Dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant is brilliant, but meeting a Michelin-starred chef is a just a dream come true. A few days ago, HT Café gave me the opportunity to be a part of their very exclusive workshop with the two Michelin-starred Chef Sergi Arola. He has trained under Ferran Adria and another Michelin-starred French Chef Pierre Gagnaire. He owns restaurants in Madrid, Barcelona and Paris. This goes to show knowledgeable and brilliant he is at what he does. Recently, he launched Arola Restaurant and Bar at the J.W.Marriott in Juhu, Mumbai. With an appetite to learn and the eagerness to interact with the man himself, I was so ready to go for the workshop.
This man has a great personality. When he talks, you will shut up and take as many notes as you can. Why? Because he is a fantastic ‘performer’. The way he explains the techniques portrays his passion. He isn’t a big fan of teaching novices. That’s why workshops like these are a rare thing. He is so passionate about food and the art of cooking that he would rather invent new things to introduce to the culinary world than teach someone the basics. I completely understand that.
Chef Arola asked, “which activity involves the use of all 5 senses?” The answer is sex (here everyone blushes). Now, which activity apart from sex involves the use of all 5 senses? Its is FOOD. You smell the aroma, touch the textures, hear it sizzle or crack, see the presentation and the vibrant colours and taste the flavours.
“What is the most important thing in cooking”, he asked. Some said ‘fresh ingredients’, ‘technique’, ‘recipe’ etc. His reply was, “PROPORTIONS”. Proportion is the most important thing in cooking. You have to use the right amount of every ingredient and technique to plate up a spectacular dish. This balance of proportions creates magic.
Chef Arola also believes that if you keep it simple, you will get good results. You don’t have to use the fanciest techniques to create a beautiful dish. Of course you might require tools and methods of cooking which seem complicated at times. But again, why use it when you don’t really need it? If combining the best ingredients using simple techniques yields a noteworthy dish, don’t complicate it!
At the workshop, using simple techniques and fresh ingredients, 4 beautiful dishes were prepared.
1. Patatas Bravas – Deep fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce and topped with garlic aioli
2. Bread in Tomato – Simple naan rubbed with garlic, tomato paste, salt and olive oil
3. Tandoori Lobster – Lobster cooked in a tandoor served a bed of pasta and dehydrated olives
4. Crema Catalana – A classic dessert
My interaction with Chef Arola began with a raise of hand. I volunteered to help him out twice. First when I had to squeeze the garlic aioli on the Patatas Bravas and the next when I had to beat the egg yolk and sugar for the Crema Catalana. Man, it was nerve-wracking! Even a small duty like beating sugar-eggs was scary when a man of his repertoire watches you. Anyway, I didn’t goof up so much. I beat the mixture till it was perfect and he went on to make the Crema Catalana. As a token of appreciation, he offered me the entire portion of the dessert (which I shared with everyone, of course).
All in all, it was an experience of a lifetime. I learnt so much! Thank you Chef Arola! Thank you HT Café!
This event was also covered in HT Cafe. Here’s the article plus recipes for each of the dishes.