Chef of the Week: Sajeev Nair, Executive Chef at Trishna, London

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I started at Trishna in March 2012, so it’s going to be 10 years in few months.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for cooking came from my industrial training, when I was working in a five-star hotel in New Delhi around 20 years back. I have never ever thought of becoming anything other than chef after that. I did my Hotel Management in New Delhi and learnt my skills from the college as well as various restaurant establishments where I worked after my studies.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
You get to be creative and its not a boring 9-5 job like many other fields. You need to work hard, concentrate, and keep motivated at all the time. Not one day is similar to the other, it’s a new challenge every day.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
I wouldn’t say I can’t cook without these ingredients, but I like using spices like black pepper, fennel, cardamom a lot in my food.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Again, it’s not something I can’t live without, but Tandoor is one piece of equipment which will be there in any kitchen I work in or plan to open as it’s so versatile and you can cook so many dishes from it.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I’m finding people like to taste more authentic Indian food now, and they are not worried about how spicy/hot it is. They enjoy the true Indian food. Also, I’m getting lot of vegans in the restaurant now. We do a vegan 6 course tasting menu as well in Trishna.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
I think being a chef is a hard job, you need to keep motivated all the time for almost 12 hours a day, over 50 hours a week. Chefs need to take good care of their mental and physical health. We need to get stressed only as much as required and have a really good diet to be healthy and strong to stand in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I have seen many friends suffering from mental fatigue, cholesterol related diseases etc.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Spring. It’s a big relief to see sun shining again after the long winter and you get lots of new ingredients in the market with which you can experiment new dishes.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I can’t pick one dish in particular as I love everything on our menu!

How do you come up with new dishes?
The team of chefs at Trishna constantly tries new dishes. We try and test it a few times before we finalise on the final plate. The new dishes are dependant on the seasonal availability, trends in the market, as well the guest feedbacks about some special dishes we do on a regular basis.

Who was your greatest influence?
Chef Manish Mehrotra of Indian descent has been a major influence in my career. In fact, I started my career with him and worked with him for over 8 years.

Tell us three chefs you admire
René Redzepi, Marcus Wareing and Heston Blumenthal.

What is your favourite cookbook?
It has to be Larousse Gastronomique. It’s the encyclopaedia for any chef, at any point of time.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
All the JKS restaurants openings in the last few years have been unique and something to watch out for in the coming years as well.