Rasoi Restaurant, London, England guest chef Vineet Bhatia.
Vineet Bhatia arrived in London way back in 1993 with little more than a suitcase full of books, his lofty ambitions, a love of Indian cuisine and a passion for cooking! Fast-forward a few years and Bhatia now has several restaurants, is the first Indian chef-patron to be awarded a Michelin star, has published a successful cookery book, recorded a TV series, and is seen as the face of modern, progressive Indian cuisine.
Born in India in 1967, Vineet grew up in a middle-class family in Bombay (now Mumbai). He initially had his heart set on the skies, not the kitchen. But failing the medical brought his dreams of becoming a pilot crashing down to earth. In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened to him, as he then turned his attention to food.
He was in the perfect place to do so, for the melting pot of Mumbai combines the diverse range of culinary influences from many different regions of India. Fascinated by this diversity and his mum’s shared passion for cooking, Vineet ventured into the world of food.
Qualified and trained at the Oberoi Hotel School, Vineet’s first appointment as Chef in Charge at The Oberoi, Bombay, soon revealed his talent and determination. But he was somewhat underwhelmed by the disparity that existed between the French and the Indian cuisine. Whilst his French cuisine counterparts were applauded for their creativity, he was instructed to keep well within the rigid traditional Indian recipes, which didn’t allow any attempts at being creative.
These inflexible and, above all, tradition-oriented kitchens didn’t give him the leeway he needed to unfurl his creativity and satisfy his great urge to elevate Indian cuisine to a global platform.
Frustrated, Vineet decided to move to London – unaware of what Indian cuisine really meant in the eyes of Londoners, i.e. overly spiced stews washed down with pints of beer.
He had his work cut out and in his first outpost, at Star of India, used everything he’d been taught to create a professional environment, followed by changes to the menu, bit by bit. After a year, he’d not only changed the entire menu but had also transformed the clientèle from typical curry eaters to true gourmets. And it wasn’t long before he was hailed as the “Star of India”. Keen to have more independence, Vineet partnered and opened Zaika in 1999 – and just two years later became the first Indian chef-patron to be awarded a Michelin star in the Guide’s 104-year history. And rightly so, for he proved here that Indian food is capable of evolving and going beyond the stereotype “curries” with floating oil, cooked by non-Indians in the many curry houses all over Britain.
His food does not conform to the norms of traditional Indian cookery. Instead, the combinations, the contrasts in textures, flavours and temperatures, and the sheer expressive range of the cooking comes from Vineet himself. His light and imaginative dishes display a clever balance between innovation and an immense respect for the history of Indian cooking.
In 2004, Vineet finally realised his life-long dream of having his own restaurant, when he opened Rasoi (Hindi for “kitchen”) with his life partner. The restaurant has held a Michelin star since 2006. Rasoi allows him to showcase his “Evolved Indian” approach with dishes such as grilled chilli-garlic lobster dusted with cocoa powder and 24-carat gold leaf crusted black-spiced chicken tikka on the menu. His most copied Chocomosasamosas, filled with dark and white chocolate, redefine Indian cuisine.
In 2009 his outpost Rasoi by Vineet in Geneva was awarded a Michelin star, thereby putting Vineet in the history books again as the only Indian chef to have a star for his restaurant in the UK and outside of the UK.
Vineet has become known for revolutionising Indian cuisine. His reputation is now synonymous with “elite fine dining” and reflected in his impressive portfolio of exclusive consultancies at hotels around the world, including Geneva, Mauritius, Dubai and even back in his hometown of Mumbai, where it all started.
Guests at Hangar-7’s Restaurant Ikarus will have the chance to taste Vineet’s “Evolved Indian” cuisine during the whole month of February.