Slurrp Exclusive: In Conversation With Chef Varun Inamdar, His Love For Chocolates, Comfort Food, Upcoming Projects And A Quick Recipe!
Updated : August 10, 2021 10:08 IST
Varun Inamdar is a chef cum chocolatier who has done over 30 food shows across several mediums and platforms.
After 19 years of cooking and two national awards, Chef Varun Inamdar believes that “I feel I have just begun. I still put in the same efforts, if not more!” While his fans know him as the The Bombay Chef, his love chocolates led him to create a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest chocolate mud pie and rightly honour the title of “Prince of Chocolates”. The tiny toddler steps he took at the age eight in his home kitchen have played a major role in defining his career path as a chef.
A quick tête-à-tête with the Chef who has his plate full (and he’s not complaining) reveals some compelling stories about his journey. Excerpts:
Q1. How would you describe your overall cooking philosophy?
My cooking philosophy is as simple as it can get. Cook with ingredients that are available easily and keep the flavours simple. Cook what you would want to eat. Teaching how to cook also becomes fun when the one learning from you can start imitating your food. Otherwise it is pointless!
Q2. Go-to comfort food and any special story behind it?
My comfort food depends on where I am. I generally like home cooked food. Now that could be of any region, any country! When in Rome….as they say! When at my place, a simple Dal-Chawal-Fried Fish is my ultimate comfort. And trust me, there is no story. I actually travel like a maniac since I conduct over 250 plus master classes across the globe. So when I am back, I mostly am only to pick my next bag, that’s when you need something that is just comforting. This to me does the trick. Followed by any sweet, did I mention?
Q3. Could you share the recipe for our readers? (Let the secret out)
Let me give you a simple recipe for a beverage. It is a no-recipe kind of a recipe. Just go by your instincts when it comes to flavouring and spicing.
I take seasonal fruits and cook them till they get mushed up. Pulverise, strain and cook them with equal amounts of sugar. Flavour it with some spice and salt depending on your choice – like I pair Jamun with cumin, peach with cinnamon, apricots with ginger, lemon with saffron, kiwi with green chillies and so on. Skim any scum that rises to the top and cool it down to room temperature. Transfer into sterilised glass bottles and your fruit concentrate is ready. Whenever you wish to drink some juice, build it up with some ice (if you like) and water.
Q4. As a chef, people assume you love cooking everything. But what’s the one dish/cuisine you detest completely?
Oh, nothing like that. Monotony sets in as a restaurant chef. That’s primarily one of the biggest reasons why I moved out from the hotels and restaurant scene at the peak of my career and started looking for gig opportunities as a chef. As a creative mind, I detest the thought of making the same things again and again, with no offence to the ones doing it. And in a way, I’ve been there done that as a restaurant chef. Rest assured, even if someone turns up at 3 am, the person will be fed well. I’ve done that for some of the biggest names in the country for years at alarming hours, so from friends it is an absolute given.
Q5. Your idea of a special date night with your significant other? Food specifically!
Good company. Simple food. Great conversations!
Q6. 3 words which say that you’ve loved a specific dish?
Baraaaambosh!…..(which means nothing)
Superb…..(with all its phonetics)
Q7. Any Upcoming projects you’d like to share about?
Two big projects have been launched at the peak of the pandemic
Varun Inamdar’s Mumbai Local Tawa which is my way of saying thank you to the city that has given me my identity. I always tell people, “I am born in Bombay. Brought up in Mumbai” My show The Bombay Chef gave me a global identity on the internet which today has surpassed all norms set for any food show raking in 533 Million views, making it the third highest watched show in the world. MLT as people fondly refer to it as today, has a 80% menu filled with my signatures and things that you won’t get anywhere else like our TOD FOD FRIED RICE which is a spicy fried rice with prawns, chicken liver seekh kebab, boiled eggs and shredded boiled chicken. Also Cocktail Bhidu Biryani, which is my ode to cine star Jackie Shroff – a biryani with 6 kinds of tikkas and kebabs!
The Heritage Street by Chef Varun Inamdar is a magnanimous and uber dynamic food project. High End Gourmet Catering kitchen launched in Mumbai after the tremendous success of Varun Inamdar's Mumbai Local Tawa. As a part of the launch plan, a regal yet earthy traditional Maharashtrian Thali has been curated by Two National Awards winner Chef Varun Inamdar which consists of 29 vegetarian delicacies from across Maharashtra served on a banana leaf embellished with tea lights, festive flowers and designer bags that encases it all making a total of 33 items. 'Vegetarian Maharashtrian delicacies' is the first step towards some other grand announcements that will soon follow showcasing India's heritage in all possible culinary ways. Traditionally, cultural-ly and emotionally patrons are reconnecting with their roots, hitting tracks of nostalgia, memorable moments have been rekindled with this humble serving on a banana leaf with the taste that is reminiscent of Maharashtrian humble homes and gatherings called 'pangat'.
Q8. How did Get Curried happen? And what’s the vision behind this food venture?
Long story short. It was love on the rebound, for good. I had worked for 12 years in the industry as a full-fledged chef-manager. Had reached the heights on the hierarchal charts - had become a Corporate Chef and Business Development Manager which very few can boast of and then came back to India and did not wish to go back to working in restaurants. That’s when I though I must give food media a shot. Tried work on the television. Some shows worked. Some did not. Had still done some 7-8 of them till then but was losing interest as the pay scales were extremely meagre1 Shameful in fact, for the efforts and skills required. That when I thought digitally India is getting into a better curve and something must be attempted. Little did I know that, that one inkling of a thought would change my destiny. That’s how Get Curried was created and the rest you see is history (still being written) with every upload. We started raking in one million views video after video when some did not even know how much it mathematically meant. A lot of chefs from prime time, then, told me not to get into a medium that has no guarantee, that’s when we sold our first 10 videos remastered to an international company for 15 Million. That quietened all talkers! And then every second person who spoke against, has their own channel today, in the last 3 years.
Q9. Chocolate. The first thought when you hear this word?
All fingers into the bowl! This brings a smile to my face because even when I cracked my Guinness World record for the world’s largest chocolate mud pie weighing 3000 pounds– this was the first question asked to me! Ditto when I met Barack Obama for the first time. That time I was too naïve to even answer this. I kept looking at his face - absolutely blank!
Q10. If you were to live on 5 items from your kitchen pantry for the next lockdown, what would they be?
That’s good for all meals ;)
Q11. Would you say social media is a boon for the food industry and why?
Not really. I disagree. Social Media has made food into a mere content with zero emotions attached. Most chefs do what their PR and marketing teams want them to do. They look at others videos and create their sets which are copied, styles are copied, individuality is lost. One person creates a signature, 100 others copy and dilute the concept. I don’t see these platforms as a boon.I see it as a crutch for creative dependence! It is created to connect with people, appreciate their creations and not as a medium to rip in the name of inspirations. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I do not follow anybody. The uploads, styles, creatives all look the same. Look at even their thumbnails - you cannot differentiate one from another. I thought the pandemic will drill some sense of responsibility in the food creators but unfortunately, comparisons have just begun and this is not healthy!
Q11. Lastly, a word of advice/encouragement for the budding chefs?
Be yourself. Create your identity. Originality will always be appreciated. And will always survive!