Chef of the Week: Sudha Shankar Saha – Head Chef at Entouraj in Birmingham

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
Entouraj opened its doors in June 2019.

Where did your passion for cooking come from, and where did you learn your skills?
My own passion for cooking was ignited in childhood; I would watch my Grandmother in the kitchen- she was an exceptional cook.  I completed a degree in catering technology in the Institute of Hotel Management in Chennai, India, and subsequently trained in the Taj Group of Hotels, followed by the Ambassador Group of Hotels, where I honed my skills.  When I came to the UK, I continued to refine my skills and trained in a Michelin-starred French restaurant.

What do you enjoy most about being a Chef?
For me, it’s about being the master of my own domain, pursuing my passion and using my creative skills every day. I enjoy collaborating with farmers to find the best, most inspiring ingredients; and most importantly I relish in working with my stellar team and ensuring that customers leave happy and full, from Entouraj.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without?

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

A frying pan that is non-stick and features a metal handle, as this way you can finish a dish by popping the frying pan into the oven on high heat.

A thermometer, as it will help to make sure the meat is properly cooked whether you are roasting a turkey in the oven or flipping burgers on the grill.

A good knife that can slice and dice with ease.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Veganism will continue to rise, as well as more casual dining options when it comes to Japanese, Korean and Portuguese cuisine.  The street food concept looks set to continue to grow too.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets Chefs down?
That’s tricky to say as we are probably guilty of them. I believe it’s important to keep things simple; when you’re working long hours in a highly-pressured environment, it’s easy to overthink, and overwork.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
It has to be the summer months of June, July and August.  While Indian food is not a ‘usual’ lunch choice, it can be a great option.  I love the challenge of designing a summer lunch menu- one that is not too heavy, rich or spicy, but more Indian tapas-style.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my signature dishes; all are a product of my creativity and imagination from Seafood Moilee to Junglee Venison.  I look to push boundaries opening our eyes to a multicultural society, while at the same time meeting the requirements of customers and the restaurant.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I research client’s demands, work on flavour combinations and then design new dishes.  The entire process is not straight forward. It is very challenging, and there is a lot of planning and development involved.

Who was your greatest influence?
Initial influence was from my Grandmother, after I joined the Industry there have been too many great Chefs to name.

Tell us three Chefs you admire
Alain Ducasse, the late, great Joël Robuchon, and Ferran Adrià.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Escoffier – Le Guide Culinaire and LaRousse Gastronomique.

Who do you think are the Chefs to watch over the next few months?
Mark Birchall – Moor Hall.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Leroy in London – having been awarded a Michelin Star shortly after opening and following the closure of Ellory; the wine bar and restaurant in Shoreditch is one of my favourite openings from last year.  While demonstrating simplicity, the dishes are full of flavours.