Atul Kochhar's unique talent as a twice Michelin starred chef has changed the way people perceive and experience Indian cuisine. Taking inspiration from his native India, while continuously researching regional dishes, Atul has managed to combine his heritage with his love of British ingredients to create a unique and innovative modern Indian cuisine. Atul remains committed to his passion and is constantly seeking inspiration through travel and research. Atul has written two successful cookbooks; Indian Essence and Fish, Indian Style. A third book, Curries of the World, for which Atul traveled extensively to research. When not busy with one of his various restaurants or projects, Atul enjoys spending time at home in London with his wife Deepti and their two young children. Atul Kochhar discuss his journey with Better Kitchen. Excerpts.
What made you come into this profession? Your early inspiration in life, well beyond your mother.
It was a personal decision that was definitely influenced by my childhood and family. My father and his father before him were both business men in the food industry. My grandad was a wonderful baker and my dad owned his own catering company. They did want me to pursue a career in engineering or in the medical world but to me, being a chef was my goal.
Please brief us about your career growth/graph.
I'm Atul Kochhar, a father and husband, chef and restauranteur based in London. I was born in India and travelled to London to work in a restaurant called Tamarind after completing my degree in Hotel Management at IHM Chennai and working at Hotel Oberoi. I was awarded a Michelin star there and went onto win another Michelin star for my own restaurant called Benares, in Mayfair. I have recently opened a Benares in Madrid, and have opened 2 new restaurants in Mumbai, India called NRI and LIMA.
What are the unique achievements in your career.
The most memorable moment in my career so far was receiving my first Michelin star.
Your food ideologies.
I believe that all ingredients should be treated and cooked with respect.
Your contribution to the culinary world.
I hope that I have changed the way people perceive and experience Indian cuisine by taking inspiration from my homeland and combining it with my love of British ingredients.
What is the future of the culinary world? What changes you would like to see in this profession?
I definitely see a future in vegetarian and vegan foods. I think that now people are becoming a lot more environmentally focused and health conscious and are therefore changing their eating habits.
How much focus do you give to health in cooking?
I love vegetarian food and mostly eat vegetarian food at home. I keep it light and fresh and full of flavor.
Do you still use some traditional methods of cooking in your kitchen, what are they?
You can't go wrong with the classics and so these are my source of inspiration although that's not to say I don't enjoy innovative new recipes and flavours too.
Do you encourage regional cuisines?
I certainly do. I love how each region as its own differentiating ingredient or addition to a dish influenced by history. For me, it's what makes the culinary world so fascinating.
Which is your favorite cuisine and why?
I love Asian food; I love Thai and Malay food. The food is always fresh and tastes amazing.
What is your dream job/project?
I would love to travel and cook for the British cricket team, if they are currently recruiting for a chef then I would be happy to offer my services!
Would you encourage your children to pursue a career in food or cooking?
Food is a big passion in our house; my kids definitely have potential to be both fantastic cooks. If they do decide to go into this career then I will back them all the way.
How do you maintain work life balance?
I aim to get my traveling done in one stretch so that I am at home for the important festivals and celebrations. I also try to always make sure my workload is very light during the kids holidays. I absolutely love spending time with them and watching them grow into kind human beings.
What is your goal in the next five years?
On a more personal note it is to see my kids through school successfully and be the best possible parent and husband I can be.
How do you like to spend your free time?
Currently I don't have a lot of free time as I spend a lot of it traveling. Opening restaurants in India, Dubai, Spain and London means I am usually on the road. When I do have free time and without hesitation I am with my wife and kids, messing around at home.
What is your hobby?
Right now I don't have time for hobbies but I won't lie, I do try to make time for cricket.
Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
Through traveling a lot it's inevitable that you are going to eat out quite a lot. Within the UK I love traveling to try different restaurants with my family (we are all big foodies), we will be going to Le Manoir, Oxford in October and I am looking forward to it immensely.
What's your dream kitchen?
To be working in a professional kitchen surrounded my culinary heroes such as my father, Albert and Michel Roux (Snr & Jr), Raymond Blanc, Rick Stein, Marco Pierre White, Manjit Singh Gill and Jiggs Kalra.
Your message to readers.
Desire to learn and create is the only ingredient you need in life and in the kitchen.