They say it’s not the nature of the dish that makes it exquisite, but the quality of the chef that made it. That couldn’t be any truer in the modern world that we live in, filled with so many chefs with passion and innovative ideas for the advancement of culinary science. In recent times, the quality of a chef hasn’t just been in the compilation of new and exciting menus, but also in their ability to create and try out new ingredients and methods that will appeal to the customer’s palate.
The eclectic and dynamic Bengaluru-based Chef Seemanta Baruah, with roots in Nalbari, Assam, is one of them.
His childhood may not have been among world-class chefs, but the support from his uncle in the hospitality business; hotels, and restaurants was all he needed to pursue a career in culinary science. Ever since he set out on this path of excellence in cooking, he has gone on to curate menus that involve dishes and cuisines from different parts of the world. From Africa to Asia and South America, Seemanta has worked tirelessly to hone his craft and make a name for himself. He describes his journey around the world curating menus as not only a dream come true but also feeds into his love for travelling.
“I studied in a defence schooling environment; however, I decided to opt for a career in culinary, contrary to joining the defence forces. It was my turning point, and my young rebellious journey took off. I was always fascinated by the bulkiness of all the pots and pans used for cooking meals in the school mess,” he recalls.
“My journey across the high seas took me to hundreds of port cities across the globe. I loved travelling and exploring the South Americas, the unexplored continent with diverse cultures and colourful cuisine. After returning to my country, I realised our palate and spices were very similar,” Seemanta adds.
Seemanta is a firm believer in the use of herbs, edible flowers, and other plants with numerous nutritional and medicinal properties in cooking. He summarises this belief in the aptest words possible, “Culinary is a form of art with deep science behind it; cooking requires skills and energy to burn. However, I firmly believe with passion and knowledge we can take this profession with refinement and innovation to an extraordinary level. Nature has all the incredible ingredients already, we just have to use our experience and creativity.” Seemanta is one chef who’s never afraid of experimenting with his dishes. He relishes cooking Asian cuisines using western cooking methods.
While there are many options to choose from when it comes to ingredients for cooking, many chefs often find themselves overusing a few ingredients that have become peculiar to them. Speaking about this, Seemanta says, “I have learnt it the hard way, the majority of the commercially popular Indian food recipes have been misinterpreted grossly by many eateries. Tomato is one of the ingredients that are quite new to the Indian food culture. It was introduced to us by the Portuguese some 300 years back, but if you observe nowadays, most Indian native dishes are ruined by the overuse of tomatoes in different forms.”
As a result of many talented chefs like Seemanta carrying the torch for Northeastern cuisines, it is slowly and steadily becoming popular globally. Many foreigners are now open to trying more exciting dishes and cuisines out of the Northeast more than in previous times. Some of his best works include curating the menu for his first standalone concept restaurant; Shanghai Salsa in Guwahati, association with the incredible team of CounterCulture (where the musical journey starts with food); being a part of the founding culinary team of The Bier Library Brewery & Kitchen), and continuing.
Highlighting a few of his achievements since his career took off he says, “I am currently the Director of Culinary Operations at The Bier Library, Bangalore. I introduced many firsts in the gastro scene of the city; menu pairing with craft beer, regional delicacies from the entire southern culinary trail, bringing New York City style wood-fired pizzeria, baking the giant 21” pizzas. Curation of multiple brands like Craft of Biryani, The Downtown Pizzeria, and recently launched Juno (Asian & Persian fusion). A self-made recipe that I am immensely proud of is Mojo. I took inspiration from a Cuban marinade. I name my son after it.”
He is not done yet though. There is still a lot of work to be done in putting Northeastern dishes on the map. Speaking on his plans, Seemanta says all he desires is an opportunity to develop a menu from peninsular cuisines. “You need like-minded promoters and passionate investors in this business space, very rarely will you find few who understand food and beverages and its challenges. I follow technology very closely, I wish to work with techies to solve many challenges facing our fraternity soon,” he says.
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