Delving in an unrivalled dining experience at India Along The Nile at Semiramis Intercontinental Cairo, we get the chance for a delightful conversation with Head Chef Harish Tiwari. He takes us through all the aspects and features that make the Indian cuisine so special, and reveals to us the secret behind its distinctive taste. Here’s how we learned that there’s a lot more to explore other than curries and biryanis.
1. Could you please tell us more about your culinary career and how did it unfold?
Honestly this passion for cooking is something I took over from my mom; to me she’s the one chef I look up to. What makes our mother’s food very special is that they cook with love. Back then when I was young I used to spend a lot of time with her in the kitchen, curious to explore her secret in preparing all those delicious plates and I never stopped asking questions. That is when I realized I want to take this passion to a professional level. I took determined steps to improve my skills academically and professionally and began my training at Intercontinental New Delhi. Afterwards I Joined Shangri La hotel in India with the preopening team, and there was so much I learned there, and these two and a half years significantly added up to my experience. Later on I moved to Crown Plaza IHG and from there I’ve moved to Hyatt as a Chef Deputy later promoted to Sous Chef. This experience has opened the doors for tempting opportunities with an international exposure, I moved to Bangkok with a chance to work with IHG as well where I started with the opening of one of India’s top and most renowned restaurant. Later on I came back to India for the opening of another groundbreaking restaurant under IHG as a Master Chef. Generally, I’ve travelled a lot working with IHG in different parts of the world including Seoul, Zanzibar, Bangkok, and Jordan, and then here I am now in Egypt. This is all about my worthwhile journey.
2. In your opinion what are the most distinctive characteristics about Indian cuisine?
The Indian cuisine is all about the aromatic spices. Believe it or not, In India we have above 3000 spices. The secret lies in knowing how to create the right mix and to explore the distinctive taste and features of each spice to help you create the perfect aromatic blend. India is a very big country, and in every region you can feel the difference in taste and you will be overwhelmed with an array of delightful flavors. Once you begin to master the art of blending dried, fresh, and liquid spices, your plate is guaranteed to tantalize the senses.
3.What are your top 3 ingredients in Indian dishes?
My top ingredient is Stone Flower which is a very rare and exquisite spice in India. It is not a spice that you grow but rather you find in the mountains and once you add this to your plate; you will indulge in its intensely-felt aroma. Another spice is Khas Ki Jad; it is a root spice that we use especially in kebabs and is very good for health. Pipli or long pepper is another spice that I love as well as yellow chili which is a spice you can only find in India and once it is added to biryani it will take it to the next level. And of course let’s not forget about cardamom and especially black cardamom.
4.What are the must-try plates in your menu?
Definitely the lamb chops! Another one is the yogurt balls, a signature invention plate that will give your taste buds a treat. For vegetarians we have a very special and delectable plate which is roasted onions.
5. Besides the culinary talent, what characteristics make a good chef?
A successful chef must have the curiosity to continuously look around and explore. It is part of a chef’s job to be innovative in order to treat his guests to a unique dining experience where they can savor an assortment of distinctive dishes.
6. What are the steps you take to set this restaurant apart from any Indian restaurant?
People may have the conception that Indian cuisine is all about biryani and curry, my role is to offer something very special and to give the diners an exposure to India’s broad spectrum cuisine. I am keen on inventing different dishes to add to the menu.
7. What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Well, I love to busy all the time, to invent and to explore and most importantly meeting new people. My main motive is to know that our guests are enjoying their time and to see them satisfied with their dining experience