Photograph courtesy of Tamarind
At just 29 years old, Alfred Prasad was the youngest Indian chef to receive a Michelin star. Joining the team at Tamarind as a sous chef in 2001, a year later he landed the position of Executive Chef at this celebrated Indian restaurant in Mayfair. In our latest Chefspective interview, we take the opportunity to not only pick Alfred's brain for foodie tips but try to glean a little off him about how to be successful. See our review of a recent Tamarind lunch special here.
You have the incredible distinction of being the youngest Indian chef to receive a Michelin star. What's the key to your success?
I love food. With that, I think my passion for what I do combined with plenty of hard work, a strong foundation in culinary training and a pursuit for excellence are really what helped me along the way. London presents us chefs with the opportunity to learn something new everyday.
Are you comfortable cooking other cuisines? Do you incorporate recipes from outside India in your dishes? How authentically Indian is the menu at Tamarind and, generally, what are your thoughts about food authenticity?
At home, I enjoy cooking light meals that require minimal additional flavourings - steaks, grills, roasts and Chinese stir fry’s too.
While the quest to discover new flavours and combinations is ongoing, I am careful about what I want to incorporate into Indian food as the spice repertoire is already quite complex. With Indian cuisine, it is a very delicate balance between using the right blend of spice while not taking anything away from the flavours of the meats or vegetables you are cooking. I am not a big fan of fusion food; if I have a craving for Greek food, I want Greek flavours. Likewise at Tamarind, we focus big time on giving our diners true Indian flavours.
Care to recommend some of your favourite South Asian eateries and shops in London to our readers?
I must confess that with the huge variety London has to offer, in my little spare time, I venture out more to non-Indian eateries.
In terms of South Asian stores, Drummond Street NW1 has a couple of good stores while there’s also Brick Lane E1. In the suburbs, places like Wembley, East Ham and Tooting have several excellent stores. I live in West London, so my choice would be Quality Foods in Southall which would make the pickiest of South Asian tourists envious of us Londoners.
After accomplishing so much at such an earlier stage in the game, how do you maintain a level of excellence? What are some of your goals that you've yet to achieve?
Well in the culinary field, the journey is the destination. Every day is a new learning that creates more roads, more goals and more excitement. So while a lot has been achieved, there’s a whole new world out there for me to still foray into.
Any tips for aspiring chefs?
Bring your own je ne sais quoi to your creations. Trends are not always great. So listen more to your heart and taste buds! Have fun! Explore! Some of the best creations have been mistakes. So don’t bring fear into your attempts.
Tamarind is located at 20 Queen Street (W1J 5PR). Visit the restaurant online at www.tamarindrestaurant.com.