They are young, talented, with strong roots in their countries of origin but with extensive global travels under their belts and reams of gathered experience. Regardless of whether we’re talking about Indian, Turkish or Georgian cuisine, the secret is the same: to approach national delicacies with an open mind and a talent for mixing the traditional and the new.
Fine Dining Lovers brings you face-to-face with some of the most interesting chefs from the world’s fusion scene, beginning with the cuisine that’s had to work the hardest at changing a bad reputation – Indian cooking. «The (negative) stereotype of Indian food in the UK was due to a lack of training and knowledge of classical Indian cuisine», explains Atul Kochhar, Indian-born head chef at Benares, one of the first UK Indian restaurants to receive a Michelin star in 2001. «We’re now breeding a new band of chefs that are trained in two strong principles: Indian and French. This will only make Indian cuisine stronger in Europe and places away from India».
It’s an idea that’s also shared by Nari Hayak, the internationally-renowned chef and food consultant of international renown who moved to New York from southern India to train at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America: «If a chef is knowledgeable about global cooking, cultures and techniques, it becomes fairly simple to take Indian cuisine to the next level,» says Nayak. «However the approach, I believe as long as we keep the flavours and authenticity intact and create a balance using Indian spices, it can be done successfully.»
From Indian food to Turkish cuisine, we went to meet one of its foremost proponents, Mehmet Gurs. Born in Finland to a Finnish-Swedish mother and Turkish father, Gurs grew up in Sweden. He then studied and worked in the US before finally settling in Istanbul. «When we first opened up, my Scandinavian background had a huge influence on what I did here,» says Gurs. «But as I travelled more to the farthest corners of Anatolia, it transformed into some kind of new Anatolian cooking.» His culinary manifesto foresees the uses of local ingredients, but don’t take our word for it.
Our voyage through fusion cuisine ends in Georgia, where Tekuna Gachechiladze is putting a new twist on one of the oldest and constantly evolving cuisines in the world. After having studied psychology in Germany and lived in New York, he decided to return to his native Georgia and follow his dream: “reinventing” the cuisine of Georgia, which has undergone changes and “fusions” throughout history, thanks to the Georgian people’s penchant for conquering other cultures. Thanks to courageous, curious and cosmopolitan chefs like Tekuna, the national dishes are enjoying a culinary Renaissance.