Five under 35: Ashay Dhopatkar

Photo credit: 
Sushant Sinha
Binge's picture
August 10, 2016
Five Under 35 is a series of chats with young professionals in the industry who take food as seriously as us. Binge talks to both the person on the job, and the one behind it. This month: Chef Ashay Dhopatkar.

Photo credit: Sushant Sinha

He’s unassuming, fun, and cool as a cucumber.

Managing a team of seven at A Ta Maison, the private members club by Passcode Hospitality, Dhopatkar confesses feeling blessed with regard to his sous chefs. “It’s a small but strong team,” he says.

His style of cooking is classic European. Originally from Mumbai, he’s moved around and lived in exciting cities like Goa and London before settling into the ATM kitchen in Delhi as Executive Head Chef.

Age: 32

Studied at: The Institute of Hotel Management, Goa; The Isle of Man College; Hammersmith and West London College.

Dhopatkar has worked at a few restaurants in London, including No 1 Lombard Street (with chef Herbert Berger) that holds one Michelin star, and The Savoy Grill, which, in his words, serves “very classical food”. “They’ve got old-fashioned 70s food trolleysquite like the earlier days of gastronomy that are still alive at only a few placeslike this one and The Dorchester,” he adds. He’s also spent time at Gordon Ramsay’s Mayfair enterprise Maze Grill; The Hilton, chef Mark Hix’s venture Tramshed, and, a brassiere named Papillon in Chelsea.

How being a chef in London is different from being a chef in Delhi: It’s quite different. Back in London, we spent all our time in the kitchen. That was the downside–there was hardly any time to interact with guests or members, which you get to do in India.  The downside here is the produceit’s difficult to source good ingredients.

One chef who’s doing well at the moment: There are loads, like chef Manish Mehrotra and chef Saby from India. Internationally too, a lot of Indian chefs like Cyrus Todiwala and Atul Kocchar are amazing. Among Non-Indian chefs, there’s Nathan Outlaw, Marcus Wareing… loads of them.

One food trend that’s going to stick around for the rest of the year: Modern Indian food. It’s strange because it’s Indian food at the end of the day but has come from outside the country, and I think it’s going to stay for a while.

Easing British-French cuisine into the Delhi palate: Compared to Mumbai, people in Delhi are more open to trying new things. Most of our clientele is well-traveled and they've developed a good palate, so they understand what’s on the plate. I think they’ve received it quite well.

Cooking philosophy: Let the ingredient do its job. Don’t camouflage it with strong flavours or fancy techniques. I’m not very heavy on things like molecular gastronomy. If a simple carrot can be cooked nicely, and the flavours can be brought out with a little bit of orange, it needn’t be turned into foam. The carrot is beautiful on its ownlet it be.

Favourite food: Rustic French food. Something like a baked camembert, a simple salad, a simple hanger steak.

Favourite drink: Ales, especially Hobgoblin.

Favourite restaurant in Delhi: Used to be Le Bistro Du Parc. Now Ping’s.

Favourite restaurant in London: Pitt Cue Co in Soho. We’d go there after we finished service and end up bumping into a lot of people from the industry. It’s the place to go meet all the chefs in London.

Likes to binge on: Sunday roasts.