Chef Tarun Shetty on Curating Recipes And Culinary Ethics
Image Credit: Chef Tarun Shetty developed an interest in cooking by helping his mother

Tarun Shetty, corporate chef at SMAAASH, has nearly two decades of experience in the hospitality industry. This Mumbai-born chef’s impressive culinary portfolio ranges from the very popular Masala Bay at Taj Land’s End to Carnival Cruise Liner & F-Bar in Delhi. As a sous chef mentored by Michelin star Vineet Bhatia, he assisted him on the television show Twist of Tastes as well.

We caught up with Chef Shetty, and what ensued was an interesting conversation on curating new recipes, the impact of TV on up-and-coming chefs, and the importance of work ethics and respect in the culinary sector.

Here are excerpts from the interview with Chef Tarun Shetty:

A lot of people are passionate about cooking, but they just look at it as a hobby or a life skill. What made you choose cooking as your career?

I was interested in cooking and used to help my mom with snacks. Randomly, I ended up giving my entrance exams for IHM, and luckily, I got through, and here I am after 18 years as a chef!

Curating new dishes or re-inventing age-old recipes—which one do you prefer?

As I am very old-school in my food and tastes, I would clearly love to re-invent traditional foods and try to plate it in a better way.

What do you keep in mind while curating new recipes, especially in the context of the Indian palate? Has there been an incident where your experiment went wrong and the creation did not turn out like you wanted it to?

As I said earlier, I am very old-school with my food. I love to keep the basic masalas and sauces in my food. I love my curry powder, and I love red degi mirch powder; these all give the food the best taste and colour. Once, I tried making pasta with makhni gravy; it did not turn out well, and I said to myself, "No more of these experiments!"

It is the hottest time of the year. What would you suggest our readers eat and avoid during this season?

As this is the hottest season, and this year it’s crazy, I would recommend everyone eat a lot of greens and salads. We should avoid junk food, dry fruits, pickles, spicy food, and red meat during the summer as they heat up your food and take time to digest.

Having worked in the culinary sector for so long, what have been your biggest learnings?

The biggest lesson I've learned in my 19 years of experience is to respect your seniors and colleagues and learn whatever is possible from them during your beginner’s stage. Respect is something that you have to earn; it does not come with demand.

I have respected my seniors during my days; hence, I get my share of respect now from 6-7 chefs who have been working with me for the past 10 years.

Do you have any specific foods that you have created or eaten that have elements of nostalgia associated with them?

The nostalgic food for me has been Frankie, and I have been eating it since age 10. I still do a lot of experiments with rolls in my kitchen, keeping the potato and chicken stuffing the same but adding new accompaniments.

You have assisted on a television show, Twist of Taste, as well. How was that experience? What direction do you think reality TV is taking when it comes to food and cooking?

Yes, I have assisted Chef Vineet Bhatia with Twist of Taste for 2 seasons. The experience was super working with and assisting one of the Michelin chefs. Actually, he was one of the chefs, the other being Chef Rakesh Talwar, who introduced us to modern cooking.

Television is helping us a lot to know more about food and food from all around, but personally, I would suggest to the young generation that they please go to a culinary school to learn about their food. You cannot become a chef by looking at YouTube and food channels. It takes a lot of hard work and on-the-ground training to become a chef.