“I Dont Just Mimic – I Reimagine”: Gypsy Chef David Myers On Celebrating The World On A Plate Through His Cooking

Michelin-starred chef David Myers has a warm and welcoming personality that goes beyond himself and settles into every corner of his Modern Japanese Izakaya ‘ADRIFT Kaya’ in JW Marriott Hotel Aerocity, New Delhi. The restaurant opened in the National Capital in 2022 and will soon be two years old. During his recent trip to Delhi, Chef Myers could be seen working at ADRIFT Kaya for the launch of a new menu that will blend traditional Japanese elements with a Californian twist.
“I can’t believe you are here on a Sunday. Thank you so much for coming,” Chef Myers delightfully greeted us. Talking about the restaurant, he added, “It’s amazing to see people here (in India) are so into Japanese food. Your cuisine (Indian) is the best of all, hands down. But I’m happy to bring a little bit of something that people can enjoy and try something a little different sometimes.” In an exclusive interview with NDTV Food, Chef Myers shared his insights about food and travel, merging different cuisines as well as elevating traditional cooking techniques with a global twist.

Chef David Myers during his recent visit at Adrift Kaya, New Delhi.

Chef David Myers during his recent visit to Adrift Kaya, New Delhi. Photo Credit: Instagram/adriftbydavidmyers

Excerpts From NDTV Food’s Interview With Chef David Myers:

1. What can diners expect in terms of flavour profiles and unique combinations from your latest menu creation?
The menu creation at Adrift Kaya promises a tantalizing fusion of flavours, blending traditional Japanese elements with a Californian twist. Diners can anticipate a symphony of tastes, where the delicate umami of Japanese cuisine harmonizes with the vibrant freshness of sustainable produce. From savoury miso-infused dishes to zesty citrus accents, each plate offers a delightful journey for the palate. Unique combinations such as sushi rolls with avocado and locally sourced seafood exemplify our commitment to innovative culinary experiences that celebrate the best of both worlds.

2. Could you share with us the inspiration behind merging Japanese cuisine with a Californian twist for this new menu?
The inspiration behind merging Japanese cuisine with a Californian twist for the Adrift Kaya menu stems from a desire to offer guests a culinary experience that reflects both tradition and innovation. Drawing from my personal travels and cultural immersion, I discovered parallels between the meticulous craftsmanship of Japanese culinary traditions and the emphasis on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients in Japanese cuisine. By blending these influences, we aim to create dishes that pay homage to both cultures while pushing the boundaries of flavour and technique. It’s a tribute to the diverse culinary landscape of California and the timeless allure of Japanese gastronomy.

3. How do you approach blending two distinct culinary cultures to create a cohesive dining experience?
When blending two distinct culinary cultures, my approach revolves around honouring the essence of each while finding common ground to create a seamless dining experience. At Adrift Kaya, we maintain a core Japanese foundation infused with a Californian edge, ensuring a harmonious fusion that resonates with our guests. Drawing from my global travels, I incorporate elements from diverse culinary traditions, yet always infuse a touch of my West Coast roots for vibrancy and playfulness. By prioritizing seasonal and local ingredients alongside signature dishes, we offer a dynamic menu that evolves while maintaining familiarity, inviting guests to embark on a culinary journey with each visit.

4. As someone who’s travelled extensively, how do you infuse global influences into your dishes while still honouring traditional techniques and flavours?
Worldly adventures fuel my culinary fire! Travel unveils a tapestry of flavours, spices, and techniques, each thread enriching my cooking. Whether it’s Southeast Asia’s vibrant spice symphony or Japan’s meticulous artistry, every destination becomes a culinary muse. But I don’t just mimic – I reimagine. Imagine a classic dish infused with a newfound aroma, a traditional technique elevated with a global twist. This “nomadic chef” approach, like Chef Myers’, lets me craft unique experiences. Each bite becomes a passport to new horizons, yet rooted in the comfort of familiar flavours. It’s a dance between heritage and innovation, a celebration of the world on my plate, and yours!

5. I’m sure all the ADRIFT restaurants are brilliant, but what makes ADRIFT Kaya special to you?
While every ADRIFT restaurant holds a special place in my heart, ADRIFT Kaya in New Delhi truly shines for several reasons. Firstly, it’s a love letter to Tokyo, a city that has become a second home to me. Here, I want to whisk guests away on a sensory journey, immersing them in the vibrant spirit of izakaya culture and the refined philosophy of Japanese cuisine. Beyond the culinary adventure, it’s the meticulous attention to detail that sets ADRIFT Kaya apart. Each element, from the design that evokes the bustling streets of Tokyo to the meticulously sourced seasonal ingredients, plays a vital role in crafting an unforgettable experience. It’s a testament to the incredible team, whose dedication and focus towards their craft is truly inspiring. What truly resonates with me is the inherent simplicity yet profound complexity of Japanese cuisine. ADRIFT Kaya celebrates this philosophy, allowing fresh, seasonal ingredients to take centre stage. Each bite is an ode to tradition, reflecting the constant pursuit of mastery that defines Japanese culinary culture. Every sushi chef strives for continuous improvement, a dedication I deeply admire.
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6. Since it has been almost two years, would you call ADRIFT Kaya a baby or do you think the place has become what you had envisioned?
While two years may seem like a mere toddler in the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t call ADRIFT Kaya a baby anymore. It has certainly blossomed into its own, exceeding my initial vision in many ways. From the beginning, I envisioned ADRIFT Kaya as a gateway to the heart of Japanese cuisine and izakaya culture. It wasn’t just about serving delicious food, but about crafting an entire experience that resonated with the senses. And I’m thrilled to say that ADRIFT Kaya has achieved just that. Sure, there’s always room for growth and refinement, but ADRIFT Kaya has firmly established itself as a culinary destination in New Delhi. It’s a place where guests can embark on a delicious journey, discover the essence of Japanese cuisine, and appreciate the artistry and dedication behind each dish. And that, for me, is a true testament to its success. So, while ADRIFT Kaya might not be a young child anymore, it’s certainly on a path to becoming a cherished culinary institution, exceeding expectations with every passing year.

7. Why a Japanese Izakaya concept in India and not anywhere else?
While ADRIFT Kaya in New Delhi is currently the only one in India, the concept holds immense potential for expansion, not just within the country but potentially globally as well. Stay tuned, as more Kaya experiences might be just around the corner!

8. Sustainability is increasingly becoming a focus in the culinary world. How do you incorporate sustainable practices into your menu and kitchen operations?
Sustainability and ethical sourcing are significant aspects of the culinary world. Adding fresh and seasonal produce reflects the bounty of the land and the spirit of the culture. Procured from local farmers, it serves as a means to support the local economy and reduce carbon footprint. Additionally, these fresh ingredients enrich the dishes and help to minimise food waste. Having spent ample time in my grandparent’s orchard has helped me understand the importance of using fresh ingredients for preparing food and the role it plays in enhancing both the flavours and nutritional value of the dishes. These values form a crucial part of my culinary practices, and I promote them extensively through my recipes.

9. With the rise of plant-based eating, do you integrate any vegetarian or vegan options into your menu, and if so, what are some standout dishes?
ADRIFT Kaya proudly features vegetarian and vegan dishes that tantalize the taste buds without compromising on flavour or tradition. Our standout dishes include:

  • Mushroom Tofu Gyoza: These pan-fried dumplings are bursting with savoury umami thanks to a blend of juicy mushrooms, creamy tofu, and flavorful seasonings. They’re a perfect starter or light bite, offering a textural delight with each dip in our homemade sauce.
  • Asparagus Tempura Spicy Avocado Roll: This innovative roll combines the delicate sweetness of asparagus tempura with the creamy richness of avocado. A touch of spicy heat adds a delightful kick, making it a truly satisfying and unique vegetarian option.

These are just a few examples, as our menu regularly features seasonal delights and surprises for our plant-based diners. Whether you’re a seasoned vegan or simply exploring vegetarian options, ADRIFT Kaya offers a culinary adventure that celebrates fresh ingredients and innovative flavours.
Also Read: Exclusive Interview With Chef Ana Ros: A Champion Of Slovenia And Sustainability

10. Collaboration seems to be a recurring theme in your career. Could you share a bit about your experience collaborating with local producers and artisans to source ingredients for your dishes?
Absolutely! Collaboration is the lifeblood of my culinary journey. Sourcing ingredients isn’t just about ticking boxes; it’s about weaving a story into each dish. That’s where local producers and artisans become invaluable partners. Working with them allows me to tap into the unique spirit of a place. Their passion for quality, their intimate knowledge of local ingredients, and their commitment to sustainable practices all contribute to the magic on our plate. Their innovative flavours and textures add a delightful layer of complexity, showcasing both their expertise and the potential of local ingredients. These collaborations aren’t just transactional; they’re built on mutual respect and shared passion. It’s a learning exchange, where I gain insights into local traditions and they receive exposure to new techniques and perspectives. Ultimately, these partnerships elevate our dishes beyond mere ingredients. They become testaments to the power of community, celebrating the dedication and talent of local producers while offering guests a taste of something truly special. It’s a win-win that continues to shape my culinary journey and the experiences I create.

11. What advice would you give to aspiring chefs looking to push the boundaries of traditional cuisine and create their own culinary identity?
My advice is to focus like crazy on getting the basics of cooking down, reading, everything you can about chefs in different food from around the world and getting out there and travelling to broaden your horizons to what is really out there in the world. And let that shape your own personal style.

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