Chef Urvika Kanoi on how all aspiring chefs need mentors
While she serves a range of European and Mediterranean dishes at Kolkata’s The Daily Café, it‘s all about Latin American cuisine at Mumbai’s Café Duco.
It was while pursuing a filmmaking course in Singapore that Urvika Kanoi discovered her real calling as a chef. Without further losing time, she enrolled on a four-day cooking class in London. Since then, this Le Cordon Bleu grad has gone on to launch a catering business called The Food Studio and some very exotic diners including Bodega Cantina Y Bar, The Daily Café and Café Duco in Mumbai.
Urvika feels one doesn’t need to go to a training school to be a chef. “The real teaching is provided by
commercial kitchens and chefs who are ready to take you under their wings,” she says. While she serves a range of European and Mediterranean dishes at Kolkata’s The Daily Café, it‘s all about Latin American cuisine at Mumbai’s Café Duco.
“In Kolkata, people always come back if they love your product, but the competition is far steeper in Mumbai. It takes a lot more time to build a brand there. Also, Mumbaikars are far more exposed and know their food better than here, so, it’s been an enriching experience. They don’t really like non-authentic flavours that much,” says Urvika. But for Kolkata too, the foodscape and palates have gone through a huge change over the last decade. “From having places which only served biryani and Indo-Chinese delicacies to having authentic specialty restaurants, coffee programmes and sommeliers, the growth is impressive.
Desserts too have gone through change with artisanal ice creams and fancy patisseries ruling the scene. People here are now ready to experiment and spend money on their food. “Even the catering business has changed so much. Parents no longer want noodles for their kids’ birthdays. It’s now all about bespoke and gourmet,” she adds.
Talking about the innovation in techniques in the food industry, she speaks about concepts that have caught her fancy in the last decade. “It is amazing to see how chefs are increasingly working directly with the farmers and going that extra mile to get farm fresh local produce instead of canned ones. I too use only local and seasonal produce in my recipes. Also, chefs are going back to old-school techniques. I have realised that chefs need to travel to create, to innovate and pick up flavours, ingredients and cooking methods to enhance creativity. Among a few techniques, I would mention sous vide, curing, fermenting and confit — all of which I have been using. Most of these are old techniques, but of so much relevance, even now,” Urvika adds.