Michelin Chef Rohit Ghai And His Culinary Journey

We spoke with Michelin-starred Chef Rohit Ghai to find out what inspired him to create the perfect recipe for the perfect dish.
Michelin Chef Rohit Ghai And His Culinary Journey
Michelin Chef Rohit Ghai And His Culinary Journey

Shangri-La Al Husn, Muscat recently unveiled its latest addition to Oman&rsquos diverse culinary scene &ndash Aangan, a contemporary Indian restaurant by Michelin star Chef Rohit Ghai. 

Ghai has meticulously curated the menu for Aangan combining locally grown fresh produce, authentic Indian spices and innovative cooking techniques. We had a chat with him about his journey as a Michelin chef, the inspiration behind his menu, and more.

Was always cooking your first preference

After completing my Hotel Management degree in India, I began working for Oberoi Hotels. Working with the Oberoi Group provided me with a breakthrough. Following that, I spent some time with the Taj group. After working with hotels in India for eight to nine years, I relocated abroad to gain international exposure. I made a breakthrough in 2008 with Benares, the first Michelin-starred restaurant - and one of the most demanding - in London. After working there for six to eight years, I moved to another company.

After about 16 years of working for different entities, I eventually decided to open my own business. Kutir, one of my first flagship restaurants, launched in the heart of Chelsea in 2018.

Tell us about your journey as a Michelin chef

I was fortunate in that situation since I had been in charge of a Michelin-starred kitchen in the UK. Maintaining a Michelin-star restaurant is a demanding endeavour. However, if you begin your journey on a difficult level and have experienced a more challenging environment or job, you will naturally adjust and not feel pressure as you progress. By that point, you would have adapted to all sorts of stress, obstacles, and, of course, the incredible Michelin pressure. 

When I went to London, there was no strategy or notion of a Michelin star or anything like that in my mind. We followed the essential Michelin criteria seasonal changes, generous and flexible menu prices, and exotic ingredients. To be quite honest with you, I have not done anything else in London. I maintain the consistency in quality of the cuisine, I use a lot of seasonal items, and never feel extra pressure. That's because I have worked in similar environments since the beginning of my career. To answer your question, my path as a Michelin-starred chef has been successful.

Are there any chefs you admire 

There are many legends, especially in London, which is known as a culinary mecca and is a fiercely competitive market. Here, you may find great chefs like Raymond Blanc, Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, and Gordon Ramsay. I clearly remember visiting their restaurant to understand their approach to cooking. I enjoy French cuisine. Therefore I usually strive to include French dishes on my menu, and I love to incorporate several culinary styles into my menu.

These legendary and creative chefs are well-known worldwide, and I learn a lot from them. I have also had the opportunity to feed them my food a couple of times because they love Indian food. It has been an honour, and I am quite proud when they visit my restaurants.

What is new about the Aangan menu and what is the inspiration behind it

I wanted to showcase the roots of India via Aangan. The location of the restaurant within Shangri-La Al Husn is appropriate, given the restaurant's name, since we have a wonderful terrace space. Indian culture, origins, how people treat their loved ones and the spirit of sharing are all ingrained in Indian food. In India, the word aangan refers to a courtyard where people sit together, entertain their guests, and eat together. I just wanted to introduce Indian cuisine, culture and concept to Oman via the Aangan platform.

 Do any local ingredients feature on the Aangan menu

I'm using as many local ingredients as possible. That is the most significant thing since I have always tried to support the local market and vendors wherever I have a restaurant. At Aangan, I make sure that we purchase most of our supplies from the local market, including vegetables, groceries, fish, and meat.

What do you want guests to experience when they dine at your restaurants

It is still in its early stages. During the first quarter of Aangan's operation, I would like to demonstrate my learnings to the guests through my specialty dishes so that they can better grasp Indian food and culture. As a result, beginning today, we have chosen to unveil my signature-tasting menu, which will be a massive hit for Aangan in Oman due to its small bite-sized portions.

What has been an unforgettable cooking experience for you

After winning the Michelin star in record time, I was invited to serve and meet Mr Narendra Modi in India. Another event occurred when legendary athletes, including Roger Federer, visited my London restaurant. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has also dined at my restaurant.

When you travel, which two places are your must-go-to for a meal

Whether I travel on vacation or for research and development, I always like to visit more local markets and vendors to examine their approaches and trends in the local market. You gain a lot of information and knowledge when you try local merchants.

What is your signature dish

As mentioned earlier, Aangan has a variety of signature dishes. After opening so many restaurants, I knew I should create something unique and different for the guests when I launched Kutir. That is when I introduced Khichdi, an Indian classic, which I prepared with truffle and wild mushrooms. I always do my best to elevate Indian cuisine, and with my creativity, execution, and presentation, Khichdi became a big hit for vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

I believe in trying different things for example, in Oman, I prepared a dhokla with beetroot, an uncommon combination, but people seem to enjoy it and love it so far. We also have a trademark meal - Aloo Tikki - one of India's most well-known street food dishes. I've even served Aloo Tikki daily in London since it has so many layers of tastes. During the winter, especially in Europe, there is a wide range of game dishes available, but one of my hallmark dishes since opening Kutir is Quail Naan, which is stuffed with quail (meat) and topped with scrambled masala egg with fresh truffle.

How do you describe your overall cooking philosophy

My thoughts and approach are straightforward. I always stick to the guidelines of original recipes while also attempting to prepare some reconstructed dishes. Most of the time, I adhere to three principles consistency, texture, and palette.

What's next

So far, the focus has been on Aangan because it is a newborn baby, and we have a lot of work to do to make our loyal consumers happy. I may launch a second one - planned for Chicago early next year or in the first quarter.

Outlook Traveller