Slurrp Exclusive: Chef Vicky Ratnani On His Passion For Burgers, Cooking Techniques And More
- Jasmine Kaur
Updated : June 06, 2022 04:06 IST
The internationally-acclaimed chef also reveals Shahrukh Khan’s favourite cuisine. Read on to find out.
The Gastronaut, as the world knows him, Chef Vicky Ratnani has been globally recognized face from the Indian culinary industry. Behind the tough guy image and the perfectionist that he is, lies a passionate food lover who still finds solace in his mother’s homemade mutton biryani, whose memories still make him nostalgic. With innovative dishes and a unique style of cooking with an international touch, you might be surprised to know that he is a true desi at heart who loves his Indian cuisine the most. Very clear and strong-headed about his life goals, he completed is education in hotel management and went on to become one of the most celebrated chefs of the country, in India and abroad.
While Vicky The Gastronaut may have added several feathers to his cap and cooked for a plethora of Indian and global personalities like Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan as well as Nelson Mandela and the Queen, it will be interesting when you find out who rules the home kitchen. A humble personality with a zeal for learning, travelling, eating and cooking, Chef Vicky Ratnani goes all out with us in this exclusive chat with Slurrp. Excerpts:
Q1. Your Eureka moment when you knew that you wanted to be a chef?
In college, when the first time I was cooking from an old Italian book and when I made fresh pasta by hand and made the best lasagna ever, that was the moment. Moreover, my chef and guru at the same time said, “You know what that’s the true mark of a chef in making”. So I think that was my Eureka moment.
Q2. Tell us more about the story behind being called The Gastronaut?
So the Gastronaut came to me because, like an astronaut, who goes into space and travels and sees the whole world from above, the gastronaut, as gastronomy is the study of food, like me travels with a free mind and is an explorer. That’s how the term, Vicky The Gastronaut stuck with me. I went on to apply this name to my series that I shot in Peru and then in Australia and in Thailand. That’s how everyone came to love Vicky The Gastronaut, who is always travelling and always learning.
Q3. Did you take any professional training in the culinary field?
I went to IHM, Mumbai where I studied hotel management and catering technology. After this, I went abroad for work.
Q4. You’ve cooked for some top personalities like Nelson Mandela & Queen Elizabeth. How has that experience evolved you as a chef?
I think cooking for personalities does not evolve you as a chef. Cooking for all kinds of people of different nationalities, age, status and other demographics actually develops you as a versatile chef. People who can understand peoples’ needs and tastes and tailor made or make food for them which is very suitable. It comes with experience, it comes with cooking different kinds of food and the places where you cook the food. I think all of this comprises of the process.
Q5. Any favourite dishes/eating habits of these famous people that you still remember?
Nelson Mandela loved his spicy Asian dishes. I have cooked for a lot of celebrated people in India as well. Right from the good old days of Salman Khan to Sanjay Dutt who loved eating grilled meat which wasn’t very spicy. Then there’s Hrithik Roshan who loves his healthy grilled fish and Farhan Akhtar who is also a food lover, particularly meat lover. The King Khan of Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan is a big time Indian food enthusiast. These are what I can recall right now. There are also industrialists that I’ve cooked for, like Harsh Goenka who loves innovative gourmet vegetarian Indian food. He loves experimental food and I still remember there shouldn’t be any fruits in his food.
Q6. How has your signature style helped you make a mark in the industry?
My signature style is innovation and colourful textures on the plate. So I think when people really see my dishes, they see that they are presented in an innovative and cool way and they can easily spot that it’s a Vicky Ratnani dish. Moreover, my food will have a very international look to it. It is going to have some international techniques but there will always be some sustainable, seasonal, local ingredients as well.
Q7. After conquering several world cuisines, what’s next on the platter?
I think it is a style of my own. There are a lot of ingredients which are based in India so there are several dishes of mine which are created with international techniques and have an Indian stamp on them. I’m trying to cook urban-Indian food in my own style. So I think exploring cuisines and getting to know the history of spices etc. is an ongoing process. It is not mainstream Indian food that I cook but it has a lot of inspiration that it derives from India. I read and I’m still exploring. I do cook a lot of Latin American food. I’m looking at different kinds of food from the Middle-East as well. So I think cooking has no boundaries now.
Q8. We would love to hear about your most treasured childhood food memory!
One treasured memory would be waiting in the kitchen every Sunday at 1 pm with my thali, waiting for that dum biryani which my mother used to cook. First, that beautiful aroma and fragrance in the kitchen of that dum biryani. Then, my mother pouring it out to us in our thalis, that steam coming out of the rice and the food, these memories are just magical.
Q9. One dish that makes you feel you’re like the true master chef?
I think the dishes which I create like the Laal Maas lamb shanks or my Osso Bucco Gremolata or a nice Bistecca alla Fiorentina. This means that you can easily cook any good dish in the world. So you know I think if a chef attempts and he can capture it as quickly as possible and can really showcase it properly. I think that feeling makes you feel like a true master chef.
Q10. We’ve heard about your latest venture called Speak Burgers. Can you shed some light on the concept?
Speak Burgers is actually a labour of love. The burger game has gone to the next level where people are not just eating Mcdonald’s or Burger King or any of these large formats. People like to eat artisanal, you know stand alone brands, innovative burgers, well-prices, good ingredients so I had to prove that burgers are not just fast food or junk food. Also, I am very good at my burgers and I derive my burger inspiration from classical burgers. But as you travel around the world, you tend to pick up different flavours and there is always a flavour that can reflect into a burger. So I think a burger can be a representation of flavours, textures, colours. There is a lot going on in a burger from pickles to sauces.
Q11. Would love it if you could share a detailed recipe of your go-to Gourmet burger for our readers.
Mother Earth Mushroom Burger
With grilled portobello mushrooms, mushroom pate, pickled mushroom, tomato compote, grilled onions, buffalo mozzarella, and home-made potato pepper bun
Prep time: 60 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Makes: 1 burger
For The Marination
- 30 gm balsamic vinegar
- 15 gm extra virgin olive oil
- 3 gm salt
- 2 gm black pepper powder
- 1 gm thyme
- 3 gm chilli flakes
- 2 portobello mushrooms, cleaned with wet tissue (do not wash)
For The Mushroom Pate
- 60 gm white button mushrooms, cleaned with wet tissue (do not wash)
- 15 gm soft butter
- 3 gm truffle oil
- 15 gm fresh cream
- 3 gm finely-chopped garlic
For The Mushroom Pickle
- 60 gm white button mushrooms, cleaned with wet tissue (do not wash), cut in 2 mm slices
- 100 gm water
- 50 gm vinegar
- 10 gm coriander seeds
- 10 gm fennel seeds
- 20 gm sugar
- 5 gm turmeric
- 5 gm black pepper whole
- Salt, to taste
For The Grilled Onions
- 25 gm white onions, cut into 3mm roundels
- 5 gm soft butter
- 5 gm olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly-milled black pepper, to taste
For The Toppings + Bun
- 1 burger bun
- 30 gm arugula drizzled with balsamic vinegar
- 1 tomato, cut in 2 mm slices
- 1 English cucumber, cut in 3mm slices length-wise and brined
- 15 gm grilled onions (Sauté on a medium flame with butter and olive oil)
- 15 gm tomato compote (Reduce peeled tomato puree seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme)
- 45 gm buffalo mozzarella, cut into three thick slices.
In a wide bowl combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, pepper, salt, thyme, chilli flakes and whisk it well. Add the cleaned portobello mushrooms to this it and gently toss. Cover and leave it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Making The Mushroom Pate
- In a heavy bottom pan, heat the add olive oil and butter. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
- Then add in the mushrooms, splash it with truffle oil and cream.
- Cool it down and grind to fine paste by adding cubes of butter.
Making The Mushroom Pickle
- Mix all the pickling ingredients and gently simmer it 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and cool it down.
- Add sliced raw white button mushrooms and store it in refrigerator for three hours before use.
Making The Grilled Onions
- Heat a pan on medium and add in the butter, olive oil and onion roundals. Sprinkle with salt, freshly-milled black pepper.
- Sauté until they become tender and caramalised. Cool it down before use.
Grilling The Portobello
Brush a hot griddle with olive oil and place the marinated portobello mushroom on it. Grill each side until it is cooked.
Assembly Of The Mother Earth Burger
- Slice the bun and toast it on a hot griddle.
- Apply mushroom pate on both the buns.
- Toss arugula leaves in balsamic dressing, place it on buns.
- Place the mushroom pickles and sliced tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Place cucumber pickles on top of it.
- Place the grilled mushrooms over the cucumber and top them with grilled onions and drizzle of tomato compote. Top with sliced buffalo mozzarella, season with salt and pepper.
- Close the bun.
Q12. After your TV show and cookbook have been such a success, which would you consider to be a better medium for food and why?
I think both because at the end of the day, people are watching show and learning. A cookbook is something that stays with you. It is more personal, something that you can touch and feel. But for those who do not like to read, a TV show or a video works as a better medium. Both are equally useful.
Q13. How did the idea of writing Vicky Goes Veg strike you?
After my first show with NDTV Goodtimes with Mariah, which was called Do It Sweet and was about desserts, the second show was Gourmet Central where I featured international non-vegetarian food being made in an Indian kitchen. It was India’s first cool non-vegetarian cooking show with global recipes that I learnt while I was travelling. At that point of time, there was this huge gap of a non-desi but vegetarian show on TV. That’s how NDTV and I decided to do Vicky Goes Veg. The book is of course, inspired from the seasons. The book is still relevant now and the recipes are still relevant now. In fact, it was a book which was ahead of its times. It was the future at that time which is the present now.
Q14. Who rules the home kitchen: Your wife or the chef himself?
I think however, big or popular a chef you are to the outside world, it is the wife who is the boss of the house and the house kitchen.
Q15. Future prospects! Any interesting things that we should keep an eye for?
Well, it would definitely be Speak Burgers by Vicky Ratnani and travelling more. I am also doing a lot of tasting menus and culinary for Bira. They are coming up with taprooms across the country. I am doing high-end food for cinemas like INOX Insignia pure vegetarian food. Some more shows on television and producing my own content on Instagram.
Q16. Favourite Cuisine & Favourite dish.
Favourite cuisine would be Indian. Favourite dish very hard to say but I would like a very, very good mutton biryani (lamb biryani).
Q17. If given 15 minutes, what do you think you could cook for us right now?
I think if you have your ingredients organized, you can cook up a storm but if I had right now, I think I could do a fantastic pasta with wild mushrooms, chicken, fresh herbs and truffle oil. Or I could a really nice grilled chicken breast or steamed fish with fantastic vegetables and a beautiful sauce.
Q18. If not a chef, then what?
If not a chef, then I think I would be a travelling food photographer or a food filmmaker. Or maybe, a DJ.