Have you heard of recipe matrices and remixes?4 min read . Updated: 06 Dec 2019, 06:24 PM IST
- On Dec 3, two restaurants from India were part of a global recipe switcheroo
- As participants of the Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle Stay in Tour, Mumbai’s Masque and The Bombay Canteen reinterpreted dishes from Michelin-starred restaurants
There was anticipation in the air at Masque, the fine-dining restaurant in Mumbai’s Shakti Mills area. Some of the diners had flown into the city just to experience this one-of-a-kind multiple-course meal. They knew it was a menu originally crafted by a world-famous chef that would be recreated by Masque’s executive chef and co-owner Prateek Sadhu, but they had no idea what was on the menu, or the cuisine that would be served. A similar story was being played out at The Bombay Canteen (TBC). All of us, from chefs and restaurant staff to diners, were willing participants of the great recipe switcheroo called the Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle Stay in Tour, which Vanity Fair describes as “one of the culinary world’s most ambitious events".
Back after a two-year break, the global food event this year included, for the first time, two Indian restaurants and chefs. Worldwide, 148 chefs participated in the event, which culminated on 3 December with ticketed dinners at 138 restaurants around the globe.
This is how it works: The selected chefs exchange recipes to push their creativity and discover ingredients, dishes and styles. In the earlier editions, they would visit each others’ restaurants to cook. This time, with a bigger roster of chefs, recipes were swapped online.
Among the participating restaurants and chefs were Michelin-starred GAA by Garima Arora in Bangkok, the iconic Osteria Francescana by Massimo Bottura in Modena and the avant-garde Noma by René Redzepi in Copenhagen. The event, co-founded by French food writer Andrea Petrini, aims to get chefs to explore other cultures and cuisines. The challenge is to work on another chef’s recipes and reimagine them—to use a musical analogy, think U2 covering a Beatles track.
The preparation for this cooking and dining experience began in July. The thumb rule was the chefs couldn’t assign dishes that were already on their menus. Each chef created a multiple-course dinner menu and broke down their recipes into the minutest details, from flavour profiles to ingredients. Images of the final presentation were sent to the Gelinaz! team. Menus from each restaurant were shuffled and shared.
Who got whose recipes? That remained secret till 3 December.
“This is the first time I drafted recipes without knowing who would cook or eat my food. I am more excited about how the chef who got my recipe is going to pull it off," said Sadhu before the grand dinner. His Gelinaz! menu had paani puri and Kashmiri katlam bread and his mother’s recipe of lamb yakhni. So, if his menu landed in Slovenian chef Ana Roš’ restaurant Hiša Franco, of Netflix’s Chef’s Table fame, how could she possibly recreate an Indian street food? She would “remix" the “matrix". In Gelinaz! vocabulary, remix means reinterpretation and “matrix" is the recipe. As it turned out, Sadhu’s recipes were rejigged by Atsushi Tanaka of Restaurant A.T. in Paris. Tanaka, who has earned the moniker “Picasso" for his impressively styled food, served paani puris in brown butter paper.
TBC’s Thomas Zacharias’ matrices were experimented upon at Le Dauphin Paris, helmed by Iñaki Aizpitarte. “It’s a really good restaurant!" Zacharias said without making any attempt to hide his curiosity about how his recipes were recreated. He had drafted recipes such as chorizo-stuffed grilled calamari with pickled onion and gajar halwa toffee pudding, which is candied carrots, cashew semifreddo with tamarind toffee sauce.
But before the big reveal on 3 December, the chefs didn’t know who had received their recipes. So what was the guiding principle for Sadhu or Zacharias when they didn’t know their diners? They stayed true to their restaurants’ philosophy. For Sadhu, it was Masque’s ingredient-focused approach even as he drew from his Kashmiri roots. Zacharias stayed with the regional Indian philosophy of TBC and didn’t hold back.
At Masque, Sadhu worked on a seafood-centric European menu conceptualized by Angelo Aglianó of the Michelin-starred Italian restaurant Tosca di Angelo in Hong Kong. The meal began on a creative note with a tostada layered with lobster and topped with Osetra caviar, while the visually appealing vegetarian version had purple potatoes garnished with edible flowers. It was given an Indian spin with Rajasthani mathri as the base. One of the recipes for this menu called for veal cheeks and Sadhu replaced it with barramundi collar and served it with raw mango-flavoured salsa and XO sauce. The main course was ravioli stuffed with Kashmiri morel mushrooms with truffle sauce. It was followed by jasmine fried rice with smoked pork, with a bright egg yolk offsetting the white shredded crab meat. But the clear winner of the night was the deceptively humble palate cleanser: sweet, fresh Himachali persimmons puréed and mildly flavoured with habanero, served with a base of almonds and finely chopped celery. Then a broth infused with apricot oil, vanilla and nasturtiums was poured over it. Its taste continues to linger.
Zacharias put his own spin on Thai recipes from the Michelin-starred Bo.Lan in Bangkok. The “matrix" recipe of cured fish salad from Bo.Lan was recreated in Zacharias’ kitchen with dried bombil flavoured with sweet lime and topped with crispy poha. The kanom chan, a signature layered Thai dessert of steamed batter, was translated by Zacharias with a Goa-inspired dessert of jaggery caramel and tender coconut. The servers at TBC traded their uniforms for tropical printed shirts, in keeping with the theme of Thai food. They went the extra mile with drinks to pair with the meal—like the Bangkok Mule comprising whisky, lemongrass syrup and Franklin ginger beer.
Both Sadhu and Zacharias don’t stick to the tried and tested, like biryani and tikkas which are better recognised globally, and bring to the table local and hyper local dishes. Their Gelinaz! menus reflect this contemporary take on Indian food, which is representative of a wider and deeper narrative.