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Chefs are going back to their roots to present a cuisine that combines taste, freshness and innovation, says Madhulika Dash
Food is not an easy business to explore, especially now that it’s constantly reinventing itself. But when inspiration runs dry, who do the chefs run to? Their memory banks.

When chefpreneur Sabysachi Gorai opened his first restaurant, Lavaash By Saby, in Delhi, he chose his Armeniancuisine- based roots as the menu. “Someone needs to start looking at cuisine that formed the foundation of our food culture,” he said.

The Indian dining space is evolving with every new restaurant opened, where now a bathua ravioli or a rajma chawal khichdi enjoys the same interest as chicken tikka masala. This could explain why chef Kunal Kapur chose mango lassi as a dessert when relaunching Patiala in Dubai. “As a child, my cousins and I would take turns churning thick mango-yoghurt and then relishing it with naan khatai every summer,” Kapur said.

Going desi also seems to be chef Manish Mehrotra’s plan for New York, where he is set to make his international debut with Indian Accent. But putting the “real India” on the table has been quite a few chefs’ pet project for a long time. Abhijit Saha of Caperberry says, “The beauty of having the vast Indian cuisine as your food heritage is that you can draw influences from anywhere to make a dish that can be familiar yet multidimensional.” However, even though new-age cuisinefinds inspiration in the old, nostalgia may not be the only reason to go back to one’s roots.

Apart from being directed towards saving India’s food heritage, the basis of this cuisine philosophy is rooted in commercial viability. As chef Floyd Cardoz of Bombay Canteen says, “The reason we decided to put local and seasonal ingredients on the menu, apart from nostalgia, is also the ready seasonal availability of produce. Good produce not only leads to tastier food but also helps us to keep changing the menu to keep things interesting.” Chef Sahil Saha of Pa Pa Ya also believes it helps keep the food cost low without compromising on quality and taste – the two essentials that make diners come back for more. Yet another aspect of it is the “sense of familiarity which brings in acceptability and success”, says celebrity chef Ranveer Brar, whose recent curation at FLYP@MTV, Delhi, includes dishes such as achaari salmon nigiri and biryani aranchini. And this dinerfood connection is working wonders. And why won’t it? It brings together the best of the culinary world – freshness, innovation and palate appeal. And, most importantly, as chef Manu Chandra of Monkey Bar said, “It follows no formula, just the heart.

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