Restaurateur Zorawar Kalra’s takeaway from El Bulli
By Karo Christine Kumar for Telegraph India on December 17, 2017
He loves a good Punjabi meal but can’t cook to save his life! t2oS chats with Zorawar Kalra, the hot star of modern Indian cuisine, who’s bringing Pa Pa Ya to Calcutta.
Can you cook?
Not to save my life. I can make a mean omelette though!
Could you ever be vegetarian?
Oh my god! To be honest, no, no!
All-time favourite restaurants in Mumbai and Delhi…
Mahesh Lunch Home in Bombay. In Delhi it’s hard to say because I live here and I love so many restaurants. Okay, we’ll go with any of the restaurants on Pandara Road for a good Punjabi meal!
The most complex word on your restaurant menus…
I’ll say the word marinate because marinating is the most complex factor in making any dish.
What is your role as part of the managing committee of NRAI (National Restaurant Association of India)?
We are a think tank for the industry and do our best to ensure that the industry gets a voice. We provide over two per cent of the country’s GDP, and provide the second-highest employment in India after agriculture. So we need to have strength and unity.
The biggest myth about the F&B industry…
People think the industry is very profitable; we make a lot of money. We don’t! We have a high failure rate — 9 out of 10 restaurants shut down in the first year and 9.6 out of 10 in the second year. So we are in a very risky business.
How was your visit to El Bulli in Spain, 2006, a game changer for you?
It was hard to get into El Bulli but when I came out of that queue, I realised that this is truly going to be the future of food. And if I ever opened anything, the correct way to do it would be to have these cutting-edge techniques where we mix science with art. Indian food has the best flavours, but it was never presented well, it was always stuck in the old times, there was no innovation. So I thought that if I want to put Indian food on the global palate and make it truly a dominant cuisine, then I have to innovate and get it right. I think that’s what El Bulli taught me.
Some of your closest friends in the industry…
A.D. Singh, Riyaaz Amlani, all the top chefs of the country, some of the top hotel GMs.
Your comfort food…
Your best memories of Calcutta…
All my memories in Calcutta are about food! Some of the best ones are sitting in Flurys or the coffee shop at The Park or trying local food like the Chowringhee parathas and kathi rolls.
What did MasterChef India teach you?
It was a fabulous experience. It gave me an insight into the Indian diaspora and the youth of India, and how food is such an intrinsic part of our lives. The sheer talent in our country needs to be brought to the front and we need more avenues like MasterChef to do that. Going to Australia gave us an insight into how well our food can travel. I’d love to do it again.
Your favourite song while driving…
Call On Me by Eric Prydz.
The last thing you watched on Netflix…
Stranger Things, Season 2.
After we hang up, you spot a lottery ticket on the floor that wins you a couple of crores. What will you do with the money?
I’d give half to charity, and put half into R&D for a new concept.