He's a head chef at the one Michelin star awarded IGNIV in Bangkok, and she's a chef-partner at EKAA, awarded No. 93 in Asia by World's Best Restaurants 2022, and they are coming together at JW Marriott's Romano's at the Four Hands Dinner - A symphony of stars - next week. The collaboration by Chef David Hartwig and Chef Niyati Rao with Executive Chef Dane Fernandes holds the promise of a remarkable evening of gastronomic delights. And innovation. Yes, please!
Ahead of the dinner, Sunday mid-day got a peek of the menu. Its the concourse of native and unique global ingredients on their way to create something fascinating. Think smoked sturgeon and caviar crÃ¨me fraiche, goat cheese and cucumber tomatillo, duck dumpling, butternut squash, kimchi and sesame kimchi broth, pearl tribal rice, pickles, mango tarte and more. If one goes by Hartwig and Rao's work, it sure is to elevate the art of food through presentation as well.
Set in Romano's elegant ambience, the dinner seems to push the boundaries of culinary artistry but Hartwig thinks otherwise. "The menu isn't about pushing boundaries. The chef community the world over is about inclusiveness and we don't see boundaries between continents, countries or even cultures. The boundaries in this context for me, mean new things from this collaboration of Swiss combined with Indian ingredients which is rare to see," he tells us over email. A meal at IGNIV is like visiting friends who want you to experience the best time and make you feel at home and that's what Hartwig will be showcasing here - his skills from Schloss Schauenstein in Switzerland and his time in New York with founding chef Andreas Caminada.
For the last two months, the three chefs have been collaborating over WhatsApp calls. Recalling a funny incident on these calls, Fernandes tells us about Hartwig's surprise when he was told there'd be two menus - vegetarian and non-vegetarian. "Is it that important! he asked us. We laughed and replied, 'it's the most important thing in India! Small nuances such as this - something we take for granted - can be a completely alien practice for someone else," says Fernandes who is all for promoting emerging talent from our own country. "The synergy and creativity that can emerge when great culinary forces come together is just exquisite and priceless," he adds.
Tuna Cucumber Tortalino
This would be Hartwig's first time in India - a country whose culinary culture he is fascinated with. "I had told Chef Dane that I'd like to organise a Four Hands Dinner with someone local. None of the Indian chefs I know of work in India. That's when Dane introduced Chef Niyati to this collaboration. On our weekly calls, we've been trying to ensure that each dish is special and we have paid attention to the detail of each ingredient to complement each other's dishes. I'm particularly looking forward to the main course - that's where there's a fusion of our dishes."
An important aspect of this multi-course dinner is that it is crafted using ingredients that reflect the distinctive styles and influences of both chefs. This, for Fernandes, who hails from an agricultural family, is very crucial. He feels that giving each ingredient its due in a course is a work of culinary brilliance that allows one to indulge in a sensory journey that transcends traditional dining experiences.
Fernandes has been Rao's mentor for some time and she says she is honoured to have landed this opportunity to indulge in the artistry and passion of Chef Hartwig that allows for a remarkable fusion of flavours, textures and culinary craft. "I am particularly kicked about working with kimchi, an ingredient not native to either Swiss or Indian cuisine, so it would be interesting to see it feature in a course. Pairing it with butternut squash can be quite something," she adds.
On his trip to Mumbai, Hartwig is looking forward to exploring the street food scene. "I'm excited to visit the local markets and experience their fresh produce and to see what Chef Niyati is doing since she has access to great local ingredients and has detailed know-how of them," he signs off.