Journey To The Stars: Trèsind Studio’s Chef Himanshu Saini Shares What It Takes To Be A Two Michelin Star Chef


My tryst with Trèsind began at its Mumbai outpost when I visited the restaurant to try its 16-course degustation menu. The thought of eating so many dishes made me nervous but I knew I was in for a treat once I bit into the first course – the cucumbari pani puri, a burst of flavour in my mouth. I devoured each dish but nothing came close to the signature dish, ‘The Khichdi’ wherein the server came to the table with its ingredients placed in the shape of a map of India. Each ingredient represented an Indian state and was added to the khichdi by the server, then mixed and served on our plate. Who knew something as simple as khichdi would become one of the most unforgettable dining experiences I’ve ever had? 


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Many Indian restaurants add drama to their dishes but not everybody is successful in balancing it with flavours while still keeping the emotional touch intact. Trèsind and Trèsind Studio by Chef Himanshu Saini is an exception. The New Delhi-based chef has been on a mission to put Indian food on the global map since its inception. Before Trèsind opened its doors in Mumbai in 2018, Saini had started its journey in Dubai in 2014 as a family-style sharing, imaginative and innovative restaurant. He later launched Trèsind Studio in 2018, which was more experimental and courageous. It had a tasting menu with just six tables in the restaurant. Trèsind Studio was relocated to outside of Trèsind in 2022 and has become the flagship restaurant of the group. 

Tortellini, gorgonzola dolce, pandhra rassa

With the Michelin Guide being introduced to Dubai last year, Trèsind Studio became the first Indian restaurant to be honoured with one Michelin star. Earlier this year, it bagged its second Michelin star, making it one of only three restaurants in the UAE with a coveted 2 stars. While The Khichdi is a signature dish at Trèsind Mumbai, you must look out for their take on the Onam Sadhya at Trèsind Studio if you’re ever in Dubai. The staff from the kitchen comes to your table to perform the ceremony and serve the dish. “I’ve seen people from Kerala who know its food in and out crying over this dish in the restaurant. So I think the dish has a great emotional connection,” Saini shares during my conversation with him one afternoon. 

In our ongoing series of Journey To The Stars, Chef Himanshu Saini talks about the initial days in his career and what’s changed for him after getting his second Michelin star. 

Into The Culinary World

Growing up, Chef Himanshu Saini was surrounded by food from spending time with his aunts in the kitchen to eating with his family on the dining table. So it was only natural for cooking to be his true calling. After studying in a culinary school in Delhi and working for 5 years at Old World Hospitality, Saini bagged a job at the Indian Accent kitchen and trained under Chef Manish Mehrotra. Following a 5-year stint there, Chef Saini launched Masala Library in 2013 and then Farzi Cafe in 2014 before venturing into Trèsind in Dubai. 

Chef Himanshu Saini

Saini’s Cooking Philosophy

Having worked under one of the best Indian chefs, Manish Mehrotra, Saini’s biggest learning from him was his philosophy around cooking progressive Indian food. “He always set certain principles for himself such as focusing on getting the flavours of the dish right first and then working around the presentation. That has stayed with me till now. How he runs the whole restaurant was also inspiring. He’s not just a chef in the kitchen but an overall leader in the restaurant. He used to take care of the dining room, make sure that he was meeting every guest, explaining most of the dishes on the table.” 


Saini’s learnings in the Indian Accent kitchen have shaped his cooking today at Trèsind Studio. But he does admit that he doesn’t deem his food as progressive or modern but instead, as evolving. “Trèsind Studio features a 20-dish tasting menu with five dishes being served from four different regions of India–Thar Desert, Deccan Plateau, Northern Plains and Himalayan Mountains. The geographical division states what is available on the coast of India and the Deccan region, and what are the eating practices and cooking techniques in the Himalayan regions. By doing that, we believe there are no signature dishes on the menu because every dish is an incomplete dish and has a scope to evolve. Trèsind Studio is all about the evolution of Indian food. Many ingredients or combination of ingredients or a dish gets better with time, knowledge, exposure to ingredients, travel and history. There are many dishes which have been on the menu for many years but we always try to tweak those by adding or taking off something or giving it a different dimension,” Saini explains. 

Pickled Pepper,Buttermilk Curry Ice cream

The Second Star

Michelin inspectors have a discrete job of operating anonymously. Getting one star means that the restaurant has excellent cooking and is worth a stop. The second star means that the restaurant is beyond excellent for you to take a detour to come and eat there. The third star implies that the restaurant deserves a special journey in itself. Needless to say, Saini feels proud of Trèsind Studio for receiving its second star. 


“It’s a big moment but it’s also a big responsibility. Now, everyone who walks into the restaurant comes with higher expectations. Dubai is a very cosmopolitan market with different palates and people from around the world. It’s great to satisfy the Indian palate in Dubai with Trèsind Studio. It means that I am not sacrificing flavours to make it work through a foreign palate. But at the same time, I’m managing my dishes in terms of many layers of flavours, ensuring that we are not losing the essence of Indian food so that it becomes palatable for everyone. I think Indian food has always been dynamic with strong flavours. There was always that challenge of how you can hold that back without giving up. There is no restaurant ever that got three stars with Indian food. So that plays in our heads. It becomes a challenge now,” the chef shares with candour. 

Mustard & miso scallop, ripe banana, potato tartlet

Being A Michelin-Star Chef: Validation Or Recognition?

“It’s validation from an authority that is well-trusted and does everything anonymously. You don’t know who the inspectors are. They will just come in and eat as any other guest and pay their bill. That means every guest is important when they come to your restaurant,” Saini says. 

Cacao ghevar, cauliflower crémeux, roasted barley ice cream

“Besides being a validation, it just ticks all the boxes in terms of how a restaurant should be. But of course, every palate is subjective. If there’s a dish liked by 90 people in my restaurant, the remaining 10 would find it odd. But that’s the challenge you have. You can’t please everyone, but we can at least try to. So for me, it’s a recognition. Every aspiring young chef who gets into cooking knows about the Michelin Guide. So it’s every chef’s dream to earn their restaurant one or more Michelin stars. It’s a very connected process.”

King oyster noodles, bamboo shoots, wild mushroom XO

What It Takes To Be A Michelin-Star Chef

Receiving a second Michelin star also means that the restaurant has managed to maintain the quality and consistency of dishes and service. So what goes into sustaining that and becoming a Michelin-star chef?

“I think it takes many years of cooking experience to begin with. And then you need to understand your audience, your produce and what you’re trying to do. Is it different from the others? Because there are thousands of Indian restaurants in the world. When we serve the dishes, we go to every table with a 3D map of India with a detailed explanation of the regions of India. And serve five dishes from each region. Tell me about another restaurant that does this,” Saini shares.


“So it depends on what you’re trying to offer. If restaurants are doing the same thing, it doesn’t excite anyone anymore. You have to come up with a different approach. It has to be your own style and one that you have full confidence in. At the same time, you don’t have to do much of the storytelling and take things away from the flavours, cooking and the effort that goes behind it. There has to be a perfect balance of everything from you choosing the right ingredients to the right dishes to challenging dishes to dishes with emotions to an experience from the restaurant’s point of view to offer something out of the box,” he adds. 

Ghee roast crab, burnt cinnamon, curry leaf crisp

Life After The Second Star

“It just changed the whole dynamic of the restaurant. Now we see people travelling from many places, stopping over in Dubai and ensuring they come and dine at that restaurant. There are reservations, which go beyond months in advance now. The kind of exposure the Michelin gives is very difficult to get from anywhere else. It gives your restaurant global recognition,” the chef says. 

Missi roti, nopales curry, cultured butter

The Future With Indian Food

Post the pandemic, Saini doesn’t believe in planning way ahead. His decision for the future relies on the current scenarios. While he will be working towards making a few dishes better on the menu, his main agenda is to spread knowledge about the scope of Indian food across the globe. 

“From the last two to three years of my travels to Europe, it is sad to see that the perception of Indian food is still so poor. People still think of Indian food as a greasy curry, bread, kebab or naan. That’s why I want to promote Indian food as much as possible. And I’m going to say it without being biased because it is one of the most delicious foods in the world; it has never got the importance it deserved for many years. With the current generation of chefs we have now, it’s a great moment for Indian food,” he adds with a sense of hope. 

- Lifestyle Editor


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