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Restaurant Industry News speaks with Executive Chef Sameer Taneja all about Michelin-starred Indian restaurant: Benares Mayfair

Talk us through your journey into the industry; have you always had a passion for cooking?

I’m originally from Delhi in India and this is where I first developed an interest in food. I was academically challenged as a student, so decided to explore culinary arts as a qualification at Mangalore University on India’s Southwest Coast.

My first professional cooking experience was at Oberoi Rajvilaz Hotel, Jaipur, where I had the opportunity to learn from leading industry experts and was given the confidence to improve every day.

What has been your most memorable experience so far?

Every day is a new experience, but acquiring the Michelin star for Benares has been by far the most significant and most memorable.

Who or what inspires you?

My team. They are hungry to learn, which inspires me greatly.

What is your signature cooking style?

No signature style yet; discovering something new every day. Following my training, I thought I would be cooking European food, which has a real discipline. However, I soon learnt that Indian food is just as disciplined. My style of cooking merges Indian cuisine with Western favours. I create dishes that are deep-rooted Indian food, married with the best locally sourced produce. I inject my experience of western cooking to the kitchen, but don’t tend to create fusion dishes of different cuisines, instead working to create exciting food which has traditional flavours alongside innovation.

What ingredients and flavours do you most like creating with and why?

I like to cook with simple ingredients, and I love umami in my food.

Do you use local and seasonal produce?

We focus on carefully sources produce, making sure we are working with the highest quality ingredients.

What are some of the dishes on the menu currently at Benares?

I love my cured fish chaat. It has been on our A La Carte menu since the day I joined as Exec Chef. We also have oyster and seabream chaat, Malabar scallops.

How popular is the Chef’s table?

Extremely popular. There is hardly a day that it’s not occupied, it’s always booked.

How important is it to create new dishes that bring something new and exciting to the menu?

Very important. Not only for the diners but also for the team which keeps them motivated, keep them inspired and create fresh options.

Do wine pairings help enhance and compliment specific flavours/ingredients within the dishes?

Yes, if done carefully. Sometimes wines play a vital role.

In a few words, why should everyone come and visit Benares Mayfair?

Benares is an institution. Diners are guaranteed an incredible journey as soon as they step inside the restaurant.

Every step of the way will contribute to an extraordinary and unforgettable dining experience.

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