WHO Bengaluru-based chef Aditya Bal is the host of the cooking show Chakh Le India for which he travels across the country to discover and experiment with various cuisines. A model for eight years, he has worked with designers such as Rohit Bal and Tarun Tahiliani.
Does it get hotter in the kitchen or on the ramp?
There’s no comparison. The atmosphere is so different. But I enjoy how cooking is still some kind of a performance. Running the kitchen, calling out the order — it’s a high adrenalin job. Despite lack of glamour, there is more satisfaction in terms of your own achievements. You can’t be half-hearted.
What drew you to cooking?
After modelling, I tried my hand at Bollywood. But the film projects would stall or never take off. I picked up cooking to keep busy and productive, and got good. I experimented at home for a few months, then joined a friend’s restaurant to see if I could survive in a professional set-up. I’ve learnt through self-teaching, books, Internet and cookery shows.
Chef stereotypes you’d like to peel off?
Most people think that chefs are supposed to weigh a lot because they eat all the food they cook. They believe that if you don’t eat the food that you make, you can’t be a great cook. I cook to feed other people; I don’t cook to hog all of it myself.
Weirdest dish you’ve ever tasted?
I had something a shepherd cooked for me in Himachal, goat intestines in turmeric, spices and chilli. It’s a delicacy but I didn’t enjoy it much. At least it was edible. A soufflé omelette of uncooked egg white I had in Puducherry, was not.
What about dishes that gain massive popularity as high-end cuisine but aren’t really that good?
There are many. Caviar for instance. You’re supposed to like it but for most people it is too fishy. Some times an ingredient is obscenely priced, sometimes it’s propagated by a world renowned chef. Anything can lead to its popularity. I don’t like chicken; which is as mainstream as it gets. I’d rather cook something more challenging, with a flavour of its own.
Shonali Ghosal is a Correspondent with Tehelka.