Monday, March 10, 2014

Chef of the Week: Nira Singh

Nira Singh

Born and raised in Montreal, Chef Nira, an Indian Canadian, considers growing up in this food epicenter a culinary and cultural privilege.  It was in Montreal that she learned about seasonality and picked up diverse culinary approaches to cooking. 

Named after her childhood nickname, Nini, her restaurant, Chez Nini in New Delhi's Lodhi Colony is the focal point of new age French cooking. Chef Nira carefully crafts a "mindful menu" using locally sourced ingredients from artisan producers. 

Living in New Delhi for the past six years has allowed Chef Nira to grow, learn and put her culinary ideals to practice. She believes that the culinary world has allowed her to live the creative life she always dreamed of. Her inspiration for food comes from artists whose work and lives she admires. Nira's eclectic design sensibility and love for the arts is at full display in Chez Nini, where one can find her personalized touch in every detail. Her beautiful personality and delicate good looks just go on to add to the allure of Chez Nini.

Chef Nira trained at the prestigious ITHQ (Institut de Tourisme et d'Hotellerie du Quebec) in Montreal, Canada’s premier culinary institute. She has been mentored by, and trained under, revered names such as Andrew Whitley of Bread Matters and Chef Daren Bergeron of Fou D'Ici. Here's our Chef of the Week, Chef Nira sharing with us some insights into what makes Chez Nini so special: 

Refreshingly simple decor of Chez Nini with an interesting 'chandelier'

  • The hottest selling item on your menu.
The french answer to pizza: our pissaladiere 
Pesto & Mushroom Pissaladiere

  • One dish you are extremely proud of creating.
Our Organic Duck burger 
Organic Duck Burger

  • Which is the oldest dish on your menu?
Our mushroom ragout over baked polenta, it's loved by vegetarians as much as non-vegetarians. 

  • Most expensive dish on the menu?
Our pork belly, we source the safest pork in India. 
  • What is the latest addition to your menu?
We recently added a weekly prix-fixe menu that will be a three course offering specially crafted by the chef at the very special price of 1000 INR. It's in the spirit of seasonality and worshopping for our big James Beard dinner. 

  • Name some celebrities who frequent your restaurant? Their favourite dishes?
We don't discuss our clients as we want them to feel anonymous and comfortable when they come to us.  

Chocolate Caramel Tart at Chez Nini
  • The dish on your menu that gives the most value for money.
All of them, our menu is not very large but we have narrowed down the strongest dishes and have something available for everyone. 
  • The best thing about being a chef.
Creating what I want and learning to improve everyday. Also meeting new people everyday. 

  • The worst thing about being a chef.
  • The best home cooked dish you enjoy. Who makes it?
 In india is curry and rice....back home it's steak and fries.
  • If you were not a chef, what would you have been? And why?
I would have loved to have worked in the art world. I feel most alive and joyful surrounded by creativity and introspection. 
  • One chef you really admire and look upto?
Inaiki Aizpitarte from Chateaubriand in Paris. He was a gardner and now one of the best chefs in the world. He is self taught, inspired and very inspiring
  • What’s the USP of your restaurant?
Well first that I'm the chef, the proprietor and pretty much everything in between. Also we genuinely use local, seasonal and fresh ingredients. Everything is from scratch and we put a very strong focus on technique and mindful practices. 
  • What do you like about the city you are in-Delhi?
It's energizing and never leaves you asking for more! 
  • One guest you wish to be able to create a dish for. Who would that be? And what would you serve him/her? 
I get to do that everyday! I'm lucky, I wouldn't ask for any more wishes. 
  • Would you like to share a special recipe or two with our readers?
I'm not a strong believer in sharing recipes as much as in sharing technique. That empowers the reader to create their own recipes and have a deeper understanding on how to handle ingredients.  One tip I can give everyone who loves fried potatoes of any sort is to google triple frying. It's explained so well all over the net so I don't need to add my two cents. Indian potaoes are high in sugars so this technique works very well!

Chez Nini upstairs, airy and alive

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