Celebrity chef Sarah Todd shares memories from a life-changing trip and why she loves Indian cuisine so much! By Shikha Pushpan
When I met Australian Chef Sarah Todd during her brief visit to New Delhi recently, she had barely come to terms with a devastating fire that ravaged her Goa-based restaurant, Antares, in January this year. Still visibly shaken by the incident, the Mackay-born model- turned-chef says she is determined to reopen the 250-seater al fresco restaurant later this year, with an all-new menu and interiors.
“I’m blown away by the kind of support I’ve received. People from Denmark, UK, Dubai, Australia, etc. — who’ve been to Antares — reached out to me and expressed their support.”
So, how’s this new restaurant going to look? “While Antares was initially designed using a lot of earthen colours and natural elements, like bamboo and wood, this time the interiors will be a tad brighter — with more of white and green, without really taking away the essence of the place.”
Todd’s minimalist approach towards decor extends to her kitchen. “While flavour is definitely more important [in a dish], I pay equal importance to the visual element. The first sense is your eyes, then the nose, and then it’s the taste. The food should look good, smell good, and taste good. That’s how you process a dish.”
“I’m trying to teach [the cooking staff at Antares] to simplify things. Simple plating — minus any fluff or unnecessary garnishes — is my thing. The trend where chefs used [edible] chemicals to beautify food is gone! It’s back to basics,” says Todd, whose Mumbai-based restaurant and bar, The Wine Rack, is breaking the stigma around pairing Indian food with wine.
Among the most popular chefs in the country, Todd’s ties with India and its food go back a few years. “I first tasted Indian food through my former partner, Devinder Garcha, and his London-based family. His grandmother taught me the recipes of traditional Indian dishes, such as keema, laal maas and gulab jamun.”
Todd and Garcha are parents to a six-year-old boy, Phoenix, who accompanied the chef on a recent trip to India’s northeast and to Kashmir. “We spent 10 days in Assam recently, where we went on a cruise along the Brahmaputra, explored Majuli, took a safari in Kaziranga National Park and devoured some amazing Assamese food. In Nagaland, we interacted with local tribes and communities and learnt about their unique cultural practices.
However, Kashmir was a life-changing trip for me — its got such a raw, untouched vibe. The people are so beautiful, and the wazwan was such a revelation,” says Todd, adding that she can easily go vegetarian for a month in India! “The vegetarian food here is so flavourful — prepared using different layerings, spicing, sauces and time-honoured methods. I love the breads — dosa, roti, poi, sanna, kulcha, rumali roti… I have never seen any country with so many different breads.” We agree!