Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tete-a-tete with Celebrity French Chef Marc Thuet

Thanks to the Kolkata Food Bloggers, I was invited to a meeting with the celebrity French chef Marc Thuet at The Hub, Taj Bengal. It was a blistering hot afternoon, when I reached the Taj. There were butterflies in my stomach....I was so nervous!

The Taj Bengal

Firstly, I had never met a celebrity chef before (only seen them on TV) and second I had limited knowledge about French food. According to me, French food is light on taste and uses lot of cheese. Now I like my food spicy, hot, and tangy. But I was in for surprises....

After settling in and saying all the "how-do-yous" we met Biana Zorich, Chef Marc's lovely wife and business partner. She broke the ice pretty fast and very soon we were all chatting away merrily. She educated me about the fact that French food is lighter on spices but uses the freshest of ingredients. All the meat and vegetables have to be absolutely fresh to bring out the subtle flavors. The use of cheese (especially goat cheese) gives a delicate flavor to the dishes that needs to be savored.

Chef Marc Thuet and Biana Zorich
Soon after, we were served the soup. The soup was a cold soup called "Cold Cucumber Soup with Goat Cheese and Sun-dried Tomatoes". The soup was really refreshing since it was deliciously cool and flavoured with mint with a generous drizzle of olive oil. There were chunks of soft goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, that gave a yummy texture to the soup. I loved it!

Cold Cucumber Soup with Goat Cheese and Sun-dried Tomatoes
Next up was the classic French Baguette. Being a bread enthusiast, I was beaming with happiness to taste this classic bread. It's now on my bookmarked list! The baguette is a sourdough bread and the yeast used in this bread is made from a culture that the Chef had carried all the way from Canada! The best way to eat a baguette is to dip a piece in olive oil and pop it into your mouth. The crusty exterior and the pillow soft interior, is what a baguette is famous for!

French Baguette with Olive Oil
The main course started off with the "Cured Quebec Duck Magret, Sweet Water Prawns, Black Cumin Caramel and Mango". This dish beautiful in appearance and taste. I will do the picture do all the talking.

Cured Quebec Duck Magret, Sweet Water Prawns, 
Black Cumin Caramel and Mango
This was followed by the "Gremolata Crusted Lamb Rack, Basil, and Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes". This dish was Wow! At the first look, I though that perhaps the lamb meat was rare done. When I bit into the meat, I was pleasantly surprised. The meat was tender and juicy with a hint of freshly crushed pepper. 

Gremolata Crusted Lamb Rack, Basil, and Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes
For those who are sea-food allergic, Biana asked for a special dish "Cured Duck with Parmesan Shavings and Rocket Leaves". Here it is:

Cured Duck with Parmesan Shavings and Rocket Leaves
The masterpiece of the entire meal was the Risotto. This was "Wild Mushroom Risotto with Parmesan Shavings". Frankly, I am not an ardent Risotto fan, but this was something special. The rice was al-dente (meaning not fully cooked) and cooked in a creamy, cheesy sauce. The taste was like a childhood comfort food. I loved it so much that I polished it off the plate before I could click any pictures!

The desserts were exquisite and to-die for. There was "Chocolate Caramel Mousse Verrine with Sea Salt Crumble" and "Saffron Tartlet with Golden Peach and Alphonso Compote, Maple Syrup and Walnut Crumble". The mousse had combined the taste of chocolate with sea-salt and slight bitterness...but it was unforgettable. The Tartlet was fruity and delicate in flavour.

While we were savoring the desserts, the Chef came out to meet us. Big, blonde, with a powerful voice, Chef Marc Thuet is a personality to remember. His arms were tattooed till the elbow and a pair of shades rest on his blonde hair. The Chef is a fourth-generation chef who began his apprenticeship in his uncle's restaurant at the age of twelve. Born in Alsace, France, Chef Marc is currently based in Canada. He has appeared in reality television series "Conviction Kitchen" where he trains twelve ex-cons to run a restaurant in Vancouver. The Chef believes in using solely organic and fresh ingredients.

Interestingly, he told us that he had chalked up a menu in Canada which he promptly discarded after arriving in Kolkata. The reason? The temperature in Canada was minus 20 degrees C whereas in Kolkata it is 38 degrees C! He then decided upon a menu that would be suitable to the taste, palate, and weather conditions in Kolkata. Here is a sneak-peek into the menu:

It was wonderful talking to the Chef and learning the differences between French and Indian cuisine.

Chatting with the Chef
I came away with a very satisfied feel. The food was light, non-spicy, and easy on the stomach. 

The French Culinary Experience is part of the International Vine and Food Festival being held at Taj Bengal. You can catch lunch or dinner till the 18th of April 2014, for INR 2500 (plus taxes) for two. Don't miss it!