Meet the chef: Talking food with Manish Mehrotra from Indian Accent
Following success in New Delhi and New York, ‘India’s Best Restaurant’ Indian Accent landed in Mayfair at the end of 2017, quickly winning acclaim for its refined and inventive dishes. With Corporate Chef Manish Mehrotra leading the pass, Indian Accent showcases vibrant and interesting flavour combinations, continually redefining high-end Indian cuisine, while keeping faithful to traditionally grounded recipes.
We sat down with Manish and discussed everything from his culinary background to his signature dish.
So Manish, tell us a little bit about yourself career wise?
At a young age, I joined a hospitality college as I wasn’t sure what else I wanted to do! It was here that I discovered my love for the kitchen. I was drawn to it because it encouraged my creative side – I saw that imagination is required in the kitchen and this inspired me.
The first Head Chef I worked under was Chef Johnson Esso and he taught me the basics that led me on the path to become the chef I am today. He taught me how to identify flavours that would work well together, and how to successfully navigate a kitchen and work cohesively alongside others.
When I joined Old World Hospitality in 2000 as a Pan Asian Chef, my life changed. The company gave me the opportunity to travel across the world, learn about various cuisines, ingredients, techniques, etc. I started collecting cook books, reading them, learning from them. Today I have a small library with over 1,200 cookbooks.
What are the most important elements for you when crafting a menu?
Each menu at Indian Accent is created with a ‘circle of tastes’ which combines flavours (sweet, spicy, salty, which complement each other), textures (crisp and crunchy), colours and richness, to complete the gastronomic experience. Along with this, seasonal and local ingredients play an integral part in deciding the menu.
Who were your main influences for seeking out a career in this renowned tough industry?
It was actually a very personal decision for me to become a chef; I developed a keen interest in the kitchen while I was in hospitality college, and it really developed from there.
Without a doubt one of the most influential figures who has shaped me to be the chef I am today is Ananda Solomon, who I trained under in my first job. I also take a lot of inspiration from Rick Stein, his recipes are rarely over complicated or ‘fancy’, but instead focus on the flavour and the ingredients, which is definitely a method that I have adopted with my own cooking.
Do you have a favourite time of year or set of ingredients that you look forward to working with?
Each season has its specialities and it’s always fun to try something new with them. In the Indian Accent kitchen, we try our best to use all seasonal produce in the menu and create dishes using them.
Do you have a signature dish?
The ghee roast lamb with roomali roti pancakes and a selection of chutneys is definitely one of my signature dishes, and we tend to keep it on the menu as it’s very popular with our diners. I think it really summarises what Indian Accent is about – traditional Indian flavours presented in a unique and innovative way. We also serve all our guests an amuse bouche of a mini blue cheese naan, accompanied by a pumpkin and coconut shorba soup, and this is a real favourite that we consistently offer due to popular demand.
What is your favourite dish to cook and why?
On the menu at Indian Accent, my favourite dish to make is the soy keema with quail egg – it’s a really comforting dish for me, and one that I know is sure to be liked by our diners, thanks to its unique flavour. After a busy night at the restaurant, however, usually all I want to cook is a bacon and egg sandwich!
Do your personal preferences influence the menu at all?
When we create new menus at Indian Accent, we always ensure that they cater to the local palette, which is why the menus at London may be different to the ones in Delhi or New York. This being said, personal preferences definitely provide some direction in terms of the ingredients we use. For example, a few years ago I was not very fond of beetroot and avoided its use in the kitchen for a long time, but after travelling and trying different versions of it across the globe, I experimented with it and now it’s one of my favourite ingredients in the kitchen. There’s a beetroot dish on our new spring menu – beetroot chop with peanut butter and goat cheese raita. It’s delicious, even if I say so myself.