Cook with love, like our grandmothers did

Updated: Mar 07, 2020, 09:28 IST | Dhara Vora Sabhnani | Mumbai

Three Michelin stars and the top spot on the World's 50 Best Restaurants, but chef Mauro Colagreco's feet are firmly on the ground

Chef Mauro Colagreco.Pic/ Bipin Kokate
Chef Mauro Colagreco.Pic/ Bipin Kokate

At the press conference to announce a pop up by Mirazur, the three-Michelin-starred restaurant from Menton, France, its celebrated chef, Mauro Colagreco, reminds us of an overseas film director. He works hard to explain the subtle nuances of his craft and product in an unfamiliar language to a foreign audience, where a majority haven’t even tried his food. Colagreco’s words are measured and wise as he speaks of his respect for the diversity of Indian food, how he worked for three years to get the plastic-free certification for Mirazur, and about challenging the rules of working with and merging different cuisines.

“Food is an emotion, it’s like love, and [you] can’t define emotions as French or Argentine. You cook for others, with love, like our grandmothers did,” says Colagreco, who helms the kitchen at his world-famous eatery. In Mumbai for the Masters of Marriott series in association with Culinary Culture, Colagreco is both nervous and excited to present a nine-course meal including his signature dishes such as smoked eel and caviar tartlet at The St Regis Mumbai. In a tête-à-tête over masala chai, Colagreco discusses the importance of keeping calm in the kitchen and not letting a ‘rockstar’ status affect your cooking.

Excerpts from the interview.

What changes or additions did you have to make to your style from winning one star to three?

It’s not a change; it’s the evolution of my style and cuisine. The first star was fast, but the second came five years later and there was a big change in quality. I started at a place that I didn’t know much about; till today, I continue to learn about the land and traditions near Mirazur. We started with just three people in the kitchen and today we have 30.

How do you develop trust in your team?

It’s very hard, and you need time. Today, people don’t have the capacity to wait to reach a level. It takes time to build a strong team. I work a lot to keep this team. It’s also the way you trust the team — you need to believe in their talent and give them the opportunities to make a few mistakes, as that’s how we learn.

Why is it important for chefs to speak about environmental sustainability too?

The impact [of our actions on nature] that we have seen in the last five to six years is unlike before. How we impact our planet is huge. It’s important not just for chefs but also for everybody to make that change.

How do you visualise a new dish every day based on the produce?

It’s difficult to explain, but it happens. I try to push myself and my team to be instinctive; sometimes, things take time and sometimes we come up with the recipe like this [snaps fingers]. We even stall recipes until the next year when the ingredient is fully ready, because we lost the prime moment of the product this year while experimenting.

How do you unwind?

I have a background in literature so I like to read. I love painting but I didn’t paint all of last year. I love to fish — the ocean faces us, offering many a quiet moment; I need that. I find that in my garden as well; I love gardening and being in contact with nature.

What do you cook for your sons?

[Smiles] Very simple food. The elder one eats everything. My younger son used to eat everything when he was younger, but now he just wants meat.

On Today, 7 pm
At The St. Regis Mumbai, Lower Parel.
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