This was a journey to find out people who understand, appreciate and carry the taste of food forever, the experience that sometimes make them better at what they do and we were fortunate to hear several magic words. ‘From imagination to reality’, read a tattoo on Marc Postins’s open chest, a musician from Plymouth who was travelling with me to Mumbai. This was Marc’s first flying encounter in life prompted after a break-up with his girlfriend Louis, followed by an abrupt decision to travel around the world.
Marc unfolded his story as if he knew me; without realising my food connection, he started talking about Indian food and his love for spicy dishes. Finally when we arrived at our destination, he agreed to join Rasa Gurukul and teach his music to our students. In return, we promised to teach him cooking.
I have been thinking about the sense of taste and discovery of hidden essence in food. How many people understand that intricate emotions go into a dish as a passionate cook merges with the making of a dish? Listening to Marc and remembering some musicians and dancers over the years, I started to feel the ability of good artistes and their brilliance to spot good taste.
Twenty years ago, when I spoke to Michael Stipe of REM, when the band came for a dinner with us, he said, “Good food is a comfort zone, it will bring you back to a city more often!” Seeing a high food rating on Zagat survey amazed Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and he booked the entire restaurant to celebrate the London launch of the musical ‘Jesus Christ Super Star’ and said, “It’s amazing to see Indian food raising its standard and competing with the best in town.”
Attending a memorial concert to commemorate the life of mandolin maestro U Srinivas, who died last year, brought sweet memories of serving that great artist over the years. With a divine smile and humility beyond imagination, Srinivas walked into Rasa many times and loved our food. After every meal he used to tell us, “With heavenly food like this we get excited and our performance and music become soulful.”
A few weeks ago, playback singer and popular carnatic singer P Unnikrishnan was on his usual summer tour of London and dined with us. His presence is always a happy occasion and he compliments our chefs all the time.
Another surprise this week was south Indian singer Sreenivas. After his programme in Wembley Arena, Sreenivas came to us just before his interview with BBC. Whilst having his brisk lunch, I could feel his changing mood as he said, “How could I go back home without this meal? I wish I could get this food back in Chennai. Taste of this food always stays fresh until I come back and have it again.” It’s not a big issue for many busy restaurants to worry about how every customer enjoys their food or what makes them come back. People eat out and relish the brilliance of cooking every day, but it’s really fascinating to notice expressions and we have enjoyed beautiful emotions on the faces of some great artistes and performers.
A R Rahman has always been a modest celebrity who carries so much simplicity in lifestyle and prefers light traditional dishes. We had enlightening table talks when he shared some of his dreams on social responsibilities apart from his great music and success.
People who appreciate and recognise your heart through food are the true gift of a chef. It’s very sad sometimes when you don’t find enough of them who relish moments of wonder as you experience taste of a cook’s creativity.
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain of restaurants