Chef of the Week: Hari Ghotra – Freelance Chef and In-flight F&B Development for Virgin Atlantic

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I work for myself – I run the biggest Indian food platform in the UK across all my channels. From teaching, chefs demos and creating cookery content for the website I also work with brands to create recipes and inspire people about using spices and cooking  great food.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I learned to cook with my mum and have always cooked. I later trained at a Michelin Starred Indian restaurant for 3 years where I refined my skills.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I love to teach and inspire others about food and how you can use simple ingredients to make something amazing.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Chillies, cumin seeds and onions.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My knife.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
So many – the shift to using vegetables in new and exciting ways is huge. With the growth of Veganism moving into the mainstream food I am seeing people starting to think about how they eat more holistically.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
We can be very protective about recipes and dishes – I think we need to share more about food and inspires others to cook and get creative and make cooking an amazing hobby again.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Autumn – I love bright days, log fires and cosy low slow cooked winter warmer dishes are my favourite dishes to cook.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Dishes where you can make some special out of something boring like left over rice being transformed into vibrant, yellow lemon rice or using cheap meat cuts like lamb breast.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I do a lot of research into classic Indian recipes and spices and then try to use that knowledge with new ideas.

Who was your greatest influence?
My love of cooking really came from home and family occasions where food always played a central role.

Tell us three chefs you admire
There are many chefs and travel writers that I love from Madhur Jaffery, the mother of Indian food and how she brought it to the forefront. Rick Stein and his travel programmes and the way he embraces different cultures. There are many other chefs doing amazing things in the kitchen from Sat Bains, Gaggan Anand… the list goes on!

What is your favourite cookbook?
Tasting India by Christine Manfield.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Kahani by Peter Joseph in Chelsea.