I’ve noticed that lady chefs always bring another dimension to their food than their male counterparts. Perhaps it has been entirely incidental, but when you hear Chef Angela Hartnett talking about shopping for food, you could forget that she has won two Michelin stars at The Connaught in London, where she manages a restaurant for her mentor, Gordon Ramsay.
Part of Chef Angela’s family is Italian: her grandmother lives in a one horse village to coin a new term. Its name is Baradi, and it lies in the district of Emilia Romagna, the epicenter of gastronomy of Italy. The village, Chef Angela tells me, has two and a half shops, but one of them sells eggs solely for making pasta. The yolks are very very yellow, a result of the poultry being fed on corn and carrots. Make your pasta with those eggs and it will attain a bright golden hue. By the way, guess where Angela imports her eggs from? You guessed it: Italy. It’s an extravagance, she shrugs, and you get the distinct impression that it’s not an extravagance that she is about to stop anytime soon.
She is at her happiest when she is in Italy: the whole family goes shopping in the local markets for meats and vegetables. Just looking at the way the produce is arranged tells how passionate the Italians are about their gastronomy. She can’t stay away from markets, so she was being taken to Khari Baoli in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk soon after our meeting. “I can’t wait to see the largest spice market in the world,” she enthused.
She had been cooking at ITC Luxury Collection’s West View in Mumbai and Kolkata before her stint in Delhi, so she did what she always does: head for the markets. She has clocked up quite a list: puchkas in Kolkata, which she liked, vada pao in Mumbai which she absolutely loved and aloo tikkis in Delhi which she couldn’t make sense of. “Too many things happening all at once,” is how she put it.
Her take on London’s markets is as down to earth as the person she herself is. Farmer’s markets are currently at the cutting edge of style, but they shouldn’t be: that’s the way things ought to be in the normal course of events, she thinks. They are also way too expensive, a fact that she strongly disagrees with.
The ITC group is really doing a huge service to its customers, whether we appreciate them for it or not. It would be virtually impossible for a middle-class diner like me to eat at the Connaught and sample the cuisine that won Chef Angela two Michelin stars. Apart from the astronomical cost of the meal itself, there is the question of being able to book a table months ahead of time and hope you are not boxed in near the kitchen. Far more pleasant to sample the same cuisine at your doorstep and pay in Indian Rupees. ends