With nearly two decades of culinary experience under his belt, Vaibhav Bhargava is a samurai when it comes to Asian cuisine. After whipping up a delight at two Michelin-starred restaurants and causing a storm in Indian eateries, the dynamic chef has created CHO, a new Vietnamese cuisine and bar in New Delhi, which he says is part of his effort to introduce the Indian audience. with traditional Vietnamese flavors but made for a modern palate.
Excerpts from an interview with the chef:
How did you start your journey as a chef? What has been the highlight of your career so far?
My career took off about twenty years ago. I started my journey from JP Group of Hotels then moved to various other hotels and restaurants such as Hyatt and Olive bar and kitchen. I had the privilege of working at Noma (3 Michelin star restaurant) in Denmark, very early in my career. It not only changed my outlook on things, but helped me grow tremendously as a chef. For me, this will always be the highlight of my career. I was selected as a chef to represent India on a global platform like the Slow Food movement in 2016, 2018 and 2020 (virtually) which was another highlight of my career.
You come from Delhi. Has the state’s diverse culinary culture inspired you?
Delhi, a melting pot of culture, is my home and I was born and raised in Darya Ganj near Purana Delhi. If you ask a Delhiite what two things really stand out about the city, it would be the rich history and the mouth-watering food.
This is where I learned a lot about the culture and traditions of our heritage. There is so much to explore and there is a lot of vibrancy that the city offers. From Chandni Chowk to Majnu ka Tilla, Delhi is brimming with many culinary delights and one can never surpass the gastronomic range our capital has to offer.
Vietnamese cuisine has surely made its presence felt in the capital. How did you decide to create CHO?
CHO is my brain child and was conceived during the pandemic. Due to the lockdown and my previous experience of mastering a similar kitchen in a restaurant in Gurugram and being on receipt of a great response for it, I realized that Delhi needed a concept like CHO . When I found out there was premium space available, I started looking for people I could collaborate with to take the idea forward. There was no turning back!
Herbs and presentation are essential to your diet. Tell us a bit about your process of creating a dish
Creating a dish takes a lot of research and patience because first it’s created in your head, then you write it down on a piece of paper, and then you start putting things together based on balance of the dish, then you draw the diagram on a board with all of these elements together and place them as you visualized them and transfer it to the plate.
Once the dish is ready, my team and I do a first round of tasting and take everyone’s feedback and opinions. Once we have finalized the dish, we hold a tasting for the consumer to absorb their feedback and possibly perfect the dish before it is served.
Does kitchen cross-pollination work in India?
There has always been a cross-pollination of kitchens. In fact, in years past, a lot of cross-pollination took off between Pondicherry and South Asia and Vietnam (both were under French control) as people traveled between these two places for business, travel and travel. pleasure. Therefore, it is not new to our country and we have not been inspired by it, but our food has evolved and crossed barriers due to cross-pollination of cuisines.
Do you think the pandemic has influenced the way people eat?
Somewhere yes, people have become cautious about what they should eat, their food preferences have changed, and in some way everyone is trying to become a healthier version of themselves. Leading a healthy life is very very important and in these difficult times it is very important to see your health as a high priority.
Your comfort food.
Home cooking will always be my comfort food. There is nothing in the world that beats ‘Ghar ka Khana’.
Who do you draw inspiration from in the culinary world?
Oh so many of them the list goes on but yes Chef Rene Redzepi, Chef Tetsuya, Chef Manjit Gill, these chefs have the philosophy of cooking with simplicity and highlighting the ingredients as the star of the recipe and use the best technology to create new textures.
The pandemic has spurred on a whole generation of home chefs in India. Do you think this is good news for the Indian culinary scene?
Yes, to some extent, because few home chefs have really started to do well because they have mastered specific dishes and benefited from them, but from a culinary industry perspective, it takes a lot more than just a cooking at home, so there are both pros and cons. attached to it.
Three dishes that you will recommend from your menu at CHO?
Well, if I have to recommend three dishes from the menu, they would have to be:
- Shrimp Dim Sum with Tobiko
- Crispy Shrimp Rice Papers
- And the third would be my signature faux meat dish. It’s crispy meat and vegetables mixed with Tso chili sauce.