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Published on: May 3, 2022, 11:06 a.m.
Michelin stars are back
  • La Villa Lorraine, Brussels

By Suvendu Banerjee

His creativity and talent does not need to be proven. It was evident in ample measure as The Chambers in the two Taj Mahal flagship hotels in Delhi and Mumbai presented a rendezvous with Michelin-starred Chef Yves Mattagne. It was Yves Mattagne’s first visit to India and perhaps the first visit to India by a Michelin Star Chef after the pandemic. The turnout was selective and those who came were, needless to say, impressed. Chef Mattagne loves to serve global cuisine deeply influenced by his trips abroad, apart from the classical French-Belgium cooking.

Following a stint with the Belgian navy, Chef Mattagne got his first Michelin star in 1991, which was followed by a second star in 1997. In 2010, Yves became the owner of Sea Grill, which retained its two Michelin stars till its closure for renovation in 2019. He relocated to La Villa Lorraine in Uccle, Belgium in 2020, providing customers a fine casual and low dining experience with plenty of music

Paired with a handpicked selection of beverages, Chef Mattagne delighted diners in Delhi and Mumbai with a seven-course meal, including exquisite seafood dishes like lobster flamed with single malt whisky, scallops and smoked eel.  For vegetarians, there were plenty of options like burned avocado, white asparagus and kimchi coal with hardy pear. The sand carrots, white eggplant and hirame with oyster maki deserve special mention.

“We present for our guests a special rendezvous where Chef unravels the secrets of the culinary world as he recreates the spirit of La Villa Lorraine,” said Satyajeet Krishnan, area director, New Delhi, and general manager, Taj Mahal, Delhi, while welcoming Chef Mattagne. 

Chef Mattagne was happy to have this collaboration and invited Indian guests to his restaurants in Belgium. In fact, the continental menus of Jet Airways during its halcyon days were created by Chef Mattagne for international flights more than a decade ago. His travels in Asia have also impacted his classical French cooking. “My team and I feel welcome and look forward to future culinary collaborations showcasing our signature flavours from La Villa Lorraine,” said Chef Mattagne at the conclusion of his two-city trip.

While Chef Mattagne was having gourmands eat out of his hands, Chef Massimo Bottura, who runs Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, with three Michelin Stars, and has a waiting list running into several months, was in Mumbai. He had a couple of dinners in collaboration with Culinary Culture recently, where reservations vanished in 10 minutes with nearly a hundred on the wait list. 

His restaurants top best-selling charts where diners throng to try his contemporary version of Italian favourites. Chef Bottura draws references from art and artists and feels that chefs have to cook food like engineers build fast cars. “Food is similar to art and chefs are artisans obsessed about good food based on quality”, emphasised Bottura.

  • Chef Mattagne loves to serve global cuisine deeply influenced by his trips abroad, apart from the classical French-Belgium cooking; Photo: Suvendu Banerjee

    Chef Mattagne loves to serve global cuisine deeply influenced by his trips abroad, apart from the classical French-Belgium cooking; Photo: Suvendu Banerjee

Sometime ago, highly acclaimed Chef Srijith Gopinathan, who earned two prestigious Michelin stars for the Taj Campton  Place restaurant in San Francisco, had joined hands with Sriram Aylur, his Taj group colleague and master chef of central London’s Quilon (another Michelin starrer) fame, to curate a one-of-a-kind evening, which blended South-west Indian coastal cuisine with California-inspired Indian dishes at Taj Hotels in India. But that Michellin-starred culinary soiree happened pre-pandemic. Now, other Michellin stars have started coming. As the hotel industry opens up, this trend is bound to grow.

The Michelin Guide is increasingly focussing on Asia and the Singapore and Bangkok ‘red books’ have been launched in recent years. India does not have a Michelin guide yet. However, many Indian restaurants abroad have been awarded Michelin stars. 

Retaining the Michelin stars is certainly not easy – a restaurant could get a star and lose it the following year. Ultimately, what matters is serving ‘good quality food consistently’ and the restaurant can add or lose Michelin stars based on annual inspections. Typically, Michelin inspectors undergo rigorous training and often visit the same restaurant several times. A point to note is that Michelin stars are awarded to restaurants and not the chefs – though the chefs manning these restaurants draw the diners like rock stars and proudly wear the tag. 

The top Indian chefs running such restaurants include Vikas Khanna, Vineet Bhatia, Atul Kochhar, Alfred Prasad and Manjunath Mural. Gareema Aurora became the first Indian woman to be awarded a Michelin star for her restaurant Gaa in Bangkok in 2018.

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