Rohit Ghai understands the culinary traditions of India since it is his second nature. Growing up around Punjabi dishes and a fiery family of talented cooks he went on to become the Group Executive Chef of the JKS Group of restaurants, which includes Trishna, Gymkhana and Hoppers. Now, on the verge of opening his next new venture – the signature Indian restaurant of The Leela Palaces, Hotels, and Resorts - Jamavar located in Mayfair, London – he is taking on the paramount challenge: creating a definitive Indian essence in arguably the world’s biggest metropolitan melting pot. Indeed, Jamavar will showcase the unique flavours of the Royal kitchens of North India along with the succulent options from the rivers and shores of the South. The restaurant decor takes its inspiration from the old Viceroy’s House in New Delhi. And, with Rohit’s passion and an eye for flavourful aesthetics, you will be not only guaranteed an authentic experience, but one that’s sophisticated and elite.
Do you have a Signature style of cooking?
My approach is rooted in the traditions of Indian slow cooking, which I pair with French techniques, but without compromising on authenticity.
What differentiates the presentation in your dishes?
There is such a wide variety of fresh, exotic and seasonal ingredients available in the UK that I feel their presentation on a plate must do justice to the many flavours.
Is there a special dish that sums up your talents?
I truly enjoy telling the story of India through its cuisine. In fact, I am travelling across India to dig deeper into the country's culinary wealth and create a menu that will appeal to the palate of the evolved diners of one of the leading world capitals of fine dining. I can’t wait to present these special dishes along with the signature items of Jamavar, including, Lobster Naruli, Sindhi Gosht and Coconut Payasam.
Follow Rohit as he documents his culinary journey through India on Instagram @jamavarlondon
Tell us more about the unique features of your new restaurant?
The restaurant will be set across two floors, and designed by Fabled Studio, London. The decor takes its inspiration from the old Viceroy’s House) in New Delhi. With dining tables designed like chaturanga (ancient Indian chess) boards, the restaurant will reflect the vibrant colours of Jamavar shawls, rainforest emperador marbles, dark timber panelling and a mirror-embellished bar in celebration of the country's textile techniques. There will also be a private dining room for 8 diners with a personal wine vitrine and views of a beautifully planted private garden.
Has there ever been an ingredient that you weren’t able to master and given up on?
There are hardly any ingredients that I don’t like, however, I don’t care much for the taste of Papaya, and tend to not use it in my dishes.
What top tip would you give aspiring young chefs?
I would say that curiosity, creativity and confidence are the ingredients of success in the kitchen, and when combined with a passion to cook, it’s a winning recipe.
What for you are the features of a top quality establishment?
Location is key. For me, offering a wide variety of choice is as important as consistently delivering the best quality and exceeding guest expectations.
How have you been as a chef who needs to deliver product?
I strongly believe in teamwork. A happy, synergised team is bound to reflect its energy in the final product, as they constantly strive to give it their best.
You have worked supervising several restaurants at a time. What’s an interesting business technique you’ve observed?
The goal is to be consistent everyday and offer guests a dinstictive product of the highest quality.
Do you have a favourite technique?
Personally, I love slow cooking, working with textures and also enjoy smoky flavours.
When did you first become interested in cooking?
I’ve always been spurred on by my family. My mother was my greatest inspiration. She prepared all of our meals by hand as I was growing up and I often helped her in the kitchen, taking in everything she did. Since my fondest memories are cooking with my mother back in India, I try to incorporate her cooking secrets into the menus I create.
Finally, what’s a great place you’ve been to eat recently?
Umami in South Kensington, which also has a Michelin star restaurant in Copenhagen, has been a meal to remember. Their flavours are incredible and they use all sorts of fresh and exotic ingredients.