Chef Ritabrata On Changing Faces Of Indian Fusion
Image Credit: Chef Ritabrata Biswas

“Food is the ultimate thing that we work for. The famous Bollywood dialogue Roti, Kapda, Makaan is not a myth but a reality for me. Even a mentally disturbed person knows the importance of food.” That’s the philosophy that chef Ritabrata Biswas believes in. Being a cook was  “unacceptable” term in his family. His journey was tough but for him he knew “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” Since childhood, he used to keenly watch his grandmother cooking at home and was greatly moved by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor by watching his show “Khana Khazana”. With prior experience with brands like Taj Vivanta, Guwahati, Fairmont, Jaipur and then working with non-other than Priyam Chaterjee in New Delhi, he joined Head Chef at Kolkata centre for Creativity. Currently heading OCTA & HAMMER, Ritabrata surely sees a promising way ahead.

Here's the snippers from the conversation that HTSlurrp had with him

Tell us something about your growing up years?

I don't know how to sum it up, but it was a tough decision about leaving engineering just before a week of my fourth semester. The decision came from my determination. I didn't take it emotionally. It's been eight years since I am exploring flavors, learned about ingredients, met new people, and so on. The journey was exciting, learning to make omelets to understanding the flavor of Black truffle, I will always be grateful to Chef Priyam & Chef Anirban.

It was 2020, 4th Feb, when I have received my first ever award, Chef of the year, at the age of 27, for doing 'Progressive Cuisine', that was the time when I was leading the kitchen of Grace, Kolkata Centre of Creativity. Grace was the place where I have found myself, we were doing progressive regional cuisine there, and we were doing that quite successfully. Currently, I am heading the team of OCTA & HAMMER as their Executive Chef...

How much influence did food have on you?

Food did the magic! I have found my purpose in life. I have a vision nowadays, only food could do that, and it did.

With the focus on back to roots, how much do you think it is going to become the trend?

It is the trend now because we have spent quite a good time exploring other cuisines, mastering the art of some continents' food but unfortunately didn't document our recipes. India has a lot to offer, but the question is, are we open to accepting it? The answer is yes.

The more we drive deep into our own culture, the more we will contribute. It is not about becoming the trend, but the realization I believe, the realization of showcasing our treasures, and the only way is to 'focus on back to roots'.

When conceptualizing a new project what are the few things that you always take care of?

Major three points - Place | People | Price. You can't ignore this. Except that you should have a decent menu because gimmick only works once, the rest of the time guests need tasty food, just not the show-off.

Before doing anything good research work helps me to understand the strength. I always focus on investing in the right manpower, without a good team you can't implement your ideas.

You are known for your Indian fusion and Fusion food is gaining a lot of attention. What is your idea of Fusion food and what has been your best creation?

I will rather say 'Progressive food', and the idea behind this is very simple, hold your past (focus on back to roots), try to imagine the future with the help of the present. Progressive means you always try to develop, develop gradually. Fusion is more about mixing two or more cuisine whereas Progressive is more about developing flavors through constant R&D.

For example, Aamer chatni & Papor bhaja is a mandatory dish on any Bengali occasion, now imagine - you are having the same in a different way, sous vide mango pulp with red chili and cumin, finely chopped mango skin (cooked in sugar), and crispy, dehydrated leaves of morning glory replacing your papor...

Even for doing fusion, one should know two or more cuisine to make it a successful one.

Which one is my best is a tough question for me but I would like to share some of my dishes.

Gondhoraj Ghol Caviar, Sweet Butter Toast, carrot orange pate, the memory of having jam toast in a different way
Memory & Pumpkin, Bengal Eel & Khesari saag
Interpretation of Green Apple & Cucumber (Ceviche)

What does it take to sustain competition?

Consistency & Knowledge. Consistency came from your hard work, dedication, and everyday constant practice, with the knowledge that you gather from books. But one should not fall into any competition, because competition makes you do the same thing that others did, it is better to listen to your heart, cooking tasty & creative food.

It's important to be creative rather than competitive.

Which is the most underplayed dish in Bengali cuisine?

I think we should say 'Bengali Cuisine'. Why try to find out one dish??? How many of us are portraying 'The Bengali Cuisine' in the right manner ??? We are serving Bengali thali, and the concept comes because we wanted to commercialize it.

This cuisine is all about serving meals course wise the way see French cuisine. Do you serve your guest a thali or do you serve course by course ??? Will you ever serve a French Thali ?? No, then why Bengali Thali?? Let's talk about making Bengali cuisine popular, in a proper, traditional manner, not just one dish.

What’s your favorite cookbook if you have any?

There are many, 'The Art of Fermentation', 'The science of the Oven', 'COI : Stories & Recipes', 'White Heat'.

Among them, White Heat is the one that helps me to motivate on my downtime.