That we Punekars have an eclectic taste in food is known to one and all. So, basking in the many cuisine options the city has to offer, I reached Mezzuna, a Specialty Restaurants’ endeavour that excels in Mediterranean delicacies. The highlight of my day was getting an opportunity to meet Celebrity chef, Shaun Kenworthy. UK-born and bred, his global exposure as a professional chef in UK, Paris, Stockholm and India, is something I really wanted to dig. 29 years of experience, his love for intensity and discipline at work and smoking-hot creativity. There’s no way I would’ve let him leave without throwing a few curious questions.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Mezzuna raised the bar for restaurants in Pune that aim to hunt great recipes by means of creativity kings such as Shaun. Tracking him wasn’t easy and once they did, they made sure they make the most of the celeb chef’s time. Introducing “The Shaun Moment”, executives at Mezzuna had Shaun prepare a special dinner menu, available from 8th to 13th December, 2013. Shaun has worked in at least 40 projects all over India. From the moment I met him, all I wanted was for him to cook a special meal, just for me. Perhaps, my stars were in alignment, for he did. He really did.
“It’s my 29th year as a professional chef. I started as a Pastry Chef, you know!”, he said. Oh, if only he could bake a pastry for us! Upon asking him about how does it really feel being a chef, his eyes lit up as he stated, “It’s undoubtedly great as you can change things on a daily basis! How many jobs let you do that? I love working as a chef in restaurants as opposed to hotels. Restaurants are more focused on food”.
Sitting in a restaurant that offers Mediterranean treats to food lovers, I wanted his opinion on food in India. “India, is shockingly adaptable and the Indian customer is ready to explore. The next 10 years are crucial for me as a chef as it’s just the beginning. So, I have no plans of retiring!”, he smirked as he talked.
But of course, not all things are bright about Indian food according to him. “The menu’s great, the food’s great. But I really don’t feel that the basics are up to the mark. There is never an exact recipe for a particular food item. So many variations, so many presentations. Phew!”. Umm, I agree. “See, every country has a set of rules and it’s okay to fiddle. I am a fiddler, not a recipe hunter. But I like to play with the ingredients within those set of rules”, he said.
“Indian food really needs a lot of marketing. Seriously people, less spices, more presentation! That, according to me, is the key. As far as India’s future in the culinary world is concerned, Buffet is going to rule. People here have varying palates and diets. With so many cuisines to choose from, who wouldn’t choose buffet over à la carte?”, he questioned us, excited.
And lastly, how would I have let the celebrity chef sign off without learning about his favourite Indian cuisine? “Kashmiri food, undoubtedly! Bengali food comes second as I’ve spent so many years there”, he smiles as he reminisces his time in Kolkata.