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From Switzerland to India, a Spicy Four-Hand Dinner

From Switzerland to India, a Spicy Four-Hand Dinner

An interview with chefs Frank Oerthle and Sandeep Bhagwat, together for one of the S.Pellegrino Sapori Ticino 2014 dinners: a spicy travel around the world.

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A gorgeous view of Lake Lugano. Inside it’s like an art gallery filled with the many art works. It’s the restaurant Galleria Arté al Lago – owned by Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola – famous for its combination of art and cuisine directed by chef maison Frank Oerthle. This was also the setting of one of the S.Pellegrino Sapori Ticino 2014 dinners: a four-handed menu with Indian chef Sandeep Bhagwat of the restaurant Rasoi by Vineet – Hotel Mandarin Oriental in Geneva, one Michelin star same as the Galleria.

We’ve asked chef Bhagwat what inspired the menu of the evening. “It was a voyage around the different regions of India, using local Swiss products and seasonal ingredients. The menu is also well balanced thanks to the Indian spices” answered the chef.

The stereotype is that Indian cuisine is very spicy: what’s your opinion on that?
Spicy with additional garlic, lots of cream and butter is a misconception. Traditional Indian cuisine, when it’s well prepared, is delicious and tasty. However, the paradigm now is that diners want to see some magic or something unique at expensive restaurants compared to home food or an everyday restaurant visit. The New Indian cuisine is following this very change.

That’s to say that new Indian cuisine is different in this regard?
New/Contemporary Indian cuisine is the term that describes Avant Garde or Haute Indian cuisine prepared by using the best ingredients and precise cooking techniques. However, the base is very much traditional. There is a lot of potential in regional Indian food - ingredients and dishes - which hardly reaches the restaurant tables! Due to lack of documentation and vastness of the Indian cuisine we are slowly loosing this too.

Using the right spices comes natural to the Indian Chef whereas for German Chef Frank Oertlhe – the host – is not as obvious. It is, however, a characteristic of his kitchen. “I generally use cumin, cardamom, and cinnamon with freshwater fish”, he says. “I like to combine spices with delicious fishes such as the zander which has a strong taste of the lake: a combination that enhances and intensifies its taste.”

What are the characteristics of the Ticino cuisine?
It’s very much about tradition and territory. The main and famous historical dishes are quite known: polenta, cured meats, cheese from the Alps. The best part of the area is definitely its Mediterranean climate, its luxuriant vegatations and fruits. Our traditions are also influenced by the vicinity with Italy, Lombardy and Piedmont. How much is working in an art gallery an influence? Being faced everyday with great artists and their work stimulates my creativity. The artistic output of my dishes is also closely linked with regional and 0 km local products. It’s been 12 years already, but feels like yesterday that I’ve started in this stimulating environment!

Together with other famous Swiss chefs you’ve created the menu for Swiss Airlines’ Business and Firs Class meals. How was this experience?
I’ve learned to take care of issues of space, time, logistics… Simplifying dishes keeping the flavor. It’s been a significative experience.

Here is the full menu:

“Patrani” seabass in banana leaves, lentil salad, broad beans from shorba.
Foie gras rolls with cashew nuts and smoked pistachios, brioches with mushrooms and cumin, seared foie gras and pineapple chutney.
Panna cotta with lobster and coconuts on a crab salad and season vegetables.
Chicken with a lemon and thyme infusion, grilled asparagus, kut tomatoes and salli aloo.
Grilled lamb chops, marinated in garlic and pepper, samosa with lamb and green lemons, kashmiri of broad beans and Morchella mushrooms with a rogan sauce.
Strawberry salad with a berry mousse and panjiri with dark chocolate.
Cheesecake with gulab-jamun roses and a mango and fennel sorbet.

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