My Life In Food: Atul Kochhar

'I love cheap cheese slices, but I wouldn't feed them to my family'

Atul Kochhar began his career working in hotel kitchens in India in the early 1990s. By 1994 he had upped sticks and moved to London, where he opened Tamarind. It received a Michelin Star in 2001. He went on to get another star for his next and current restaurant, Benares. He is now a regular on TV and his new book, Curries of the World, is out in spring. He is mostly to be found in his kitchen.

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

I would say a wok. You can do so many things with them. You can braise things, sauté, fry and roast things. I do a lot of tea smoking in mine. You put your smoking material in the base, with the charcoal infused with tea and spices, then put a mesh on top with your meat on it, then seal the wok and heat. It is great – the flavour is wonderful. One thing I don't use is my refractometer, which basically measures the sugar in any solution. I thought it would be useful for making sorbets, to have an exact formula for perfection, but my customers complained and said: "Go back to the old way." Cleverly marketed, that thing was.

If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

I would go to a market. If I had the world, I'd go to Thailand for fruit – it is amazing there, you can get everything, from the very mundane to the most exotic. There is no better place in the world, I think. Istanbul would be my choice for fish. And if I wanted meat, then it would be to a market here in London. I could spend my £10 in any of those places and be happy.

What do you eat for comfort?

Now this is where I get embarrassed. I love my cheese sandwiches, which I have every night. The cheese I use is bought only for me. It is, frankly, below my family. It is £1 for 10 slices of squidgy cheese – which may or may not be something that has been swept from a floor. I just like the simplicity of it – it is a contrast to the food I spend my days making.

If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

I would have potatoes – they are superior to bread. They are more integral to my cooking and nutritionally they are a better option. Plus bread is bread – without crossing over into rye and malt, you get very similar stuff.

What is your desert island recipe?

Well, it would have to be a marinade for the barbecue that I would be cooking my food on – what else would you do on a desert island? A quick one would be salt, pepper and a lot of garlic and some oil.

What's your favourite restaurant?

I love D.O.M. in Sao Paulo. The chef, Alex Atala, creates his dishes by going to the jungle for 60 days to research herbs and spices. He then goes to his tree house and creates the dishes. He says if the tree house is surrounded by monkeys as he cooks, then the dish is a success; if not, it is a failure.

What's your favourite cookbook?

Nathan Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine is in five volumes and is incredibly exhaustive. It explores the laboratory-style cooking of modern times – it really interests me. It does, however, cost a small fortune to buy.

Who taught you to cook?

My father. He ran a catering business; he enticed me into the industry. Most of the day-to-day things I do in my cooking comes from him. I have trained with many Michelin-starred chefs, but the methods I use day after day are often, I notice, my father's.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones