Priyam Chatterjee isn’t your everyday chef. The Calcutta lad points to a humble plate of churmur as comfort, but his platings at Qla, Delhi, tell stories of their own. Granted they’re a culinary delight, but visionary too. They’re art. They need to be understood.
I spoke to the 29-year-old after his recent holiday in Paris, Bordeaux, San Sebastian and Barcelona. “It was superbly beautiful, I am a digger for heritage and history, literature and art, I had a blast.” No mention of food. OK.
So, then, what is it about this Calcutta-born current executive chef and director at Qla that makes him an artist when he’s in the kitchens? For not only does he cook good food, he paints a picture (perhaps an emotion stemming from a childhood hobby of painting on his bedroom walls?). Look at this…
Chef Priyam, who has trained under prolific chefs like Jean Claude Fugier and Matteo Grandi has, then, moved on to win Delhi. The proof of the pudding being the Times
Night Life Chef of the Year 2017 (Delhi) which he recently won. A chat…
‣ Your platings are genius, a work of art. Describe your muse…
Everything and anything. A thought, a memory, an emotion, a desire or a fantasy. I wish, through my platings, to bring a person in talking terms with his or her inner self. To trigger a dialogue.
‣ A dialogue between the chef and the table too?
Actually, yes. It’s very important to build a strong connect with the person via an edible conversation. Imagine how cool is that! Living the story that’s being narrated, consuming it. Like a full cycle.
‣ To stereotype, the country is about quantity. Was it easy carving a niche?
(Thinks) Every restaurant or a space has its own genre. We encourage course eating while keeping in mind that the portions aren’t a morsel but adequate. A customer who walks in does not know your philosophy until and unless you talk about it and educate.
‣ You post pictures of you platings on social media. Does the internet then help bridge the gap between the people and your table?
There are superb pros and cons to the internet. For sure, it has made people aware, curious and eager. But it has also made them arrogant and ‘expert’ views are a dime a dozen. So it remains a mixed medium, but definite on the connect level. An important tool for a chef to use!
‣ So you consider yourself a person who lives and breathes food?
I consider myself a person who does live and breathe food, anything and everything revolving around it.
‣ Your work has been at the receiving end of laurels and adulation. Can flattery be distracting?
Flattery, adulation, accolades are part of the game. They come and they will keep on coming. Distracting or not it’s completely upon how a person or an artist takes it. For me, I don’t wear it on my skin, in fact I am very shy when it comes to be being praised.
‣ Food aside, what interests you?
Music, paintings, architecture, history.
‣ You spent your college years as a drummer boy for Calcutta band Gravy Theory. Do you still go back to the sticks?
Yes I do! I’ve figured out I am always gonna be a drummer boy and it’s nice. I am the rage and the renaissance that way. It’s fun.
‣ Lets top it off with your current state of mind vs your ultimate dream…
My current state of mind is absolutely in sync with my dream. 🙂 Let’s just leave it at ‘I’m working towards it.’
5Five with PC
◦ A Calcutta dish your like to narrate: Aloo posto
◦ Complete with a third word — Calcutta. Food. ______: Mom
◦ Your reaction to popular Indian cookery shows going vegetarian to please the masses: Utter Nonsense.
◦ Three Instagram handles you follow: @mugaritz, @michelinguide, @anlella_sagra
◦ “I’ll come back to Calcutta and… do my eclectic modern Bengali fine dining.”