Chef Raphael Szurek from Sydney's Silvester's restaurant shares his top kitchen secrets
It's exciting to see how one of Australia's leading chefs uses local Indian ingredients to curate a menu for gourmands and food connoisseurs in India. But when the chef in question is Raphael Szurek from the award-winning restaurant Silvester's in Sydney, you could expect options like Confit Lamb Shoulder with Eggplant and Deer Tongue, Veal Fill, Scampi with Black Kale and Salted Egg Yolk Sauce, Red Snapper with Chorizo, Capsicum, Squid and other such dishes.
This exotic fare that's put together using locally available ingredients is being served at Alba, JW Marriott Hotel Bengaluru's Italian restaurant. While foodies have been partaking of this menu, for those who want to meet and learn from the chef, here's the good news. Chef Raphael will be hosting a MasterClass on February 2 at Alba.
But before you head to the workshop, here are some interesting facts about the chef and what went into curating this special menu.
Is this your first trip? What expectations did you come with?
Yes, it is my first time in India! I have heard so many great things about the food and the people so I was really looking forward to trying many dishes and to work with the team here in Bangalore. I have been eating so much every day that I will have to go on a diet when I go back to Sydney!
What were your thoughts when you were curating the menu for ALBA? What parameters did you keep in mind while planning this?
The main idea was to offer a menu similar to the one in my restaurant in Sydney but keeping the philosophy of sourcing local products. Of course we also took into consideration the large amount of vegetarian patrons so we added more vegetarian dishes to the menu. The challenge was to stay away from imported goods and use the best local products available.
What about the Indian diner/foodie appeals to you?
Indian diners and foodies have been very receptive to the food we are serving. There is a very famous quote from Paul Bocuse: there is only one cuisine, the good one. And I think people in India are sensitive to that. Our customers are smart, they want value for money and want to discover or experience something different.
Were there any apprehensions in your mind before you came to India with your recipes/dishes?
I planned the menu with chef Eliyaz of Alba. From the first draft I sent, we had to make some changes because some products were not available. It was really a two way communication as I was asking a lot about what guests were looking for, the portion sizes and if there was any food that we should not serve. So, overall we did our homework before I came so I was pretty confident we would have a fun time in Bengaluru.
How easy or challenging is it to cook with local ingredients?
We haven't compromised on any flavors or on seasoning of ingredients because I wanted to offer an authentic Australian experience. Chef Eliyaz has been extremely supportive with sourcing all that we needed. We built the menu on what was available, not what I wanted!
Which Australian ingredient is impossible to replace with a different one?
I brought with me the Davidson plum, the desert limes, some other native spices because it is what gives a different touch to the menu. We are lucky in Australia because it is easy to find ingredients from all over the world since we have a great Indian community. However it is more difficult to find all the Australian seafood and meat here! I love Indian spices and I love seafood! Both because they are very versatile and the limit of use is only your imagination.
You are quite active on Instagram with some really fantastic pictures that have been styled well by you. Can you share some tips on styling?
I love sharing what I do and taking photos! It is a part of my creative process. Once a dish tastes good, it also has to look good. When I am satisfied on how it looks it goes on the menu! My food styling motto is less is more. Keep the plate clean and simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves.
What are five must-haves/essentials for you in the kitchen?
First is my marker pen to label and date what we do and to cross the dockets! Then one sharp knife, a spoon to taste, a pair of tweezers for the delicate jobs and finally a good sense of humour! It is imperative to have fun and enjoy what you do while working!
Can you share five basic yet your top secret tips on cooking/kitchen?
Always check the seasoning before sending out a dish! Salt and pepper are the basics but often forgotten. Be organised and think before you start cooking (have your ingredients ready, your equipment ready). Clean as you go! Don't work in a messy environment. It is unhygienic and it will slow you down. Make a list of what you have to do and follow it. And as I mentioned, have fun! Work can be stressful but it is also important to enjoy what you do!