Chef Bhaskar Dasgupta of Sonar Tori talks about the importance of methods while working on culinary heritage
We speak to the senior chef in order to understand his vision of Sonar Tori and how he is trying to uphold the nuances within Bengali cuisine
For Chef Bhaskar Dasgupta of Bengali diner Sonar Tori, it was always in his stars to end up in the culinary profession, especially coming from a family that valued the methodical traditions of Bengali cooking. Even though he wished to be a pilot, or a merchant navy in his formative years, he soon found himself awestruck by the science of spices in the kitchen. After working in multiple cities and experimenting with world cuisine, he decided to come back to his roots twenty years back with an intention to unearth lost treasures of his heritage. Today, he is not only one of the foremost flag bearers of Bengali culinary heritage, but also a walking encyclopedia of the cuisine as well. We speak to the senior chef in order to understand his vision of Sonar Tori and how he is trying to uphold the nuances within Bengali cuisine.
“I have grown up watching my mother and grandmother creating magic in the kitchen with their unmatchable skills. My mother strongly believes till date that the only way to the consumer’s heart is when the food is cooked from one’s heart and passion,” shares Bhaskar while talking about what inspired him to focus on the particular profession. “I think recipes are just pure science full of mathematics and chemistry as the entire dish depends upon quantity of spices, the cooking process, blend of flavours and so on. These methodical factors have been out there from the beginning of time, and when looked into the history of cooking the methods were all the more elaborate back in time. There were no spice powders at one point as women used to grind all the whole spices together on mortar and pestle, and collect it with the bark of a betel nut tree. The passion and hard work that went into one dish is unimaginable in today’s date and that is all what I am striving for at Sonar Tori. My idea is to convey our rich heritage, history and feelings while serving a connoisseur here,” adds the chef.
The fact that even Non- Bengali guests have started replicating authentic ways of consuming Bengali food at his restaurant is what satisfies the senior chef. “I am currently offering whole Bhetkis at Sonar Tori and watching multi-cultural people smack their lips after tasting a simple dish as such is absolutely mesmerising. I see them eating with their hands here, just like a traditional Bengali would at their homes, using lime while eating rice with lentils and enquiring about each of the dishes. There cannot be anything more rewarding to a chef than this. In order to acquaint everyone with the lost Bengali dishes that are served here I try to explain or talk about the history of the dishes that they might not be aware of. I believe this is what makes the process even more immersive,” shares an elated Bhaskar who tries to adhere to authentic methods in the kitchen in an era of machines. Whole spices ground fresh in his kitchen is a must have in Bhaskar’s pantry.
While delving deep into the heritage of Bengali cuisine Bhaskar soon realised it cannot be simply defined by one set of flavours or ingredients since it has further sub-segments depending on what region of Bengal they come from, which got further evolved with the advent of Portuguese in Bengal.
“Since my major focus is on the lost recipes from this Bengal which are no longer cooked in a post-globalisation Bengali household, it is important to pay attention to the spices being used in the kitchen, which come with their own set of methods. Methods again are an integral part of maintaining the flavour and quality of a particular dish,” concludes Bhaskar.
Pictures by Anindya Saha