Long time Executive Chef at the well established Bombay Brasserie, Prahlad Hegde recently chatted with Londonist about his career with his Kensington based Indian fine dining restaurant. Prahlad was also kind enough to share a few basics tips about how to best prepare Indian and South Asian dishes at home.
What's your background with respect to training as a chef?
Even at a very early age I was always interested in cooking mainly as I used to help out in the family restaurants. Further to my bachelor’s degree in science I joined The Institute of Hotel Management Mumbai in 1983 and completed the degree in Food Service Management. As a top ranker in the course I was fast tracked to the second year of the three years Degree of Hotel Management at the Institute. During my tenure at the institute I trained in the kitchens of The Taj Group of Hotels and The Oberoi in Mumbai. I also did a stint in the Kitchen for ONGC on the Offshore Oil Rigs of Bombay High.
On graduation from the institute in 1986 I was selected at campus interviews as a chef trainee In the very reputable Taj Mahal Hotel and Palaces Mumbai, the flagship of the Taj Group of hotels. I underwent a rigorous training under the mentoring of the group's acclaimed Executive Chef, Hemant Oberoi in various kitchens of the hotel which included the various speciality restaurants and areas like butchery, garde–manger, pastry and banqueting. I was also sent for three months to train in the kitchens of The Taj Hotels in Goa to learn the local cuisine and adapt to their style of operations.
Back in Mumbai I was posted in the kitchens of The Chambers Club which is an exclusive club at the Taj.
In 1988 I travelled to Ireland to present an Indian Food Festival.
Bombay Brasserie has been part of the London dining scene for a number of years. How long have you been with the restaurant?
The Bombay Brasserie was born on the 10th of December 1982. I was deputed to The Bombay Brasserie London in 1991 and have proudly been a part of its growth and upbringing for the last 20 years.
How would you compare Bombay Brasserie to other South Asian restaurants in London?
Bombay Brasserie has always been ahead of its time since its opening and is an icon and an institution. Since its opening in 1982 The Taj group's idea with Bombay Brasserie was to present London with the authentic food of Bombay in all its ethnic variety. The cooking would be of the finest quality prepared with the freshest ingredients. South Asian restaurateurs who wanted to open in UK always looked up to Bombay Brasserie for inspiration and used it as a bench mark. It still very proudly holds that place.
Your restaurant is located at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel London. What is Bombay Brasserie's relationship with the hotel? Are most of your customer’s hotel guests or Londoners?
Bombay Brasserie has always had an independent identity with only direct street entrance. We get customers not only from the neighbouring hotel but from all over London. We have a tremendous repeat clientele of business and social groups.
Where do you like to dine and shop for food in London?
Apart from the big names, London is also blessed with a variety of small family run restaurants which serve great food. It is a great experience shopping for for fresh produce in the major markets like Spitalfields Market, Billingsgate Market and the New Covent Garden Market. The Whole Foods in Kensington is another great place to shop for food.
Any tips on cooking Indian and South Asian dishes at home?
Use of fresh ingredients is very essential.
Indian spices are more easily available in areas like Wembley, Southall, Tooting etc. Most major supermarkets around the UK also devote whole sections to Asian spices and ingredients as the demand has dramatically increased.
Indian food is not all about chillies and spice. There is a whole spectrum of flavours and tastes associated with it. Do not be afraid to experiment with new Indian dishes and recipes. If you move away from the norm you will be surprised with the variety of home made, authentic and non commercial dishes one can cook.
While cooking, the temperature of the oil in the pan and the timing of adding ingredients to it is very essential as it helps properly extract flavours of added spices and also contributes to the right colours and textures of the final dish.
If you blend and grind spices (dry garam masala powders etc) lightly toast them before grinding to obtain maximum flavours. Grind in small quantities; once ground, the strength of the flavours decrease on storage. Store in air tight packaging to retain taste and flavor.
Bombay Brasserie is located at 140 Courtfield Road, SW7 4QH. Visit the restaurant online at www.bombaybrasserielondon.com.