Exclusive: Chef Ajay Chopra Tells NDTV Food His Favourite Foods And Talks About Recent And Future Trends

Renowned across the culinary landscape, Chef Ajay Chopra stands as a pioneer in Indian gastronomy, revered for his innovative flair and exceptional expertise. With a multifaceted career spanning as an Indian chef, culinary creator, restaurant consultant, and prominent media figure, Chef Ajay Chopra has reshaped the culinary realm with his distinctive style. As one of the first Indian chefs to host the popular MasterChef India series for its inaugural and subsequent seasons, Chef Ajay Chopra captivated audiences with his unique perspective on Indian cuisine. His unconventional approach to cooking has garnered widespread acclaim, setting new standards within the hospitality industry.
Also ReadHow To Make Authentic Kolhapuri Paste – Recipe By Chef Ajay Chopra

Chef Ajay Chopra was in Delhi for the Inaugural Ceremony of the More Than Food EU Pavilion at AAHAR 2024, the International Food and Hospitality Fair on March 7, 2024. I had the pleasure of meeting him in person and had a conversation with him, which was quite insightful. He talked about the campaign, the influence of European food in India, his personal food preferences, and more.

1: Since we are here at the inaugural ceremony of the More Than Food EU, would you like to share more about the campaign?
Chef Ajay Chopra: This campaign is now in its second year. When we talk about European food products, it is “more than food”. What I mean is that the food that is grown, cultivated, and processed stands on four strong pillars:

  • Sustainability
  • Quality
  • Authenticity
  • Hygiene/Safety

When I am eating food in India that has come from somewhere else, I need to be sure about the origin of the food, its safety, and its quality that can be traced back. What we need is food free from pesticides and other malpractices.
In Europe, every food product is well-documented, is labelled well, and goes through stringent measures for checking. For instance, every European cheese has to go through a cold cycle of below five and over zero degree temperature until you eat it. This chain can never be broken. And there is a temperature record at every step. If a distributor asks for documentation from the manufacturer, they will get it.

2: Is there a particular ingredient from the European food you feel has taken or will take the fancy of Indians?
Chef Ajay Chopra: In the last five years, we have seen the rise of olive oil. But people in India are very picky, which is changing as they are travelling more and more. Olive oil is a daily-use product and is healthy too. Earlier, people knew just olive oil; gradually, they started knowing about the different types of olive oil – pomace olive oil, virgin olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, etc. And now those people who understand what olive oil does to their bodies use only extra virgin olive oil because it is the most premium kind of olive oil.
I know a lot of families who are using only olive oil, even for parathas. But extra virgin olive oil cannot go through long cooking techniques. One should take care not to cook it above 75-degree temperature; otherwise, it might lose phytonutrients.

3: To what extent do you think European flavours are influencing the taste preferences of Indians?
Chef Ajay Chopra: India is a fast-moving and fast-learning country. Various cuisines are impacting us – like Japanese cuisine. Europe has 27 member states, and a lot of cuisines, so we can’t say European cuisine because there are German, French, Scandinavian, English, and more cuisines. We have picked some dishes from different regions of the European Union. But many ingredients from there have become our own – olive oil, cheese varieties, Belgian chocolate, et al. Aspirational value comes into play here.

4: Coming to your food preferences, if you could pick only one food from the European food, what would it be?
Ajay Chopra: Belgian Chocolate!

5: What is the guilty pleasure you like to indulge in when no one’s watching?
Chef Ajay Chopra: Meats! For me, European meats are very high quality. The animals that are raised for milking are never butchered, and the animals which are raised for butchering are raised differently. Their feed is different so the meat is richer, has more fat, and tastes better.

6: From Indian cuisine, what’s your comfort food after a long day in the kitchen?
Chef Ajay Chopra: Rajma Chawal

7: Lastly, are there any unique food trends you are expecting to shape up in 2024?
Chef Ajay Chopra: 2024 is a year of a lot of influx of food from other countries, which people are getting used to – like Italian cold meats and different cheese varieties. Also, veganism is on the rise. Vegan butter, vegan chocolate, vegan milk, vegan cheese – these products are expected to get more popular.
 

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