Chennai, June 1 - With different varieties of mangoes hitting the market, it is only natural for star hotel chefs like Meril Antony Aricatt to be bitten by the bug and whip up full-fledged mango meals.
But dal/sambar and rasam made with raw and ripe mangoes are passe as this is the southern part of India; so what is new?
But mango mushroom curry or herb crusted red snapper with alphonse mousseline are the items that are not normally available in hotels which we offer now as part of Mango Menu Food Festival May 23-June 8, Aricatt, executive chef at The Gateway Hotel-IT Expressway Chennai, told IANS.
Aricatt, 42, a holder of dual degrees - physics and hotel management - who has milked real cows and hunted rabbits in his younger days has prepared a decent menu for vegans and non-vegans.
Offering Aam Ka Panna - raw mango fizz - Aricatt agreed that not many star hotel executive chefs can milk a cow or would have hunted a rabbit.
These things happened because I was born and brought up in a village in Thrissur district in Kerala. At home we had cows and one gets trained in the activity, he remarked.
For those who opt for cocktails, Aricatt offers Aamaruda (vodka, mango and guava juice); mango-tango-tini (vodka, cointreau and mango puree) and tropical sunrise (fizzy rum, mango juice and litchi).
Trying his luck with bank exams after his physics degree, Aricatt decided to go for catering technology as one of his relatives was a chef and had gone overseas.
By this time the barbeque chicken with mango salsa arrived on the table.
The chicken is marinated in mango juice for quite some time. This is not a usual dish in hotels, he claimed.
The chicken with the tinge of mango flavour tasted great and in no time the plate was emptied.
Armed with a hotel management qualification, Aricatt joined Taj Hotels and later decided to board the cruise liner Queen Elizabeth-2, popularly known as QE2, as a chef.
Queried about star hotels not considering the ship work experience, he said: Earlier it was so but not any more. There are several avenues available for professional chefs now.
Meanwhile the attractive herb crusted red snapper with roasted vegetable ratatouille, garlicky haricot and scalloped potato with alphonso mousseline was served.
While the eyes started devouring the fish dish, the mouth started salivating for good reason. With the alphonso mousseline, the fish tasted divine.
One decided against a second helping as competing for the stomach space were other items like the mango mushroom curry, prawn and mango curry, ambade ka murgh (chicken dish) and mamdikai pappu (toor dal cooked with raw mango with a tinge of jaggery).
The mushroom curry made with almond, cashew paste and with a tinge of mango tasted very different from the usual version.
The curries and the dal go well with rice, roti and crispy dosa.
Asked about his speciality dish, Aricatt pointed to the red fish curry/Kerala meen vadichathu.
He has also penned a cook book in Malayalam, Kuttanadan Ruchikal, jointly with chef Ashok Eapen.
A good executive chef should have knowledge of at least eight cuisines, he added.
Speaking about his experience as a member of pre-opening of the hotel, Aricatt said: Initially I was reluctant. But on realising that the opportunities for being a member of a pre-opening team are rare, I decided to accept.
He said the challenge was forming and setting up the team. The other major work is designing the work flow inside the kitchen.
One has to know the market that the hotel is supposed to serve and accordingly food trials are to be done. Depending on the positioning of the property, the food rates are to be fixed while taking into account the competition, Aricatt said, offering the dessert.
For the sweet tooth, there's caramelised raw mango centred white chocolate mousse with mango chutney, mango kulfi, mango-misu of flavoured mascarpone cream, cat's tongue and kahlua and blueberry compote.
A meal for two would cost around Rs.3,500. The Mango Menu is available for dinner at the hotel's 120-cover all-day dining restaurant Buzz.
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