Perrine NYC’s executive chef Ashfer Biju on finding his calling
If someone were to document the global footprint of Malayali cuisine, Ashfer Biju will be listed as the man who introduced Malabar prawn curry to New York’s fine dining scene. As he completes seven years at The Pierre, a luxe property by Taj located on the Fifth Avenue, Ashfer tells us that he keeps memories of the homeland alive through constant involvement with fresh seafood recipes.“They remind me of my childhood spent on the banks of Canoli Canal in Orumanayur,” begins the chef, who hails from a family of restaurateurs located in Thrissur. One of the lucky few to have worked with celebrity chef Jean George, his menu at The Pierre draws inspiration from the recipes set up by maestros such as Auguste Escoffier.
Breaking the mould
Growing up in a household that’s well acquainted with the quirks of exotic cuisines—as his maternal grandfather’s now-nonexistent restaurant empire flung as far as Malaysia and Pakistan—it was only natural for him to gravitate towards culinary arts. When deciding to quit the beaten path (think medical entrance exams), Ashfer was only 16.“I learned a great deal about how to operate restaurants from Mr Ramakrishnan, my first boss in Chennai,” shares the 40-something, adding that it wasn’t long before he signed up for a course at the Institute of Hotel Management in Kovalam.
Despite living in the capital of experimentation, Ashfer tells us that he finds himself becoming more of a traditionalist in terms of recipes and techniques.“I’m totally engrossed by the cultural and historical nuances in cooking,” says the Culinary Institute of America alumnus, which would explain the multitude of palatial properties listed in his portfolio. Over the course of his illustrious career spanning across two decades, this culinary expert has helped launch over six luxurious properties in India and abroad including Amar Vilas (Agra) and Taj Falaknuma Palace. However, if you were to ask about the philosophy behind his cooking, Ashfer would tell you that he never stopped believing in the good-old ways of doing things, “Like the immortal recipes of our grandmothers,” says the New Yorker, trailing off.
Follow Ashfer on Instagram@ashferbiju