Born in Jamshedpur, Eastern India, Atul Kochhar established his creative flair with food early on in life, and he began his career by working for a set of prestigious hotel restaurants in India. His advanced management and chef skills allowed him to quickly improve, and his early achievements were widely recognised, enabling him to travel to London in order to continue to further his career. Upon arriving he maintained his rate of success, rapidly becoming head chef at one of the finest Indian restaurants in England, Tamarind. It was here in 2001 where he became the first Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin star, leading him to become a household name in cooking at just 32.
Less than a year after this triumph, he opened his own restaurant, Benares. Upon opening, the restaurant quickly grabbed the attention of critics and foodies, and today is regarded by many to be one of the best Indian restaurants in the world, with Kochhar earning his second Michelin star with the restaurant in 2007. Notable for his merging of British and Indian cuisine, Kochhar displays his genuine passion for British food and culture, and the way in which British gastronomy has adopted many different aspects from other countries’ cuisines. He combines this passion with his considerable knowledge of recipes from his home country of India, and strives to correct many of the preconceived and often misunderstood Western conceptions of Indian cuisine.
Since the success of Benares, Kochhar has been able to open further restaurants in Dublin and London, as well as joining with P&O Cruises to engage with their long-running relationship with India and promote the best of both cuisines, through the use of simple yet flavourful dishes.
Indian food is widely regarded as the UK‘s favourite cuisine, with Chicken Tikka Masala being coined as the national dish and two-thirds of all British dining out attributed to Indian restaurants. Britons bow to India’s use of full flavours, creamy sauces, rich meats and tender use of fish. However not all of these characteristics hold true across Indian cuisine, as Kochhar informs us in his book Curries of the World (2013), in which he explains how traditional food within India can range dramatically, through mouth-watering recipes.
It was after stringent research and widespread travel that Atul Kochhar released Curries of the World, which expertly goes into the history of the curry dish, seeking to clear many of the assumptions that people hold with regards to what comprises a ‘true’ curry. In the introduction he outlines how meanings of the word curry differentiate from the UK to India, where use of the word is far more distinct than in the United Kingdom. Cuisine within India varies drastically depending on the particular region, and Kochhar notes the importance of this when researching different dishes to explore. Filled with fascinating historical information on the UK, India and their respective gastronomies, in addition to recipes that make the stomach rumble, this book is his third, having also produced Fish, Indian Style (2008) and Indian Essence (2004).
Kochhar’s travels around India and the world have aided his deconstruction of traditional Indian dishes in order to improve and modernise them, whilst still retaining the original flavours and highlights that made the dishes so originally enticing. His coupling of Indian and British ingredients and flavours make his food stand out from his contemporaries, and today on top of his regular television appearances, he owns various esteemed restaurants across London and the UK, each upholding the same high set of standards as the last.