Having worked in various kitchens in London (including Chez Bruce, The Square, and La Trompette) for over 11 years, chef Anthony Boyd always thought he knew a thing or two about food, even Indian food. After all, his mother was born in India and his grandmother cooked Indian food. That notion was put to the test when he visited India earlier this year and had gol guppas, chole bhature and aloo tikki at Bengali Sweet House in New Delhi. “I felt like I didn’t know a thing. I was awestruck," says Boyd.

The visit to the eatery also reminded Boyd, a cuisine teaching chef with Le Cordon Bleu (LCB), London, one of the largest culinary training institutes in the world, what he always teaches his students: Never think that you know everything about food.

Edited excerpts from an interview:

What’s the best way to teach cooking to someone?

At LCB, we have a very interesting technique whereby we demonstrate what we want to teach and follow it up with practical sessions. Students tend to learn in different ways: Some lean towards visual aspects and some prefer writing techniques.

At the entry level, we teach them the basics of all cooking, including chopping vegetables, sauces, stocks, etc. The way I see it, these basics form the base of the pyramid. Then halfway up the pyramid—the intermediary level—we take our students to do a whole circle of France and learn about French cooking and culture as well as the ingredients. France is very much like India in terms of variety of food and culture. Then the students reach the top of the pyramid and that’s when we take the reins off and the students are free to experiment. When it comes to food, you need to walk first and then run.

Is the number of Indians joining LCB on the rise?

LCB has always had a great connection with India and its students. Indian students tend to go for patisserie, and that’s a very good thing. But there has been a gentle swing towards cuisine. Quite a few of the students are mixing both—patisserie as well as cuisine. After local students, Indian students make up the highest percentage at Cordon Bleu, followed by Chinese students.

What’s the relevance of LCB’s French cooking basics in a world increasingly moving towards modernist styles?

We have introduced a new three-month programme after the BIS (Basic, Intermediary and Superior programme) called the Diploma Culinary Programme, in which we teach students molecular techniques, including making gels and foams and modernist styles of cooking. But these modernist techniques are still such a low percentage on the plate, whether starters or desserts, we still need those French techniques to fill those plates.

With consumers demanding authenticity, how do you think restaurants—especially those that serve “imported" cuisines—can strike a balance between local produce and foreign ideas or ideals?

In today’s world, it is difficult to understand what is local and what is not. With increased communication and technology, the cooking industry is seeing a merging of various cultures and techniques. Anyone who doesn’t want to adapt to this change has blinkers on in terms of produce, ideas and techniques, and they won’t go very far. We are in a modern world, and if you think that an authentic dish should only be cooked in a certain way, then you are holding back a lot of future students and their dreams.

You are familiar with Indian food. Is there a place for Indian cuisine in the world, beyond areas where Indians are settled, such as the UK?

My mother was born in Mumbai, she trained to be a chef. I grew up with my grandmother cooking Indian food, which we thought was foreign food at that time. But defining Indian food is so difficult, because you have so many different techniques and ingredients, much like France. India, I think, is in middle of a boom when it comes to its food industry, with a lot of people eating out and experimenting with food. I can only liken it to London, where it happened 15 years ago.

What’s the next food frontier?

We are going through the forage frontier in the world when it comes to food, which doesn’t apply to each and every country, because of various climatic conditions. For example, a lot of Scandinavian countries have mushrooms and certain good herbs. Foraging is the next frontier and the future generation needs to find out ways and methods to experiment with it.

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