For children growing up in Kolkata in the early 2000s, their first introduction to global cuisine happened because of hotelier and founder of Speciality Restaurants, Anjan Chatterjee. It is he who single-handedly introduced an entire generation to the true essence of a culinary experience. However, it can be extremely difficult to get him for an exclusive chat, but that has nothing to do with him not wanting to do an interview but with the fact that he is constantly on the move, juggling multiple phone calls, meetings and tastings with utmost grace and finesse.
For Chatterjee, Durga Puja “has always been about celebration, camaraderie and emotion” and even though he is keeping extremely busy because of the festivities he readily agreed to a quick chat with NW18 on all things related to food.
- Since Durga Puja is right around the corner, we need to start by asking if you have a set menu during the festivities that you specifically like to indulge in.
- Besides the chops, cutlets fries and Chinese food while pandal hopping, one thing that is very close to my heart is- Khichuri and Labra bhog.
- You were the pioneer in introducing Bengali cuisine to a pan-Indian audience in today’s day and age. How was that formulated?
- When foreign guests used to come to visit the Chatterjee household in Delhi’s Pandara Road, they were invariably served up a lavish Bengali spread. My mother dished out the best Bengali mutton curry. Bengali cuisine is a niche cuisine and I had always wanted to get the same on the food map of India. So, that’s what inspired me to start with our first 32-seater restaurant Only Fish in 1992 (which is now Oh! Calcutta). Slowly, people started to pour in and I understood that here was an opportunity to take this cuisine further. Today we have 9 outlets of Oh! Calcutta across India.
- Bengali food has strong flavours, how did you imagine a flavour-driven cuisine as opposed to the masala-driven side of the Indian cuisine will be palatable for the foodies all across the country?
- Good and honest food will always be appreciated. Not just in the country but throughout the world. Although, the spices vary from one region to the other in India, but the food of Calcutta continues to be unique because of the unexplored flavours coming out from unique spices.
- You have been in the business for far too long now, do you notice a difference in terms of how taste buds are evolving as generations pass by?
- Food is continuing to be accepted and appreciated. But with the advent of digital evolution, many global trends have started influencing the new generation’s adventure palette.
- You like cooking too if we are not mistaken, how and when did inspiration strike you and what has your journey been like?
- From my childhood, I have always assisted my mother in the kitchen, hence I joined the catering school and subsequently joined the Taj Group of hotels, and hence the passion for good flavour and good tasting food continued to be a part of my journey. And as we speak, I keep on cooking and innovating newer flavours.
- What are the three food items and three cocktails that you would want to highlight on any given day?
- For Cocktails: Godhuli, Kal Boishaki & The Classic Gin & Tonic
For Food: Gondhoraj Fish (maach), Kankra Chingri Bhapa & Murshidabadi Murghi Fry
- What are the post-covid trends that you are noticing, is there something that is bothering you and at the same time do you like anything that you see?
- Post covid, I see a distinct change in the pattern of eating out. It looks like people have realized that life is short and hence they need to enjoy and taste things themselves by going out to eat more often. However, the most distinct change that I noticed is the habit of home-delivered food is continuing to surge ahead even post covid. Looks like it is here to stay.
- Lastly, is there anything brewing in the pipeline that we should be aware of?- There are many concepts that I am working on, both wet-led as well as food-led and we will announce them once they get a bit more mature.