December 11, 2015

The day I wore a Chef’s Hat & went behind-the-scenes at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar

Me wearing a chef’s hat. Your thoughts?

Recently, I wrote an article about the Changing Face of Food in Mumbai – we’re so much more aware of food and there’s that much more to choose from. And while this kind of growing interest can lead us to believe that we are experts, the truth is that most of us know far too little about what it takes to actually run a restaurant. How are the ingredients sourced? What are the quality checks in place? So when the JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar invited me to get a behind-the-scenes look at the life of their new chef, Chef Roberto of the Italian Restaurant Romano’s, I was very keen to know more!

Joash, Ekta, Mohit, Yours truly Purabi.

That’s us bloggers, Ekta, Joash, Purabi and Mohit. The plan was to source our ingredients and work in the kitchen with Chef Roberto on a specially curated menu for lunch. Icing on the cake? Each of us got to invite a plus one to join us for lunch.

And Taarini joins us.

…and Taarini joined us just as we started doing the rounds of the commissary where the veggies are stored. We also got to step into the cold storage rooms where the temperatures are as low as -5 and -19 degrees Celsius. Ironically, Taarini and I broke the ice in this frigid room, I met her for the first time and while she was happy to chat with me in this cold room, I, as you can tell from my sleeveless LBD, was freezing! We burst into laughter as I dragged her out of the cold storage room to finish our conversation.


The butchery has all kinds of meats in the most hygienic conditions. Did I mention that apart from the main chefs, the staff behind-the-scenes had no clue that a bunch of us bloggers would be popping by?

And then there was the bakery section, there’s always time for a macaron, isn’t there?

There were rustic loaves of bread…

…and on our way back to the kitchen I spotted this rack with stunning copper vessels! Be still my heart! You guys know I’m a kitchen prop hoarder, right? I’m seriously coveting the copper jam-making basin. What do you fancy from here?

Aspargi Con Gorgonza.

Once back in the open kitchen of Romano’s – yes all the food is cooked right in front of the diners who eat at the restaurant- we teamed up in twos to get cracking on lunch. Purabi and I started with the ‘Aspargi Con Gorgonza’ which is basically asparagus in a lemon butter sauce topped with gorgonzola and caramelized onions. The asparagus (what is the plural for asparagus?) were plump and in my opinion, made a world of a difference to the final dish because they didn’t go limp by the time we were done cooking. We took turns to learn to make the perfect little quenelles with the cheese and then moved on to the Pan Seared Salmon in Shallot Sauce.

Pan Seared Salmon in a creamy shallot sauce!

Searing is something I struggle with sometimes, because it’s all about timing, especially when you handle something as delicate as salmon. I finally nailed it here with Chef Roberto guiding us.

Moi, Chef Roberto Purabi.

Can you imagine cooking and plating food like this under intense pressure every day?

Purabi and I were also fascinated to find some black garlic in the kitchen. Have you ever tried it? It’s not a different variety of garlic or anything, but regular garlic that’s roasted at a low temperature for anywhere between 20 to 40 days until it takes on this colour and the flavour… OMG you have to taste it to believe it! Over this period of time the garlic loses its sharpness and becomes intensely caramelized and sweet. And such details are what I feel make up the essence of what Chef Roberto brings to Romano’s… that little touch of something extra. It was used in the risotto that Ekta Joash made and elevated the flavour completely!

Risotto in the making! It’s got black garlic fresh mushrooms!

Even when Ekta’s making risotto, there’s always time for a selfie!

With Ekta.

Too many cooks spoil the broth? I love that we subverted this completely. Just have a look at what we cooked up, all under the guidance of a chef who believes in merging the essence of Italian home cooking with nuances of fine dining.

The ‘Insalata Romano’s ‘ Salad that Ekta Joash made.

I’m a salad person, can live on them for days regardless of the season and this salad had a good balance of textures with the fresh arugula, lettuce and nuts. Goat’s cheese with a tiny drizzle of balsamic to bring everything together.

Seafood Bruschetta!

The scallop, salmo
n and crabmeat bruschetta was a good departure from the vegetarian ones you usually find on menus.

Chef Robert’s special recipe for Chocolate Salami.

Of all the recipes, I was really happy to see that the Chef brought this classic Italian dessert, seldom found in India, to Romano’s. It’s rich, intensely chocolatey and not overly sweet. The name can make you do a double-take, but it’s only because the dessert is shaped like a large salami roll and the individual servings look like slices of salami. It also has chunks of roughly chopped up, shortcrust biscuits that add some subtle crunch to it.

Who can resist Berries Millefeuille?

Crisp pastry, whipped cream, fresh berries and compote, there’s little that can go wrong here!

When you place your order in a restaurant, the clock starts ticking, you want your food on the table at the opportune moment – it has to taste great, be impeccably presented and create a memory. Today, I’ve deviated from my regular kind of posts to show you the journey of a finely curated meal with premium quality ingredients. It takes a lot to bring this to your table and I hope I’ve been able to capture a glimpse of this for you guys. Let me know what you think in the comments! Ciao for now!

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