Renowned chef Sandeep Pandit is known for the incredible dishes he created during a popular cooking show in Australia. Originally from Kashmir, Pandit launched her own spice line called “The Spice Angel” in Australia which is now also available in India. He was in Goa at the Jasmin Hotel last week preparing Aussie BBQ for an aperitif. He also put together a similar menu in Mumbai at Juhu’s Novotel. Pandit spoke at length with NDTV Food about his personal favorite cuisines, his experience with reality TV and the foods he finds overrated.
1. When you make new recipes, do you test them on your friends and family?
– Whenever I make a new recipe, I first do a taste test myself. If I like it, ask my son and my wife (they are both brutally honest) for their opinion. If it passes the immediate family taste test, I’ll give it to my friends and neighbors. I have a philosophy of life, I won’t serve anything that I wouldn’t want to eat myself or if I didn’t like the taste.
2. How important is understanding cooking to enjoy food?
– This is a complex question to answer because it is a chicken-and-egg situation. Sometimes you get surprised by something you didn’t know and sometimes you just tasted something wrong and didn’t like a cuisine!
However, I would rather learn to cook as a cook, to enjoy cooking you don’t need to know. It’s a very personal choice I think.
3. Did you grow up in a family of foodies?
– Absolute! Meals were a huge affair during my childhood in Kashmir. We had to be much stricter during my family’s forced exodus. But whenever we met extended family, it was always about eating and talking. I think the Kashmiri culture (like most other Indian subcultures) has food at its core. From daily meals to festivities, every day is a treat for my family.
4. Your favorite cuisine when you dine and your favorite when you cook?
– The answer to both questions is INDIAN cuisine! India is so vast and Indian cuisine is so complex and multifaceted that it will take a lifetime or longer to discover it all. I have been fortunate enough to travel all over the country and enjoy delicacies from most parts of our country. That said, I am still discovering the delights of the Cuisine du Nord-Est.
5. Many people have developed a love for food and new food trends, everyone talks about things like seasonal and local produce. What excites you about food now?
– My enthusiasm lies not only with the use of seasonal and regional products, but also with the type of fat used in the kitchen!
I think the advent of refined oils has removed an important element of flavor (and health) from dishes. I use more and more unrefined virgin olive oil. The use of fats such as ghee, butter, mustard oil, olive oil, etc., gives an extra dimension to the diet and, like any other product, is characteristic of a region.
6 . How has the Australian Cooking Competition shaped your career in the food industry?
– It has helped me become a household name in many parts of the world and, most importantly, it humbled me as a cook! I realized there was so much more I needed to learn about Indian and global cuisines. It also opened my eyes to the wonderful local and native Australian produce.
7. A childhood comfort food that is still a favorite?
– The answer to this question is simple… Sambar and rice, with fried papad on the side.
8. An overrated food trend that you think also suggests a trend you’d like to replace it with.
– I think the keto diet is grossly overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I respect everyone’s choice of meal, but keto is (in my opinion) way overrated. I would rather people switch to mindful eating habits recommended by ancient cultures. The Ayurvedic diet offers such an alternative. A follower in the diet is much more beneficial than indulging in a complete protein and fat diet.
9. The only invention in the food industry to exist by the age of 16.
– We definitely need a machine that can make Biryani (multiple versions) on demand! And does it incredibly well. We also need a ‘Smellovision’ to replace modern televisions and help chefs like me make our food more appealing.
10. What’s a modern kitchen gadget you couldn’t live without?
– Definitely a microwave! It makes cooking and preparation easier!
10. A kitchen hack that changed your life.
– “Always season a dish step by step (with salt), for there is always a remedy for a dish that is under-seasoned and no return of a salty mess”, an advice I heard when I was young, my father’s son .
12. Three things you would take to a desert island? Maybe cooking utensils, spices or any food for that matter.
– I’ll bring rice, a pot and a fishing rod! The rest of the things the island can offer!