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CHEF OF THE WEEK

Chef Prem Kumar Pogakula

– Executive Chef, The Imperial, New Delhi

Born in Hyderabad, Chef Prem Kumar Pogakula joined The Imperial as Executive Sous Chef in May 2013, and became Executive Chef in April 2017. He earlier worked with The Oberoi Udaivilas, The Leela Palace Ban-galore, Carlson Group, Accor Hotels in Thailand.

His specialisation in Italian, French, Oriental and Indian cuisines and his interest in fusion food rest on his stringent Thai and Japanese specialty training in Bangkok, along with culinary odysseys with Michelin Star French and Italian chefs. A chat:

Which is your favourite cuisine?

I eat pretty much everything that is considered food for humans. Food is like music–a mood thing. One day I like Greek food, another day I long for sushi, then I have craving for Russian, or Mediterranean, or Indian. But I really favour Indian and south Asian cuisine.

Which is your favourite ingredient/spice and dish?

I always keep a pack of really nice butter in my fridge. Unsalted butter allows me to control the level of salt in the final product. Baking usually always means pulling out the butter to start with — butter is a must-have ‘power player’. I use it to grease muffin tins, sauté veggies, pan fry, bake a pound cake, or whip up a batch of pancakes. When I want to add a little ‘something’ in a dish, I brown the butter first for a toasty, nutty, complex flavour.

Which country has inspired you to bring out your most innovative dish?  Why and how?

Thailand! There are very few places in the world where you can buy street food that not only tastes good, but is also safe to eat. Street food is the best and most authentic way of experiencing any cuisine. Thai food with its fresh aromas, flavours and colours, is affordable, simple and super tasty.

How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Imagine spending all day cooking, thinking and tasting food, and still intending to stay in shape. Professional chefs face some unique challenges as they are around delicious food all the time. And then there is a stressful job with late hours. So I taste small amounts of food all day long but rarely sit down to a full meal.

Any dish that you long to try and any state that you wish to visit in the near future?

I have to eat the amazing meat rice at Chandra dhaba at Koksar, in Leh on Manali highway, situated on the other side of the Manali Rohtang pass. I have tried mutton all over India, but this place has somehow locked my taste buds.                 

Recipe : Mango Feta and Avocado Salad

INGREDIENTS

Mango diced                   80g

Avocado slice                 30g

Breadcrumbs                    50g

Feta cheese                    50g

Oil to fry

Flour for batter

Black olive crumbles        20g

Microgreens                    10g

For dressing

Mustard                           5g

Lemon juice                    10 ml

Honey                             5 ml

Ginger                            5g

Extra virgin olive oil        20 ml

Salt/pepper to taste

Method

  1. For the dressing, blend all the ingredients together.
  2. Cut peeled mangoes and avocado into dices.
  3. Cut feta into dices, dip in the batter, crumb, and fry till golden brown.
  4. Sprinkle olive crumbles on a plate and arrange all ingredients.
  5. Pour the dressing on top, garnish with microgreens.Courtesy Imperial Culinary Club