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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'