While a lot of people know about Rocky Mohan and his association with the liquor brand- Old Monk, a very few people know about his cooking skills. In an exclusive interview, He tells Kritika Agrawal of Restaurant India how he gathered those skills, why he likes to cook Indian food only and why he thinks that chefs have not even scratched the surface of cuisines that India has.
Very few people know about your cooking skills. Please tell us about it?
I belong to a typical Punjabi family and food for Punjabi is a must. I've been cooking now for some 40 odd years, which is a long time. But my cooking is based more on the research I picked up during my travels across the country. The opportunities I get by eating at people’s homes, which helps me picking up recipes that I replicate later shapes my cooking skills.
That also led me to write four books and I've also worked in Television. So, food is an area of passion for me. I don't have any commercial benefit accruing from it. I rather enjoy doing it. I cook at home and I do it whenever I get the opportunity. And I also keep myself very abreast with what's happening on the food front. So that's basically what the food journey is for me.
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What do you like to cook usually?
I stick to the Indian cuisine. I don't try and suddenly become Italian, French or Japanese. I don't understand it and I don't claim that I could do any justice to those cuisines.
We know that India has an abundance of cuisines, which is not being recognized by chefs and restaurants. What do you have to say about that?
You know in terms of Indian cuisines, we haven't even scratched the surface of it yet because restaurants are running around and trying to do things, which are not native to them. For example: It is not easy to suddenly become expert in making pizza. However, we're trying to do it to meet the demand.
But the consumer raises the demand that the chef tries to please and he makes all the efforts in the world to try and get it right. I think the repertoire of Indian cuisine itself is so huge that you can open a regional food restaurant almost every two centimeters.
What advice would you give to a chef?
I think a chef should try to evolve the cuisine; he/she should work to improve the presentation. They should try and play around the flavours without reducing the fundamentals.
Do you think that people are focusing on appearance more than the flavours?
I would say that a lot of reputed chefs in the top restaurants are not doing fusion but are doing combinations. We tend to eat Rajma and Chawal but what else do you eat with it. If I could present it to you on a plate, it will suddenly become a meal without having to compromise on either Rajma or Chawal. So, presentation is the key and it changes the dish and appetite as well.