In conversation with Restaurant India, Chef Akanksha Dean, Chef-Manager at Imperfecto Shor Cafe in Delhi and the first Indian to have briefly worked under Chef Massimo Bottura at Modena, Italy, talks about the experience of working in a Michelin Star restaurant, how the experience helps her in managing her kitchen, and why she feels that she is not ready yet to work for Noma, a 2-Michelin-Star restaurant in Denmark
How has the experience of working with Chef Massimo Bottura helped you in working for an Indian restaurant?
Working in a 3-Michelin-Star restaurant is completely different. The kind of experience I had definitely helps. Everything is very systematic in their kitchen, starting from your basic prep to how each element of your dish plays out. It has made me more organised as a chef. Each element of a particular dish was prepped first and then you can see the entire dish coming out. So, I have incorporated this habit here in my kitchen as well.
We do everything from scratch here, else it gets too disorganised. One important aspect that I experienced was cleanliness because the space you are working in can’t be dirty. After each step you are supposed to clean and start again. I think those elements that I have picked up from there are now being of tremendous help here.
Do you aspire to work for any other renowned restaurant like Noma?
For me the exposure at Osteria Francescana was mind-blowing, but I feel a lot of learning is still required before I can go to Noma. The kitchen teams there are very advanced and my learning has not progressed to that level. In India, we have a vast range of cuisines but the kind of technology and science that go behind the art of preparation is much more progressive there. I would like to explore the opportunities a little later.
I believe that you need a lot of work experience to even aspire to work for such globally renowned restaurants. When I have had enough experience here, then I will feel capable of going there. It is therefore important to build my skills first. Noma is like a dream and I would definitely like to work for them and be a part of all their wonderful preparations. Plus, I love the skills of Chef Rene Redezpi. Learning the process of fermentation technique and all those elements, I think, takes time.
But fermentation is not new for India, right?
Molecular gastronomy and the fermentation technique have always been in India. In fact, a lot of Asian food, or for that matter north-eastern food, is all fermented. Their pickles or rice wine are made with this technique. However, this concept, I would say, is very much westernised now. If you go back to our ancient roots, this has been happening in households and in local neighbourhoods. I always believe that each culture learns from other existing cultures and that’s how recipes get blended.
Restaurant India also had a brief conversation with Nuria Rodríguez Parra, Interior Designer, Director-Culinary and Director-Creative, Imperfecto Designs. She has designed Imperfecto Shor Cafe and Club, which is India's first Gothic-inspired club and cafe. She has also designed and curated all the menus for the Imperfecto cafes in Delhi and has been living in India for the last 11 years
How did you come up with the Gothic theme?
This theme is inspired by Spain, where I was born and brought up. I have been seeing this kind of architecture since my childhood. The Gothic kind of architecture is most visible in Spain’s countryside.
You have also named the dishes using the Gothic theme but aren’t they difficult to read?
Yes, we realised that and have now changed the menu style. We found that when people came here to eat after partying, they found it difficult to comprehend. We have therefore made it much simpler now.
How many restaurants do you have?
We have a chain of 10 restaurants in Delhi NCR. However, each Imperfecto has a short name, like we have Imperfect Shor, Imperfecto Cafe, etc. We have an Imperfecto Patio coming up soon. There is also a plan to expand with more outlets.