Gary Mehigan gets candid about food on his recent trip to Kolkata 

The chef talks about food trends, Kolkata and shares recipes for beginners
Gary Mehigan
Gary Mehigan

Kolkata’s culinary scene was taken by storm when chef, restaurateur, and former Masterchef Australia judge Gary Mehigan paid a whirlwind visit to the city earlier this month. As master classes and special dinners kept him busy, we stole some of his time, on the sidelines of a master class at The Kitchenette in association with Conosh. Chef spoke to us about food, trends, and what keeps him pulling back to Kolkata. For amateur cooks, he gave two recipes to try out and perfect without any fuss.

Excerpts from the conversation…

How does it feel to be back in Kolkata?

My last visit was in September around Durga Puja. It’s nice to be back. Nice and warm!

Do you think the culinary landscape of the city has evolved since you last came?

Even though I have been here quite a few times, it was fleeting quick, and always for work. I only get little snapshots of the city. So, I’m not the right person to give an in-depth review of food. I tend to come in and enjoy my moments here.

What is/are the top culinary trend/s in 2023?

Check Instagram! (Chuckles) Much better at predicting trends than I am.

It is so difficult to predict trends now as the transfer of information is instantaneous. Somebody can post a picture of a pickle or anything and pretty much across the world it can be reproduced instantly. Once upon a time trends might explode in Tokyo and take two years to come to say, Mumbai. Now a trend kicks off in Tokyo and two days later somebody’s doing it in Mumbai. Having said that, the continuing trend which I love is the connection with indigenous ingredients.

What is your take on veganism?

The only take I have is that I do not really like the trend of using textured vegetable proteins to resemble meat. If it is not meat then let’s not worry about it. You can have jackfruit Biryani, its delicious; or Daal chawaal. You don’t need meat but you need to make it look like a burger or a kebab. I’m not enjoying that part of veganism. I’m an omnivore and I eat everything. But yes we should definitely be into mindful consumption of meat and not overconsumption.

What is your idea of an ideal Bengali cuisine?

The first thing I had when I touched down was Bhetki fry. I love the Indo-Chinese population and food. I like street food like the Kathi rollsIlish, of course, although I do struggle with the bones. I think Bengalis have this very unique adaptation in their fingers to filter out every single bone. I watched a friend of mine take the bones out and reassemble a perfect skeleton of a fish. Here you see food with lots of mustard, green chillies, and simple spices.

How do your travels influence your idea of Indian cuisine?

It’s educating! It influences my cooking at home. When I was in Madurai we had different stews and one of my favourite things was the paratha with chicken gravy. I cook paratha at home but they aren’t like these. Everywhere I go reveals something interesting. We talk about Biryani. Hyderabad, Lucknow, and Calcutta have great Biryani’s. I do love the trail of similarities but also the things that are completely different. You go from Kerala to Nagaland, there is nothing in common but everybody feels Indian, which is nice.

One under-rated ingredient

I think sometimes the most underrated ingredients are the cheapest. People tend to look at it and go. But then I talked about Daal Chawal, the simplest things can be the most delicious.

What does an ideal breakfast, lunch, or dinner plate look like for you?

I love lots of fresh, juicy, and crunchy food. I eat a lot of vegetables. In winter in Australia, half my plate is vegetables, you know, pan-fried, steamed or boiled, without a lot of spices. There is kale, broad beans, and more. In summer, I have lots of salads. I like textural salads with vegetables. It could be grains, legumes, chicken, tomatoes, nuts, seeds, and more.

Three things that pull you back to Kolkata

 Bhetki fry!  Sweets like baked Rosogulla from Balaram Mullick and Radharaman Mullick. Also, there’s a resonance that I particularly felt with the people and the city, having been here many times.

Two no-fuss quick recipes

I love pasta. So, Aglio e Olio.


·        Pasta (of your choice)

·        Olive Oil

·        Chillies

·        Garlic

·        Chopped parsley (optional)


·        Place the pasta in boiling water

·        Undercook the pasta and take it off the water

·        In a pan, cook the pasta with chillies, garlic, a little bit of oil, and chopped parsley (optional)

Also, when you teach a young chef how to cook, often the first thing you teach is how to boil an egg or how to make an omelette.


·        Eggs

·        Water

·        Salt (optional)


·        Make sure the eggs are at room temperature

·        Boil the water

·        Place the eggs in boiling water

·        Set a timer for six minutes

·        Take the eggs out after six minutes and directly put them into ice water

·        Peel the shells and it’s perfectly cooked. It might be a bit runny on the inside but delicious.  You may add a bit of salt. 

Pic by: Pritam Sarkar 

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