Chef Auroni Mookerjee replaces exotic ingredients with local fresh produce
Chef Auroni Mookerjee who heads the culinary adventure at Sienna Store and Café.
We often find the young Kolkata crowd migrating in search of greener pastures, but how of ten do we find a Delhi-bred Bengali boy, returning to roots and attempting to change the city’s culinary scene with simple innovations and twists to the food served? Chef Auroni Mookerjee who heads the culinary adventure at Sienna Café is one such rare example.
For this copywriter-turnedchef, based out of Mumbai, food has always been an integral part of his growing up years. “My mother is a food critic and writer and all of us including my father, sister and
I love to cook. It was six years back that I decided to move to Kolkata after a great experience at One
Night Chef pop-up in Mumbai’s Café Zoe,” recalls Auroni.
From adding Bengali dishes to a friend’s e-dabba service to running the weekend pop-ups at Café Zoe to hosting pop-ups called Grandma Mookerjee’s Kitchen in his Bandra living room, running an online delivery service called Curry brothers to joining Sienna; it has been an eventful journey for Auroni since then. “I believe the adrenaline rush at the One Night Chef pop-up was my turning point. I kind of did my training at Café Zoe’s kitchen, right from dishwashing and prep work to breadmaking,” he adds. When Chef Viraf Patel of Café Zoe was invited to set up Kolkata’s famed diner The Salt House, he pushed Auroni to do the job and the latter just grabbed the opportunity. From taking it up as a consulting project for six months to becoming the executive chef and general manager there, it was a game-changing experience for him. “It was one of the handful of restaurants that were run by chefs, with an evolving menu, earning us a place among the top 50 diners in India, apart from several accolades,”
As per the food is concerned, the menu of the day is decided based on what is available at the market that day, be it the types of fish, the veggies and other ingredients. “The concept of foraging, sustainability, or using micro greens has come to be used much later in Kolkata. At Sienna, we use a lot of bitter, sweet and sour greens that we get from the market, for our salads and other dishes,” adds the chef.
When most restaurants struggled to survive the pandemic, it happened to be a turning point for Sienna. “When the deliveries commenced, we started procuring our ingredients directly. Depending on what we got in the market, we decided on the menu for the week. Home deliveries were something people looked up to since there were no other ways to celebrate. We changed the menu every week and kept a new theme for the week like French cuisine, Mexican cuisine, Street Food cuisine, and so on. Menu rotation was something that the city looked forward to and we’ve continued to do that,” the chef concludes.