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Chef David Rocco: Indian culture reflects in its cuisine

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New Delhi: David Rocco, Italian-Canadian chef visited India five times in the last three years and calls India his “second home”. It’s interesting how the culture of the country reflects through its cuisine, he said.

Rocco has explored India as part of a TV show for channel FOX Life. For the second season of the Italian-Indian culinary adventure “David Rocco Dolce India”, he returned to the nation and visited lesser-known locales to uncover some hidden gems.

“It was really cool discovering these unique and diverse communities throughout India and seeing how their cultural influences are reflected in the cuisine,” Rocco said in an email interview from Toronto.

Through his show, which airs in over 150 countries including India, he introduces viewers to the Portuguese influence in Goa, the Chinese community in Kolkata and the holiest of Punjabi traditions in Amritsar, while sampling plenty of culinary delights along the way.

“I was first introduced to Indian food many years ago, but having Indian food in India is a totally different experience than outside of India. And of course making my first Indian dish was a little intimidating, but I’ve learnt a lot since then in terms of ingredients and technique.

“In season two of my show, I’m much more comfortable with the process and I really start to play around with certain dishes, combining flavours that north and south Indians might never have even thought to work with,” said Rocco, whose first attempt at Indian food was a ‘dal’ (lentil) and he found it “pretty straightforward” in making.

The author of three cookbooks, Rocco has travelled the world over. But he said “I’m attracted to India for its diversity and the warmth of its people”.

He is also fascinated with the importance given to food and family in the Indian culture, which he finds “so diverse, from region to region”.

In his show, he says he fuses his own style of cooking with Indian ingredients as “inspiration”.

“You could call it the easy Indian approach. I’m really being an ambassador to the people outside of India, helping them see how accessible Indian cooking can be,” he added, stressing that localisation of global cuisine is “an incredibly common thing around the world”.

“For instance, McDonalds is different everywhere you go! If you look at Italian food, you can get it pretty much everywhere in the world lasagne, pizza and pasta are probably some of the most universally liked dishes that you can get in any major city across the globe. Is it authentic? Most likely not.

“But if someone truly enjoys the taste of the ‘local’ version, or it inspires them to take up cooking or even take a trip to Italy some day, I don’t see anything wrong with that.”(IANS)(image:davidrocco.com)

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A Unique Grandmothers’ Story Through Food For Chef Julien Royer

At Odette, we have always intentionally gone against the stereotype of fine dining as stiff and unwelcoming while presenting the very best of produce in its purest form," Royer explained.

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I realized the kind of joy and love you can demonstrate through food. The kind of emotions that can be passed through food was the impetus for me to start cooking. Pixabay

Inspired as he was by the cooking of his grandmother, it shouldn’t be a surprise that French Chef Julien Royer, who was in India recently to unveil his magic, should be the co-owner in Singapore of a two-Michlen-star fine diner named after her.

“My grandmother Odette is one of the greatest influences in my life. Watching my grandmother cook, I realized the kind of joy and love you can demonstrate through food. The kind of emotions that can be passed through food was the impetus for me to start cooking.

“I wanted to tell stories through my food. People want comfort. Good food is always the best way to put a smile on your guest’s face,” Royner told IANS on the sidelines of the Masters of Marriott, a platform to exchange knowledge with a team of expert chefs, at which he served up a four-course repast.

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. Focus on quality and purity of ingredients remains the driving force for us. Pixabay

Royner, 35, also took the opportunity to detail his journey down the years.

“My first venture into the kitchen was under the legendary Michel Bras in (French town) Laguiole who instilled in me a respect for the integrity and purity of each ingredient in every dish.

“I then moved to Durtol (also in France), where I worked for Chef Bernard Andrieux who helped reinforce my reverence. I then traveled to London, where I was sous chef to Antonin Bonnet at Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant, The Greenhouse,” Royer explained.

Thereafter, he moved to Singapore in 2008 to take on the role of Chef de Cuisine at JAAN at Swissotel the Stamford, which received numerous accolades including 11th place on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 guide and 74 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 long list.

“Then the opportunity to open Odette showed itself and the rest you can say is history,” Royer said.

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“My first venture into the kitchen was under the legendary Michel Bras in (French town) Laguiole who instilled in me a respect for the integrity and purity of each ingredient in every dish. Pixabay

How would he describe his singature dishes?

“Rosemary smoked organic egg, heirloom beetroot variation and Kegani crab are some of my signature dishes. I featured these from the Odette menu at the dinner in Delhi,” Royer said.

Elaborating on the Delhi event, Royer said: “What I truly loved about Masters of Marriott is that it celebrates the pursuit of consistent innovation and excellence as well as global talent. With over 5,000 chefs across 200+ restaurants in India, it provides an extended arm of exposure to renowned international chefs.”

Also Read: Food Insecurity In New York, Indian-Americans Work To Raise Awareness

At the bottom line, Royer remains a purist.

“As the dishes we serve at Odette are very much anchored by produce and tradition, we are not very influenced by trends in general. Focus on quality and purity of ingredients remains the driving force for us. At Odette, we have always intentionally gone against the stereotype of fine dining as stiff and unwelcoming while presenting the very best of produce in its purest form,” Royer explained. (IANS)