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Narendra Sharma is the executive chef at Ananda in the Himalayas. He has worked in a number of luxury resorts around the world, including several Oberoi hotels, Six Senses Hotels, Soneva Gili Resort and Spa in the Maldives, Al Bustan Palace, Muscat (Oman) and the French Fine Dining restaurant La Madeleine in Chennai, helping to expand his culinary expertise. He has been twice awarded with a Times Food Award for best restaurant, and has appeared on cooking programmes in India and the UK, including "From Birmingham to Bombay", a documentary by food archaeologist Alan Coxon.
What inspired you to become a chef?
From my childhood I used to like cooking in my mum's kitchen. My passion started with Indian chai which I was very fond of. Slowly I started observing my mom preparing many Traditional Indian dishes and I fell in love with food from then on.
How do you choose to mix Western, Asian and Indian flavours in your dishes?
It's an art which you learn with time, through the path of culinary exploration one learns to marry different flavours, textures and techniques. Like how lamb will absorb mint in a confit and sweet spice will accentuate duck legs.
Amphitheatre at Ananda in the Himalayas
What would you say are your five most important ingredients in your kitchen?
My collection of fresh herbs and Spices because they can transform any humble thing to something truly extravagant.
Nuts as we focus on health and well- being. Nothing is more nutritious then nuts.
My carefully selected first press oils, be it olive, almond, mustard, or walnut.
Himalayan pink salt - this salt from India and Pakistan can actually transform a dish. The subtle flavour as well as the crunchy texture is excellent with salads and appetizers.
Milk - no one can do what Indians can do with milk in desserts. It's a must in my kitchen where we use Cow, water buffalo, goat milk and of course soy milk for vegans.
What's your favourite dish that you make at Ananda?
The entire menu is near to my heart as this is the result of months of my research and carefully selected dishes and ingredients. But my favourite is the "Beet root and barley risotto" with some grilled artichoke on top.
How do you tailor the meals to clients' special programme needs?
Besides the dosha based menu which we change every day to provide interesting variety, we place special emphasis on clients with special needs. Lots of our guests have allergies and intolerances for certain ingredients. We have developed a vast repertoire of recipes for these kind of guests as we try to fulfil their needs and exceed their expectation.
Beautiful view at Ananda
Can you explain the concept of Ayurveda food?
Ayurveda is based on Tri Dosha theory. It explains that human body is constituted of 5 ELEMENTS namely:
Fire which is the transformation energy in our body. The Dosha which is associated with it is known as PITTA
Air which is energy which gives us locomotion and mind. The Dosha which is associated with it is known as VATA
Water which represents stability and strength in our body the Dosha which is associated with it is known as KAPHA
Earth is the element which gives structure to our body this element remains constant. Our life style habits environment and age body develops an imbalance in the constitution of FIRE AIR AND WATER which gives birth to different kind of maladies in our body, Ayurveda helps in balancing all these elements and regain health.
Why is a healthy and nutritious diet so important?
Ayurveda says 'What you eat is reflected in your body, mind, and action', which makes it very essential to know what is good for me and what is healthy and nutritious for my body type. Such a focus on the food groups consumed and correct cooking methods used will leave you feeling fresh and energetic rather than passive and debilitated.
Dinner on the tree top deck at Ananda
Give us three tips to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
Eating fresh food cooked just before meal. Never eat old leftover food.
Eat according to season, eat what is in season.
Consult an ayurvedic physician, know your body type and eat according to your body type.
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