Interview With Chef Peter Joseph From Kahani London
Kahani which means “story”, a newly opened restaurant in London, is ready to win hearts with many stories to begin and many to end. The elegant lighting and alluring color give this restaurant a polished look with a warm and welcoming ambiance. Kahani opened in London in September 2018 ushers the new story in modern Indian cuisine by Michelin starred @ChefPeterJoseph.
Growing up in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India’s southernmost state, meant Peter Joseph was brought up on dishes such as idli, dosas and sambar, foods full of flavor and color. But it was the importance of food in the home and the passion he saw when his parents cooked that really inspired him. ‘I loved watching my mum put dishes together – the way she used lots of fun colorful ingredients and spices was always something that intrigued me,’ he tells us. ‘She would always pack me off to school with a tiffin box full of delights such as parota (fried bread), appam (rice pancakes), sadam (flavoured rice) and always a few sweet treats such as halwa too.’
Let’s find out more about Chef Joseph in an interview.
You specialize in south Indian Cooking. Do you think cooking in India and UK are two different experiences? Even though the ingredients are the same?
The experience of cooking varies from country to country, and ingredients never taste the same – for instance, an Indian mango will taste very different from the mangos that we find in the UK. The climate, water, and soil all play an important part in the final flavor of the ingredient. In Britain, we are lucky to have lots of sustainable, fresh and local ingredients which are particularly good to work with. The key is knowing how to get the best from your ingredients, wherever you are.
What is the one difference you see when you cook food in India compared to the UK?
When people think of British-Indian food they think oily sauces and really heavy meals. In the UK, you typically see Indian dishes made in-authentically with heavy creams and oils. This really isn’t true of authentic Indian cuisine, where dishes are fragrant yet healthy, and I am working to change this misconception of Indian food that exists in the UK.
At Kahani, I have designed the menu to consist of modern dishes cooked using traditional methods. The Tandoor and Robata grill, which get extremely hot and so require very little oil when cooking, make for gorgeous, light dishes. The very best seasonal British ingredients support this, and together with my unique use of spices, the result is great modern Indian food which you will want to eat time and time again.
How did your romance with food begin?
I can trace my love of food and passion for cooking back to my childhood, in Chennai, India. I have fond memories of my mother cooking for me and sending me to school with a tiffin box full of delights such as parotta (shallow fried bread) and a few sweet treats such as barfi (Indian fudge) or halwa. The sensory excitement of vibrant, bustling markets in India, awash with bright colors, tantalizing scents and stalls selling delicious treats is also a memory I return to when cooking up new dishes – I want diners to experience that same sense of wonder and excitement. With my love of food starting at such a young age, I am passionate about cooking food that holds a sense of my heritage – hence the nod to tradition that is present in the dishes at Kahani.
What can guests expect when they arrive at your restaurant?
Guests can expect to be wowed from the moment they step through our green door, which is located by the iconic Cadogan Hall. At Kahani, no detail has been overlooked. We have worked hard to create a luxurious, decadent interior and an inclusive atmosphere.
Kahani means story in Hindi and it is my belief that great food tells its own tale. Diners can expect the menu at Kahani to tell a beautiful fusion of cultures through dishes that showcase the best seasonal British meats, fish and vegetables prepared on the robata grill and tandoor using my unique take on spices for a fresher, healthier take on traditional Indian cuisine. In a nutshell, when arriving at Kahani, guests will receive a warm welcome, attentive and intuitive service and really excellent, flavorsome food, beautifully presented.
What was the biggest turning point of your life?
I was working at Tamarind – I had dedicated so much of myself to the restaurant, working hard as head chef, and gaining experience and knowledge of Michelin standard Indian cooking. I devised menus that gave Indian food a long-awaited overhaul and helped Tamarind become the first Indian restaurant in the world to be awarded a Michelin star! Having achieved this and worked to retain the star for 10 years, I needed a new challenge – here came the turning point – I realized I should be doing this for myself, at my own restaurant. I knew I could really push my vision and be a successful solo.
How do you cope with long hours?
I am a strong believer that if you do a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I am deeply passionate about being a chef and creating food that brings joy. In spite of the long hours, I have never been happier in my career – seeing my dream realized in the form of Kahani makes it all worthwhile. Building up a great team of people to work with also means time flies!
If you were not a chef what would you be doing…
I can’t imagine not being involved with food in some shape or form! I think all paths would lead to this one for me eventually. That said, prior to becoming a chef I did a three-year diploma in hotel management and do love working with people as well as being in the kitchen, so who knows, perhaps I would have opened my very own gastronomic hotel – there is still time…
What are your favorite kitchen tool and your favorite dish?
I couldn’t be without any of my kitchen implements – each item in my kitchen has been considered and is loved and used to create wonderful dishes. That said, my favorite has to be my set of knives. I am very particular about my knives, as most chefs are, and take great care of them. I don’t want to catch anybody using my knives in the kitchen! As for the favorite dish, I would have to say Kulfi. I have a real sweet tooth, and after a busy day in the kitchen, something sweet and cool goes down a treat – especially with the irresistible flavors available in my own kitchen at Kahani!
What is your guilty pleasure?
I have a few food guilty pleasures, I have to admit. The most unusual, which my wife often laughs at me for, is that after a busy Saturday evening service I sometimes go home and enjoy a bowl of cornflakes with ketchup before I go to bed… don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!
What is the best compliment you have ever received?
The best compliment, for me, is always seeing guests come back again and again and enjoying my food in the way I intended – with loved ones and over plenty of conversation. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing people delight in dishes as they arrive at the table and seeing plates come back empty, food having been devoured and appreciated.
What are your plans for the next few years?
I want to keep wowing my diners with exquisite modern Indian cuisine and continue to challenge the misconceptions around Indian food being too heavy. I am constantly working on new ideas and dishes to ensure that I am still innovating, still at the fore of the culinary landscape and still devising menus that will excite and entice diners. I would love to grow Kahani and have several locations in London, the UK and even all over the world – watch this space!
Some words for your fans….
Just a thank you for helping me make my vision a reality and loving the food I create at Kahani. I always take on feedback and keep my ear to the ground to see what my guests are asking for – which is why our vegan and vegetarian specific menus came about – we understood there was a need and I want all our diners to leave with a smile on their faces.
I love having both regulars and newcomers in the restaurant and hope to continue making the kind of food that evokes conversation and delight for my diners.