Chef Name: Atul Kochhar
Title: Chef Patron and restaurateur.
Awards: One Michelin Star and two AA Rosettes for Benares Restaurant.
Two AA Rosettes for Sindhu Restaurant.
Michelin Bib Gourmand at Indian Essence Restaurant.
Honorary Doctorate Degree from University of Southampton.
TMG Cordon Bleu Award.
Outstanding Contribution to the Curry Industry Award.
Chef of the Year at The Asian Curry Awards 2017
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
20 years old.
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
I grew up in house that was in the food business. My grandad was a baker and my dad had a catering business. Going to the local market with my father in India remains a fond memory of mine. He was a caterer, and sourcing fresh local produce was important to him. The colours and smells were so vibrant and exciting. I would always look forward to our trips together.
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
Arun Aggarwal – he was my mentor back in the Oberoi days and influenced my skills.
Chef Daniel Humm – his emphasis on simplicity and locally sourced ingredients ticks all the right boxes for me.
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
Sauce by Michel Roux Sr and Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras.
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
Ginger and garlic.
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
My mum’s rajma.
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why?
Eleven Madison Park, New York. Chef Daniel is an inspiration, the restaurant has three Michelin stars and has been voted #1 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017.
And who would you take as your guest?
What do you look for in a good chef?
I always look for a fierce and burning passion in a chef, the quest to learn more and their cooking skills.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
1) Love your food.
2) Keep your head down, by being honest and doing what you’re told.
3) Learn to respect ingredients.
4) Learn to respect people who are already in the industry because there’s a lot you can learn from them. A lot of young kids learn a few things and become very arrogant, you should never stop learning. You learn everyday.
5) Consistency is very big – you can’t be happy one day and miserable the next. I repeat my father’s words: “Be consistent in whatever you want to do. Even if you want to be useless, make sure you’re useless everyday.” People respect that.
Chef Atul Kochhar is Chef Patron at Benares Restaurant.
Address: 12a Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London, United Kingdom.
Telephone: +44 20 7629 8886