Chef of the Week: Satish Nalli, Executive Chef at Leaf Hotels & Chameleon Café in Kent

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have worked 21 years at Leaf Hotels Ltd as an Executive chef and I am concurrently running the Chameleon Café, located on the coastline of Hythe in Kent since 2019.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for cooking originated from the Institute of Hotel Management in Hyderabad, India. I further developed my skills working at Taj hotels & Resorts in India. During my time my initial years in hospitality, I tried my best to cultivate the best skills I observed from the chefs I worked with in India.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The challenge of creating dishes to suit various palates and getting positive feedback is incredibly rewarding, as well as passing on the tips and tricks of the trade to budding chefs.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Salt, whole spices and curry leaves. I also feel that cooking with intent and love is important – although these are not necessarily ingredients.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
There are several to name, but I’d say a good Chinese cleaver does multiple jobs.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Plant based, sugar free and healthy foods that are good for gut health are particularly interesting to me.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
A failure to understand how ingredients react to various cooking conditions over time, and how to retain and optimise flavour by understanding this.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Although produce is available throughout the year due to farming techniques cultivated across the globe, the time period between spring and summer is certainly my favourite time. The produce tends to be healthy, fresh, and colourful.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
The Rump of Lamb with baby Vegetables & Lyonnaise of Potato with Madeira Jus at Leaf Hotels and the Samosa Chaat at Chameleon Café.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I do take inspiration from the greats in the culinary industry and try to add seasonality to the dishes. I try to experiment with new flavours and never forget the basic tenets of cooking while creating a new dish.

Who was your greatest influence?
The renowned Chef Vivek Singh.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Chef Raymond Blanc, Chef Vivek Singh, and Chef Massimo Bottura.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Larousse Gastronomique & Theory of Cookery by Tangam Phillip from my college days!

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
I unfortunately have not been following the up and coming talent since the COVID-19 pandemic, however I do have to give an honourable mention to Chef Craig Edgell (Buoy & Oyster) as he created one of the best fish dishes I had eaten in a while during The Chefs’ Forum event at Hythe Imperial, Kent.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
I unfortunately cannot name any restaurant in particular in Kent, however I would say that more people should take the leap to open businesses with more experimental cuisine in this area!