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Sunday , July 31 , 2011
 
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A feast with flair

What’s going to be on the menu when you invite your friends home next? How about exotic starters like galouti kebab stuffed with foie gras or mixed berry chaat? And for the main course how about treating your guests to chilli-garlic mojo (a pungent sauce) marinated Basa fish served with tofu, pakchoy and wasabi sauce? And obviously such a menu must culminate in macaroons and cupcakes.

You won’t have to lift a finger to conjure up this dream fare as there’s a battery of chefs who will recreate the haute-cuisine experience right there in your homes — from herb-crusted New Zealand lamb with roasted potato or even grilled Australian half-lobster tail.

One of the front-runners in the game is Mumbai’s celebrity chef, Rahul Akerkar whose premium catering service, Moveable Feast, is doing brisk business. Over the last two years he’s catered for a whopping 1,000 parties. The company’s USP lies in modern European cuisine with an Indian touch like Sikandaari Raan and Asparagus Samosas. He says: “Everyone is entertaining nowadays and to have a one-stop catering company providing a fine-dining experience is a welcome option.”

So, if you want to serve out-of-the- ordinary Indian, Continental or Mediterranean dishes at home, the answer lies in gourmet catering. From attendant chefs in full regalia (including tall hats) to pre-plated elaborate sit-down dinners and artistic table settings — gourmet catering is pulling out all the stops. And a no-holds barred meal could hit your wallet by Rs 3,000 per person (excluding alcohol). While the pre-preparations are all done in the chefs’ kitchens, the finishing touches are given at the site.

Celebrity chef Rahul Akerkar’s Moveable Feast is all about modern European cuisine with an Indian touch

Delhi-based celebrity chef, Manish Mehrotra, who heads the Indian Accent restaurant at the boutique hotel The Manor in New Delhi, launched the Indian Accent gourmet catering service in 2010. Mehrotra is the executive chef, Pan-Asian cuisine for Old World Hospitality, and also heads the kitchens of Oriental Octopus (Lavasa, New Delhi and Noida) and Tamarai, London.

His service caters to top bureaucrats, industrialists and media barons. Mehrotra’s speciality lies in serving contemporary Indian cuisine with influences from Europe and Asia like his foie gras kebabs and semolina puchkas with masala couscous, for instance.

He adds: “We are here for serious dining experiences that start with amuse bouche (bite-sized starters) and end with desserts.” Prices start at Rs 3,000. The amuse bouches are served in little pressure cookers instead of regular platters. He adds, “The pressure cooker is a very Indian item. So, I prefer to serve my dishes in them.”

This season Mehrotra is experimenting with mangoes. For instance, his goat-cheese stuffed mirchi, coated with Japanese bread crumbs, is accompanied by aam papad chutney.

Manish Mehrotra specialises in contemporary Indian cuisine with European and Asian touches like his foie gras kebabs and semolina puchkas with masala couscous

Individual style is taken to an entirely different level by Bangalore-based chef Abhijit Saha who has launched Bespoke Catering Service in 2009. Saha, who has 20 years of experience, owns two premium restaurants in Bangalore — Caperberry and Fava. He says: “We realised that there’s a huge demand for gourmet cuisine in homes and so went ahead with our catering division.” Currently, Saha does 10 private parties in a month not exceeding 100 people.

His hot-selling dishes include sous-vide poultry and meats like pan-seared duck breast served with red wine-poached pears. “Sous vide is slow cooking under vacuum at a precise temperature. It keeps the meat tender,” he says. Prices start at Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500 for a four-course sit-down dinner.

Cut to Mumbai’s Le 15 Patisserie whose owner, chef Pooja Dhingra, 25, has fine tuned her skills in the gourmet dessert department by doing a diploma in French pastry from the Paris-based culinary school Le Cordon Bleu in 2009. She whips up perfect French macaroons for her discerning clients. She smiles: “Initially, it was a lot of hard work convincing people about the goodness of the macaroons.” Her macaroons have Indian flavours like chilli, masala chai and kala khatta. Her repertoire also includes tarts, eclairs, cupcakes and truffles.

There’s also Mumbai-based mother-daughter duo Amita and Bhakti Mehta, who opened Little Food Co last year. Both are self-taught chefs with a flair for gourmet cuisine. “Initially, I used to cook for my friends and later took it on a professional level,” says Bhakti, who quit her job in the electronic media to take to catering. Today, they do two premium house parties a week.

Their uber-creative menu includes Thai pani puri, lemon, thyme and mushroom cream fusilli and classic Italian lasagna with roasted tomatoes and mushrooms. The prices are a relatively modest Rs 450-Rs 550 per person (for non-vegetarian) and Rs 400-Rs 500 (for vegetarian) and they cater for parties hosting between eight to 80 people.

As competition hots up, innovative menus are the only way to go. So, if Mehrotra specialises in Indian cuisine that comes with a modern twist, Saha does Indian, Thai, Italian, Spanish, Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisine. Dhingra’s forte is in baking colourful macaroons while the Mehtas offer Mediterranean, Italian and Mexican menus. The repertoire of Moveable Feast includes Indian and Oriental food.

So what’s the recipe for success? Says Mehrotra: “A mix of high-style coupled with exotic cuisine cooked with the finest ingredients will have clients coming back for more.”

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