Interview with an international chef
I was invited to attend the Malaysian Food Festival which is being held in Mumbai. So when I went there yesterday, I was welcomed by the very warm & courteous staff of India Jones, Hotel Trident to a corner table near a French window.
After the regular customaries, the Malay Chef Kamarudin Bin Dali was informed and he came to my table to greet me. We exchanged greetings and he asked me what I wanted to order from the menu, so that he could start preparing it for me. He also gave me his business card and left for the kitchen.
“A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.” -Thomas Keller
I wanted to speak to the person who puts soul in those dishes. I put in request to the staff asking if it would be possible. The Chef was kind enough to oblige me for a few minutes from his busy schedule.
Here is a short interview with him. I can actually call it a chit chat.
The Chef Kamarudin Bin Dali, along with another Chef Abdul Rauf Bin Zolkefli are especially flown in from Malaysia for this food festival and to introduce Malay culinary delicacies at India Jones. In Malaysia they work for Hotel Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur.
This was the Chef’s first visit to India. Prior to this, he has been invited to other countries like Switzerland, Philippines and Indonesia to participate & promote Malay cuisine. Out of all these, he liked Indonesia most because the life is much more lively and attractive when you are on the streets. His first impression of our own Mumbai was quite good and he plans to explore it in the last two days after the festival is over before flying back home. He told me that he also wants to bring his family here sometime.
If there is anything that this chef guarantees, it is the authentic Malay cuisine, cooked and served just like it should be. He had brought a few key ingredients with him. Jokingly he said he was afraid of Indian customs at the airport, or he would have brought more. I asked him if he is going to carry any Indian herbs to Malaysia, he replied in negation telling me that everything is available there. Then we compared notes and I spoke of a few things which are not available in India. I could tell that he was quite surprised that I knew some of those ingredients.
Among the Indian dishes, he has started liking chicken tikka, tandoori chicken and lamb biryani, which he had the previous night. He told me that he’s learning the recipes from the local chefs. According to him, this was an opportunity to learn, exchange and promote their respective cuisines with each other.
On being asked if he has picked up any Hindi words, he told me that Namaste (नमस्ते), Nahi (नहीं), and chalo (चलो) are the only words he has picked up so far.
We spoke of different cities and cuisines of Malaysia and when I was talking about the border town Padang Besar, he proudly announced that it was his home town!! His first job as a Chef was in Langkawi.
He likes Bollywood movies and songs and asked me if this is the city of Bollywood and film stars. When I confirmed it, he expressed his desire to bump into one of the stars in the coming days. I wished him luck.
And then it was time to say Good-bye.
He was extremely delighted when I said ‘Thank you’ in Malay and he replied with a smile on his face.
P.S.- Next post will be on the food I devoured there.
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