My Kitchen is More of My Home Than the Place Where I Live, says Chef Ashay Dhopatkar | Interview

In an exclusive interview with Foodeez Junction, Chef Ashay Dhopatkar opens up on his culinary journey and the experiences on working with the likes of Chefs Herbert Berger, Mark Hix and Gordon Ramsay.
Even after getting through the top medical schools in India, Chef Ashay followed his passion. He graduated from the Institute of Hotel Management in Goa and then moved to the Isle of Man, where he worked as an apprentice with Manx chefs. Soon after doing Culinary Arts from the Hammersmith and West London College, England, he was selected to work at the kitchen of the No. 1 Lombard Street, under Michelin-Star ‘Old School’ Austrian Chef Herbert Berger.

Before taking up MBA, Chef Ashay had also worked with 3 Michelin-Star Chef Raymond Blanc, 2 Michelin-Star Chef Shane Osborne, 2 Michelin-Star Chef John Campbell and Chef Tom Hampstead, which helped him in refining his culinary skills. After pursuing MBA, Chef Ashay worked at Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy.

Later, Ashay Dhopatkar joined Michelin-Star Chef Mark Hix. It’s that time when Chef Ashay got to work closely with the local farm owners.
To find new inspirations and work on his own creations, Chef Ashay Dhopatkar returned to India and had joined Passcode Hospitality as an Executive Chef at A Ta Maison (ATM). Read on to know more about Chef Ashay’s experiences as a chef.

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How did you get started in food? Can you tell us a bit about your culinary journey?
I started off with my hotel management from IHM Goa, after which I did a brief stint in the Isle Of Mann where I studied and apprenticed with a few Manx Chefs.

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Who and What influenced you?
Once in London, I discovered the world of Michelin-starred restaurants. The more I researched, the more I wanted to work in one. Like everyone back in those days, I too was influenced by the stories of Harvey’s restaurant.

One major difference between Indian and international flavours from the chef’s eyes.
I think Indian flavours are more spice & condiment-centric while international flavours are more ingredient-centric.

You have worked with Michelin Star Chef Herbert Berger and Chef Mark Hix, and have worked at Chef Ramsay’s Savoy Grill. How did it help you in achieving the perfection?
In every possible way! With Chef Herbert I learned the fundamentals of classic gastronomy, with Chef Mark, I learned the importance of provenance, local sourcing & working with producers. With Chef Ramsay, I learned endurance and self motivation! Click to Tweet

What does Kitchen for Chef Ashay means?
‘Home’… Home is where a person feels safe and comfortable, where one can forget all worldly matters and be himself. In some way, my Kitchen is more of my home than the place where I live!!

How would you define your style of cooking?
My style of cooking is Modern European using classic French techniques with British and Indian influences.

Signature Dish
Confit Leg of Chicken with Sauce aux Champignons, haricot Verts & Onion Lyonnaise. Simple & Elegant.

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Favourite cuisine/s
I like trying new cuisines and dishes constantly but French, British & Indian are my favourites.

Ingredients that you couldn’t live without?
Good Quality Mustard & Butter.

A recipe that you would want the entire world to know.
A simple French Omelette. Everyone makes it but few get it right. It is one of the things that I ask young chefs to make on their trials in my kitchen.

What’s the first ever dish that Chef Ashay made?
The first ever dish I made was a Chocolate Popsicle at the age of 11! It was hard as a rock but my dad was kind enough to risk his teeth anyway!!

How did your family react then? And now?
My dad wanted me to be a doctor and I had even got through some top medical schools in India. But when I told them that my passion lies in cooking, they understood and supported me in every possible way. They are just as supportive today although they don’t approve of my bouillabaisse .. Which I’m so proud of. LOL!

A cooking experience that you will never forget.
An elaborate meal I had from a French chef in the middle of a game lodge while on a African Safari holiday… That meal was definitely worth a Michelin star!

What do you prefer to have after a long day at work?
A simple broth or a warm pie is the best thing! Although I’d welcome a good butter chicken with just as much gusto!!

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Who is your favourite chef?
Thomas Keller, Paul Bocuse, Marco Pierre White, Tom Aikens, Shane Osborn.

What does a regular working day of the Chef’s life look like?
It starts with a cup of strong Coffee at 7am, after which the day starts with the deliveries and the prep. The lunch service starts at 12 and ends at 4pm. After a short break, we start again at 5 for dinner service which kicks off at 6:30 and goes well into the night until 11:30. Then we clean down, do the ordering & prep list for the next day and leave to start again in the morning.

Biggest challenges you have faced throughout your culinary journey?
Every day is a challenge that comes with a gift in its hands… I think all chefs seek this challenge. That is what excites us. Click to Tweet

What keeps you going?
The constant pursuit of something higher.

A message to the aspiring home chefs/cooks.
Behind the glamour, beautiful dishes and shiny cutlery, there is a lot of hard work and sacrifices. Be prepared and stay dedicated and you’ll get there. Also that no book will give you the skill set and knowledge that you will gain from working in a good kitchen.

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— as told to Sara Khan