Explorer of the food kind: Chef Rishim Sachdev
“I have been to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam on a recent trip. It has been wonderful experience of visiting the amazing street food joints, looking...
“I have been to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam on a recent trip. It has been wonderful experience of visiting the amazing street food joints, looking at some great techniques and tasting ants, bugs and grasshoppers.” Well that is Chef Rishim Sachdev for you Gentlemen! - as adventurous as a 34-year-old youngster should be, and as passionate as one of the most happening chefs in India must be. Evidently it is always food that excites him. Since the last three years, he has been at the helm of affairs at Olive outlets in three cities, New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad. And he has been doing exciting stuff in his kitchen.
This Delhi-based, London bred chef was already cooking food at home when he was eleven years old. He went on to study in London. Realising he will learn what’s cooking only with hands-on experience, started with old classic French cuisine and working at restaurants. At places like Fat Duck, he learnt about molecular gastronomy that did not capture his interest, for long. He was slowly going back to the roots and started believing in working closely with nature. He worked for some more time in London followed by Canada before he came to India.
“If you want to be a good chef you should know French cooking,” he shares during one of his hectic visits to Hyderabad; the interview was done when he managed to grab a few minutes between meetings and catching a flight. “It is French cuisine that teaches you the basics of cooking. Ingredients may be the same, but where Indian cooking is a bit more overdone, French is relaxed in that sense,” he explains.
This Indian boy has his heart set on European food, yet when he is in New Delhi, he heads to Rajender da Dhaba and Pandara Road. “I don’t have favourite food. I eat what I fancy at that moment, like any other guest in my restaurant. While my comfort food is Eggs and Bacon; Parathas and Butter Chicken are all about nostalgia,” he shares.
Chef Rishim works with European cuisine, and he has induced it with his philosophy – that involves working closely with farmers, relying on seasonal produce, believing that anything that you import you might as well be source locally, and avoiding over the counter preserves in glass jars. “It is more fun to make the preserves in-house, we get what we want as we can control the taste,” he reveals.
He shares the story of his discovery of the plums that are locally available in Hyderabad, “Plums have been my favourite since growing up. We could have served raw plums, but that wouldn’t stand out, we must create something exciting. So, we fermented, used roasted plums instead of treacle in barbeque sauce and that added perfect acidity and sweetness, just like the imported treacle. It’s also about understanding how to do it. One week may not be right for fermenting, and at other times, based on the weather, four days of fermenting may give the right taste. Hence, it’s just not about knowing what needs to be done, it is also about knowing when to stop.”
It is this philosophy that brought the owner of Olive Bar & Kitchen AD Singh and Chef Rishim together three years ago. “Olive has always been a bit ahead of its time. They have been doing stuff nobody else was doing. Our cuisine is bit more progressive, and style of food is different from the rest of the market. The best part is that Olive in three cities has three different menus. There is no standard menu and that balance works really well”.
It’s been less than a year that Chef Rishim has been in Hyderabad with Shaaz Mehmood and Shiraz Mirza. The last menu that he has helped create has been a visual splendor and brilliant in flavours. The balance of colours and textures, the freshness of the ingredients, and the burst of the flavours rendered the menu a unique quality.
“Freshness is the most important thing. If we were to import any product, and charge a premium, our guests wouldn’t mind. But I don’t believe in it. When there is so much to explore in India why go out? We take four to five months to get the dishes right. We work backwards with the ingredients available seasonally. Suppliers will tell, this is what we get in the next few months; then it comes down to kitchen restrictions, technical expertise, what works for the season and so on.”
“I am very keen on flavours, balanced textures, and the plating. When I work on a dish I try and extract the Umami, the fifth taste that is unique to each preparation,” he adds. Currently Rishim is busy working on a new menu at Olive Kitchen & Bar in Hyderabad. “The life cycle of a menu is three months, and at a stretch, four months. I do not use the same crockery and cutlery for two seasons continuously,” he states.
Amidst travelling between three cities, working on new menu, experimenting with latest processes and techniques and exploring seasonal ingredients, whatever little time Chef Rishim Sachdev manages to find for himself, he reads, which is not necessarily about food, or watches a movie. He also travels extensively that invariably leads to pursuit of unique food from across the world. The explorer in him never rests.