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Interview with Michelin Stared Chef Alfred Prasad - Director Cuisine & Executive Chef, Tamarind Collection
- Monday, 02 September 2013 18:54 | Written by Matthias Tesi Baur
Alfred has gained industry and public recognition for his cuisine - he was named in the Restaurant Magazine’s top twenty ‘Movers and Shakers’ for 2004, as well as one of the ‘Rising Stars’ predicted to make it big in 2004 in Delicious Magazine.
Further to that, Alfred was added to the Debrett’s People of Today, the annual publication showcasing great achievers in British society. In 2007, Alfred assisted Gordon Ramsey in turning around the fortunes of ‘Curry Lounge’ in Nottingham as part of the television series ‘Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’ and also provided ideas towards the content of ‘Gordon’s Great Escape’ – his culinary adventure in India in 2010.
In 2012 Alfred was voted ‘Chef of the year’ at the English Curry Awards and also retained the prestigious Michelin Star at Tamarind for the 11th year in the Michelin Guide 2013. Alfred has been invited to showcase his cuisine at festivals at Hotel d’Angleterre in Geneva, The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel & Spa as well as the Constance Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius.
Revered by his peers across the industry, Alfred has been described by Gordon Ramsey as a ‘man always pushing the boundaries, seeking out new spices and combinations’.
1.Tesi: Chef Alfred, you were born in India and made your career in one of the most expensive districts of London. That sounds like an amazing journey. Looking back at your career, what or who would you say influenced you the most?
Alfred: It is hard to pick one event or one person that influenced me. I was very lucky that I had family and friends around me that supported me in developing my talents from a very early stage in my life.
The first and maybe most important influence in my life were my parents. In my father’s family, vegetarian cooking played a big role, whilst my mother – coming from an Anglo-Indian background – had great skill cooking with meat. Through my family, I first began to understand the variety that different sub-cuisines can offer. I had a great opportunity to deepen this insight when I began to help my mother/ be a nuisance in the kitchen. At that time, I was around 10 years old, and my elder sister and I helped in the kitchen during the weekends. Even now, I treasure those moments when I was together with my family and learned how rewarding it could be to work with great ingredients and to simply have good food in my fingers.
I also have to thank my dad. He loved gardening. We spent a lot of time together in the garden growing and tending the ingredients my mother later used to create the most flavourful dishes. I truly can say that my family gave me a holistic view and a deep appreciation of what good food can be.
A second important influencing factor was that my family moved around in India a lot, so I had the opportunity to live in many different places during my childhood. India is a large country with 30 states (Some of these states are even bigger than the United Kingdom.) There is no “one Indian cuisine.” India is a universe of cuisines sometimes using entirely different ingredients and techniques. My hunger to absorb everything food-related continued to grow every time I discovered something new about Indian food. The chance to work in the iconic restaurants Bukhara and Dum Pukht during my training program of the ITC Sheraton also influenced me enormously.
A third influencing factor would be my move to London. It was a milestone in my life. I wasn’t sure if it was the right step in my life – leaving my home country and many friends – but I very quickly recognised that London is a melting pot where many nationalities and cultures meet. London is a city that offers a new inspiration every day. Indian culture and a love of Indian food is very much alive and evolving in London, so the city quickly became a second home to me.
2.Tesi: Indian cuisine is widely known in Europe and especially in England. How has this cuisine developed in the last 100 years in London?
Alfred: Indian cuisine experienced a massive development in London. As I mentioned, the Indian culture is vibrantly alive in the city. In London, it is actually easier to get all kinds of Indian spices and ingredients from different Indian regions than in some provinces of India. The city simply offers everything you need for Indian cooking independent of the type of Indian cuisine you desire. More and more shops offer ingredients from neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka which has expanded the already large variety of products you can buy.
The foundation of this lively Indian food culture in London was built by immigrants mainly coming from Bangladesh. These people were extremely proud of their cuisine and brought the food, ingredients, and skills to the United Kingdom. They truly can be called the pioneers of the Indian sub-continental cuisine in London and has reached an extremely high standard. In recent years, it can be even recognised that the London’s evolution of Indian cuisine is influencing some restaurants in India.
3.Tesi: Please complete this sentence: If you really want to discover Indian food, you need to...
Alfred: ...order a new dish every time you are in an Indian restaurant. Life is simply too short to discover all the different cuisines, dishes, and techniques to prepare the food India has to offer. The country has a variety of cuisines influenced by many religions and regions. Some cuisines have their roots in Hinduism, Islam and also Christian culture. The French, the Dutch and the Portuguese travellers also influenced some parts of India. I was born in India, and I’m not coming any nearer to saying that I have enjoyed all the different Indian cuisines!
4.Tesi: What does good food mean to you?
Alfred: Good food is for me a constantly evolving philosophy. To appreciate and respect good food is a specific way of life. Good food is the best investment you can make in yourself!
Thank you very much for the interview!
Awards: Michelin Star