. Since I do not want to be obsolete so soon, I have learnt it and would like to pass it on. The more I do this, the more I refine my style. Molecular gastronomy is just one of the different types of modern techniques that I want to pass on to the future chefs.
Question: After so many seasons, what is the difference that he is able to see in the contestants appearing in Masterchef India?
Ans: People have greatly improved in improvising the various dishes and reinventing traditional recipes. The contestants are constantly learning and have learnt different techniques and are surprising us with the quality of home chefs who come into the competition.
Question: Which is the most unique pickle that you have tasted, from your trip across various parts of India?
Ans: One of the most unique pickles that I have had was in Darjeeling, where they use mustard leaves to create a pickle. They pound mustard leaves, put them inside a gunny bag, dig a hole in the ground and leave the bag inside the hole for 10 days to ferment. They then dry the fermented leaves and make a pickle out of it. The practice of making a pickle using fermented mustard leaves was new to me. It was as different as making pickle out of akhuni.