Chef Manish Mehrotra On Indian Accent Taking A Coveted Spot On Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List, Again

Manish Mehrotra

There’s something very calm and collective about chef Manish Mehrotra. Even after being one of the top chefs in India and the name behind acclaimed restaurant Indian Accent, which has come under the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the 10th consecutive year, the chef is grounded, focused and always thinking of what to create next. He understands the changing needs of a consumer and adapts to it–a quality that has made his restaurant sustain this long while still bringing in the accolades.  

As someone who enjoys bringing unique combinations to street chaat and regional cuisine, Mehrotra launched Indian Accent in 2009 with an unconventional and innovative approach to contemporary Indian food–a concept he thought of much ahead of his time. 

This year, Indian Accent went from from #22 to #19 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant list, compared to the last. It is not every day an Indian chef gets this title but the title comes with its own pressures of having to constantly improve on it and remain a trendsetter. To celebrate the winning of his coveted title, chef Mehrotra collaborated with JW Marriott Hotel Bengaluru on a 10-course meal, which featured some of the chef’s classic dishes such as Churan ka Karela, Chilean Cherries Golgappa, Beetroot and Peanut Butterchop, Gobindobhog and Mushroom Payesh, among others.

While all awards are honourable and make him feel good, chef Manish does admit that a lot of responsibility is put on his shoulders. Ahead, we chat with the chef on winning the title once again, what keeps him inspired, how he unwinds, his comfort food and more! 

ELLE: The title comes with its own pressures. What goes into keeping that title or restaurant at that position? 

Manish Mehrotra (MM):  Belief. Whether you believe it or not, keeping the belief strong keeps you motivated to bring in new and innovative experiences for the guest. We have learnt it the hard way past these 14 and half years.

ELLE: At the end of the day, how much do these titles and laurels matter to you?

MM: I am eternally grateful for all the titles, but at the end of the day what matters to me is when someone walks out happy from my restaurant. They come with high expectations about the name, and it’s my job to fulfil it. Once you know you’ve done it, you’ve reached success. 

ELLE: How did you come up with the Indian Accent and what was your inspiration?

MM: While working in London, I got a chance to work at a restaurant. I wanted to work in an Indian restaurant for the longest time and this gave me the opportunity to give it my best. I created a unique combination of dishes and ingredients in such a way that it compliments each other. Whether it is the Blue Cheese Naan, Doda Barfi Treacle Tart, or Meetha Achaar Pork Ribs, the aim was to let the people living outside India also relate to it. 

 

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ELLE: What was the first general reaction when people saw what you do?

MM: In terms of food, Delhi is the toughest market. Everyone is very passionate about North Indian centric food and found it weird to go to a place that doesn’t serve you butter chicken, papad, biryani, achar, and kabab. It was tough at first as we would go empty, but now they have understood. Now, people are open to experimenting. With increase in travel, their palette has evolved and are ready to experiment. It will take more time but it’s a good progress. 

Manish Mehrotra

ELLE: Do you think it’s important for chefs to adapt to food trends?

MM: One should be inspired by food trends but shouldn’t get stuck with them. It is important to judge the trends according to your restaurant’s needs and your potential. Incase it is not required then one should not even think of it. 

ELLE: What’s your take on molecular gastronomy?

MM: I personally feel nothing teaches you properly as experience does. If your dish creates drama people will come to you, but if it’s not tasty then they won’t come. 

ELLE: What do you feel about the present culinary scene in India? 

MM: I am really happy to see young chefs doing great work for our regional cuisines. Their research with Indian food and innovating new things by mixing different parts of India gives me hope that this industry will rule the world.  

ELLE: What advice would you like to give to young chefs? 

MM: An advice not just for chefs but for everyone is to believe in yourself and keep doing what makes you happy. For the young chefs, remember that if you’re getting into Indian food chains, you should research well and not make it finicky in any way. You wouldn’t want it to become a laughing stock, right? 

Manish Mehrotra

ELLE: What is your comfort food ? 

MM: If you had asked me this years back, Maggie would be the only snack I could have thought of. But now, it’s a simple bowl of bhel puri, a sandwich, or instant noodles–basically anything that doesn’t make you cook at 2 am.

ELLE: As a chef, how do you unwind? 

MM: I watch a lot of movies. I mostly enjoy South Indian-dubbed movies. Apart from movies, I enjoy series, cricket and music. 

ELLE: What are your future plans?

MM: At the moment we are working on the Mumbai opening of Indian accent. We haven’t thought of a plan further ahead as we were caught up in this, but let’s see as to how things unfold.

- Senior Digital Writer

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