His interest in food flourished alongside his passion for photography. Michael Swamy clicks everything cooking, literally. “I entered a few kitchens in a village along Chilika and found the process interesting,” says celebrity food stylist and writer Swamy.
On a relentless mission to popularise Indian cuisine in the global arena, Swamy travels through the winding lanes and by-lanes of the semi-urban and rural belts discovering culture, people and their culinary skills.
“It is important to create a memory in the gastronome’s mind. An Indian platter looks messy, there is nothing aesthetic about it and it is here that it loses its appeal,” this alumnus of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School points out.
His book on Amritsar cuisine, due to hit the stands next year, digs deep into the authentic regional delicacies. “It is not about the usual Rajma or Butter Chicken. The roadside stalls had some mouth watering sweets and of course the Amritsari fish,” said the author of The East Indian Kitchen, which won the Gourmand Cookbook Awards 2011 for India.
His team in Mumbai experiments with the spices and techniques to try keeping the flavour intact. Every step is documented and the platter well decorated to suit the international taste. “Most Indian dishes are heavy on the tummy, so instead of cream, I may use milk in Dal Makhani and present it as a comfort food,” he said providing a peep into his book.
Though Swamy is yet to discover the delicacies of Odisha which he plans to pen in his next book, Backpack chef: A culinary journey in India along with Michelin star chef Vikas Khanna, he sees a lot of potential. “Presentation remains the key and it also applies to Ayurvedic food served at temple kitchens. A few rose petals can make ‘chhena poda’ look palatable,” he said.
He and Vikas have taken the untrodden path discovering the local fare through the north, south, east and west of India. “Vikas has covered the entire south and I have been to the north including Delhi, Amritsar, Uttarakhand, Ranchi, Kashmir and Lucknow,” he said. His other book with chef Vikas, ‘Mumbai Savour’, based on the restaurants in Mumbai, will be released in December.
Swamy’s books help build ideas and allow people to be creative. The same goes for the television show, Master Chef where he heads the food team. The show is ready for the third season. Enamoured by the vast expanse of Chilika lagoon in Odisha, where he was recently, he said, “I would love to shoot the show against this backdrop.”