Friday, 27 September 2013

Bonding with Best and Curley: Aussie Super Chefs Spend An Olive Afternoon

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

The team of Vikram Khatri (left) of Olive Bar & Kitchen,
Mehrauli, presented a fulfilling lunch with visiting
Australian chefs Mark Best (centre) and Ian Curley
IAN CURLEY is as passionate about his work among the homeless and young criminals as he has strong views about Gordon Ramsay’s fly in-fly out approach to the restaurant business. He has a deliciously irreverent sense of humour. You’ll see him on the Heaven and Hell Episode (No. 26) of Masterchef Australia Season 5. But that’s not why I am writing about him and Mark Best, the Sydneysider chef who, like the British-born Curley, now also runs a highly successful Melbourne restaurant.
This is the second successive year that Curley, founder-executive chef of the European restaurant opposite Victoria’s Parliament House in Melbourne, is in India to cook and to inspire young aspiring chefs as a part of The Creative Services Support Group (CSSG) Summit 2013: Food + Art Edition. The chef who’s proud to be classical in his approach to his art is all set to make a hamburger with lobster gazpacho and beetroot carpaccio with goat’s curd and walnut at the 12-course dinner being orchestrated by the CSSG’s guardian angel, Anand Kapoor, at The Leela Palace New Delhi, Chanakyapuri, on Tuesday, October 1.
Curley and Best were speaking to the Indian Restaurant Spy after an indulgent lunch hosted by the Australian High Commission at Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mehrauli, where the incredibly talented Vikram Khatri and Sabyasachi ‘Saby’ Gorai’s acolyte, Dhruv Oberoi, a bright young man from Chandigarh, prepared a memorable three-course meal with the two visiting chefs. Of course, it was Best’s coconut sorbet with strips of mango, curry leaves and pepper powder that left us wanting more.
I asked Curley, the more loquacious of the two, what he cooked for his episode of Masterchef Australia Season 5. He said he made steak tartare (“a classical French dish with Victorian produce”) and a Bomb Alaska with pomegranate. The twists are original — very Curley. In Mumbai, where he’ll cook over the weekend, Curley will whip up a kulfi Bomb Alaska, which he’s visibly excited about (as he’s about having a meal with Manish Mehrotra at Indian Accent).
Best’s Melbourne restaurant in the Central Business District is the Pei Modern, which has been getting rave reviews for its modern bistro dining menu, but he earned his spurs with Marque at Surry Hills, Sydney’s hipster suburb teeming with students, quaint bookshops and restaurants serving food of just about every nationality. He said he started out being a practitioner of contemporary French cuisine (he has worked with the likes of Alain Passard, the reigning god of vegetarian cooking, and Raymond Blanc), but he then chose to be “just Australian” infusing the “multitude of cultures and influences that Australia is famous for. This effortless infusion was evident in the coconut sorbet.
Even as they struggled to come to terms with the fact that October 2, when Best will conduct a Master Class for the Delhi Gourmet Club at Le Cirque, The Leela Palace, Chanakyapuri, will be a ‘dry day’, I asked the chefs about the defining trend in the restaurant business in Australia. “Home-grown, farm-grown produce,” Mark said. “We have a grower who just does carrots, for instance,” Curley added and then mentioned the other big trend: “Ethical sourcing.” It reminded me of the old kitchen adage: Your food tastes as good as the ingredients that go into it. Creative chefs such as Curley and Best have understood this home truth well.