She recently won one of the most coveted accolades for a chef in India: the National Tourism Award for Best Woman Chef. But Chef Madhumita Mohanta, the fraternity-renowned Executive Chef at The LaLiT Great Eastern Kolkata, cuts as humble a figure as always in this insightful interview. Being an inspirational icon for all female chefs in the country, Chef Madhumita shares interesting answers with us on her career, her work, and her philosophy.
1. It’s been three years for you now working at The LaLiT Great Eastern Kolkata. What do you find as the most exciting part about cooking at The LaLiT?
I would say that there is a lot of creative freedom. At The LaLiT, it doesn’t feel like I am working here, so to speak. The opportunity of catering to people from various walks of life like the specially-abled, or those from the LGBTQI community makes me feel honoured to be part of one of the most liberal hotels in Kolkata and the industry. On top of that, we value our guests with special preferences such as those who would like a gluten-free or Vegan meal. Rising up to such challenges is what makes me thoroughly enjoy cooking here.
2. It’s a given that you have worked with some of the most influential people in the culinary industry throughout your career. Is there any person from whom you’ve learned a lot, and introduced those principles while working here at The LaLiT?
Absolutely! While there are a lot of people that I can tell you about, I particularly remember working with Chef James at RITZ, Bahrain. It is through him that I learned and brought simplicity, sustainability in food, perfection as well as an eye for detail to The LaLiT.
3. Of late, what trends are you noticing regarding wine and food pairings?
Today, people are genuinely concerned about how their food is processed, and that includes wine too! It is no surprise then that people are preferring organic wine a lot nowadays.
Now, wine and food matching is one of the most familiar forms of food and drink pairing. The trick lies in considering three things: weight, acidity and intensity of both dish and wine, to ensure one doesn’t overpower the other.
All that being said, more and more consumers are seeking food and drink combinations that go beyond the traditional.
4. If you had to pick a favourite amongst all the dishes you cook, what would it be?
It is difficult to say, because it keeps on changing from time to time, like our favourite music and book keeps on changing in due course of time. I believe that, every day, our outlook and exposure changes to a different dimension; so do our skill, imagination and innovation.
5. If you were a guest at one of the many amazing restaurants at The LaLiT Great Eastern Kolkata, which dish would you certainly order?
I would definitely go for something from The Bakery and also the famed ‘Four Pillars of Bengal’ cuisine from Alfresco, undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in Kolkata.
6.Do you think that being a female chef is any different from being a male chef nowadays?
No, I don’t feel that way. In the early days of my career, it was not a smooth road. But with the course of time, things have changed, the industry has changed. And of course, at The LaLiT, we believe in the philosophy of equality, diversity and inclusivity. They welcome everyone, whether employees or patrons, without discrimination and with open arms. This celebration and respect of choices and diversity makes me feel proud of being associated with The LaLiT.
7. What would you say is your most glorious cooking moment?
It has to be the moments when I personally prepared meals for Michael Schumacher and Michael Jackson!
8. Suppose the meal you will have now is your last meal on earth! What are you eating?
(Laughs) Oh, a meal cooked by my mom!
She left us and all food aficionados with a delightful quote by Bethenny Frankel: ‘Your diet is a bank account; good food choices are good investment!’
For such indulgences, you can always savour Chef Madhumita’s delectable dishes at The LaLiT Great Eastern Kolkata.