Born in a small town called Bhojpura Kalan close to Jaipur, Michelin-plate Chef Dayashankar Sharma was one of the first Indian chefs who transformed Indian food at the global level. Known for subtle, balanced flavours, his love for regional Indian food only grew with time. “From a young age, I was introduced to food by my mother. I fell in love with creating simple dishes with her, and as she taught me how to cook more and more that interest grew greatly and I discovered the dream of owning a restaurant for myself,” shared Dayashankar who after doing a diploma in cooking started working with Oberoi Group for many years which also gave him the opportunities to experience other cuisine by working in different countries like Sri Lanka, Switzerland and others. Excerpts from the interview:
How did it all began?
I finally landed in the UK, starting my journey here in Reading. The experience here was extraordinary, leading me to continue and join different food chains across the country. I worked for Tamarind Group of restaurants for close to a decade followed by Imli and being the head chef at Zaika. All of these positive experiences allowed me to take the risk and achieve my dream of opening a restaurant for myself. Thus, Grand Trunk Road was created.
How have you seen the face of Indian cuisine changing in all these years?
Indian cuisine has been slowly modernizing from the classical dishes we have seen when we were younger to a new avatar. They have become more complex with the use of different spices, different ingredients. This slow and gradual change has been a blessing to the cuisine as it has allowed itself time for people to enjoy the food as much as possible before they had something new to try.
What were the first few things that you have adopted as a chef which we can’t see in today’s generation?
It is very important to have patience, desire and goal set. The cooking skill is not one day job; you need to spend time in the kitchen, learn and unlearn.
Your restaurant Grand Trunk is known for its food. What's the best part of cooking or serving Indian food on global land?
The amount of creativity that can be done is great. Serving food in a foreign country allows you to create your own creative dishes, some that may be very far from the traditional food and cuisine. This flexibility also allows the cuisine itself to develop and evolve into something greater without forgetting about the past. That is why at Grand Trunk Road, we have a mixture of creative and modern dishes which still has the essence of traditional cuisine in them. As I believe that tradition should not be forgotten. Another great thing about serving food in this global land is all the smiling faces that compliment the cuisine, having the power to be able to spread the way of cooking of your own land is mind blowing. It warms my heart and encourages me to keep on creating something amazing and delicious for my customers.
Who have been your regular customers? Are these Indians or a mix of both?
There is always a mix of customers. There are some that are Indians and few that are from other countries. What matters is not their ethnicity, it is whether they enjoy the food or not. The food at Grand Trunk Road (GTR) is suited towards all people, just how it should be. As we all know that good food should bring everyone together to have a great time with each other.
Chef, when we see people talking about Indian food…they merely talk about any other cuisine other than Punjabi cuisine. What’s your view on promotion of other cuisine on the global map?
I love traditional Indian cooking and the regional foods of India. Punjabi cuisine is great in itself, and it may be true that cuisines from other parts of India are lost. I believe that it is important to spread awareness for all the different types of foods that can be found around India that’s what we have done at Grand Trunk Road. The food diversity in India is vast and that it is needed for people to know that there is other food out there. The promotion of other cuisine across the globe is fantastic. People from around the world get to enjoy a cuisine that has been perfecting slowly.
What advice would you give to a budding chef?
It is a difficult road. You will come across a lot of challenges and would have to work ridiculous hours. As long as it is something you love, and truly enjoy you cannot go wrong. Don't forget the food has to taste good as well. Take the opportunities the world throws at you, and never stop perfecting your craft and way of cooking.