(June 10, 2022) In a recent study by German food ordering company Lieferando, Indian food emerged as the second most popular cuisine on social media and had the fastest growth rate of 41 percent. In the last two decades, several young chefs from the Indian diaspora are tapping into the potential of regional Indian food, and stacking it with consciousness, innovation, and creativity.
Interestingly, several Indian-American chefs and restaurateurs have been selected as finalists of The James Beard Foundation Award 2022 for their representation of Indian food. Also known as the Oscars of food, this annual award ceremony has recognised several Indian chefs over the years. Global Indian turns the spotlight on five chefs who are changing the international perception of Indian food from spice-laden meals to a delicate cuisine.
Chef Srijith Gopinathan
After serving as the executive chef at the famous Taj Campton Place Hotel in San Francisco for more than a decade, Chef Srijith Gopinathan opened his own restaurant, Ettan, in California. One of the most-decorated Indian chefs cooking in the United States today, Chef Sri started his journey from a small town in Kerala, where he learned to cook in his grandmother’s kitchen.
The innovator of Cal-Indian culinary genre, Chef Sri has helmed the kitchen at Taj Campton Place in San Francisco since 2008 where he has continually earned two Michelin stars and 3.5 stars from the San Francisco Chronicle. He received his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and via “staging” at the Michelin two-star Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in England where he honed his repertoire in classical European techniques. A culinary master, Chef Sri’s highly personal blend of east and west sensibilities allows him to present the best of both the worlds – that is both unique and faithful to his Indian roots.
Chef Hari Nayak
A chef, restaurateur, author and culinary consultant – Hari Nayak dons several hats. Starting his epicurean journey from the Culinary Institute of America, he is currently one of the most sought-after Indian chefs. Having cast his spell on restaurants in India, he went on to display his culinary skills in restaurants in the New York metro area. Though Chef Hari is a name to reckon with in the culinary world, his skills extend far beyond the kitchen. A savvy restaurateur, he is responsible for the operation and success of several restaurants worldwide, including Sona in New York, Charcoza in Riyadh, Alchemy in Bangalore and Jhol in Bangkok.
A famous cookbook author, Chef Hari’s books feature the simple yet eclectic style of his dishes. He elucidates that Indian cooking can be prepared in a simplistic style, with all the modern trappings, yet appealing to the common household cook at the same time.
Chef Rohit Ghai
His love affair with food began as a kid in Gwalior in his mother’s kitchen. Following his passion, Chef Rohit Ghai went on to study Indian cuisine at the Institute of Hotel Management in New Delhi, before perfecting his craft at some of most esteemed hotel groups across the country, including the Oberoi Hotels and Resorts as well as The Taj Hotels and Resorts.
Today, the Michelin star-winning chef runs his solo restaurant, Kutir in London. Hailed as one of the UK’s most creative and accomplished Indian chefs, his creative and refined cooking has been applauded by celebrities, dignitaries and food critics. His revolutionary, precise and beautifully presented cooking has earned praise from all. In 2019, he launched Koolcha – a street food concept offering Indian favorites such as kulchas, Chowpati vada pav as well as innovative additions like the chicken popcorn masala in London. He recently released his first cookbook titled, Tarkari: Innovative Vegetarian and Vegan Indian Dishes with Heart and Soul.
Chef Manoj Sharma
French love their food, and this Delhi-born chef’s Paris-based restaurant Jugaad wanted to up the game by blending a Parisian bistro with Indian kitsch. His idea behind the restaurant was simple – making the diners forget everything they know about Indian restaurants. And he pulled it off by presenting delectable dishes on his menu – tuna bhel, achaari lamb tartare, malai salmon in maple and samphire and orange and lime jalebi churros – giving a modern twist to the traditional cuisine.
“I try to use my childhood memories with food and twist them with local produce and tectonics. I use local favourite dishes for inspiration and try to connect them with Indian flavours. Hence even one dish can consist of different regions of India,” the chef had said during a press interaction. At Jugaad, the kitchen is unlike any – it is open, with live golden tandoor ovens in the middle of the room, serving dishes from around the world with Indian flavours. Interestingly, about 75 percent of his customers are the local French.
Chef Prashant Chipkar
Born and brought up in Goa, Chef Prashant Chipkar got his degree in Hotel Management from Mumbai and started his culinary career with the Taj Group of Hotels. Today the executive chef of famous Masti restaurant in Dubai, he has developed his unique cooking style that is marked with global influences, showcasing local ingredients and progressive modern techniques.
Placing India on each platter that he serves, his food has gained many Indian cuisine lovers for his signature dishes like smoked salmon khakhra, saag paneer lasagna, and khandvi prawns moilee. “We began by thinly slicing paneer and layering it with sautéed spiced spinach,” he said about the saag paneer lasagna, in an interview, adding, “To add a new dimension of flavour, we served it on a base of coconut and lemongrass makhana sauce. This dish is served with mashed potatoes coated in raw mango powder to add another element of texture.”