We met with Jomon Kuriakose, Chef de Cuisine at The unique LaLiT London. Set in the historic Grade II listed former St. Olave’s Grammar School’s Assembly Hall; Jomon and the team serve a contemporary take on impeccably executed Indian dishes. We talk to Jomon about all things Indian cooking and his passion for food.
What inspired you to be a chef?
It is pure unconditional love towards food. During my childhood days, whenever I was on my own at home, I would try to cook. My mum was not happy with my eating habits. Once, she complained to one of my teachers about this. It was my teacher Mr Sunil D Kuruvilla, who then inspired me to choose this passion as my career option. I will always be obliged to him.
We hear that one of your specialist arts is plating. Tell us a bit more about it.
My vision is to bring food options of my cuisine to an international gourmet standard with a unique presentation style. Diners will also appreciate a more delightful experience with a stunning plate of food appealing to their visual taste as well as their palate.
Anything could influence me in my food plating, such as a prior memory of a meal or any new ingredients I have seen. I am sometimes sparked by plating ideas that have occurred to me, often by songs, colours of nature, special ingredients, or anything different.
How would your kids describe your cooking?
As a parent, it is our responsibility to teach our children the importance of eating a balanced diet. By making the food enjoyable thereby generating curiosity in them so they want to try the food. The most important thing is to let them know that alternative ways to eat vegetables which are available, and there is nothing more delightful than experimenting with food.
My kids do not like Indian rotis or chapatis. However, I make chapatis with vegetable purées like spinach purée or carrot purée to make them look colourful and appealing. I encourage my little girls (8 and 6) to help me in preparing dishes. I always allow them to pick the vegetables from my little garden/ fridge and to prepare them. They love to eat what they have prepared.
What was the funniest moment of your time on celebrity MasterChef?
Mr Spencer (one of the other contestants) had to work in the tandoor section. Believe me, it requires a lot of skill to manage the tandoor. Mr Spencer worked meticulously and absolutely nailed it, but he kept forgetting the temperature of the heated iron skewers and touched them with his hands. He burnt himself a lot, each time he was screaming rather loudly!
Proudest moment of your career so far?
Definitely the chance to get featured on BBC Celebrity MasterChef.
On the ‘International Chefs Day”, I did a sky dive from 13000 ft for great causes to support bright nursing students in Kerala and to support the Swindon and North Wiltshire Deaf Children Society.
Also recently I have got an invitation from the prestigious West London University to take lessons on our cuisine, our food habits, and the unique food plating style of mine. Back in the days, it was my dream to study at that university.
The LaLiT is an incredible building and has an incredible story. Tell us a bit about it.
It really is a unique place. I love everything about it from the location to the story behind it. The LaLiT London opened in 2017 and we only have 70 rooms. The building is a Grade II listed building and was a school so a lot of the theme follows that.
All the guestrooms differ in design and layout, some of which boast of 30-feet high ceilings. Our bars are also quite fun with some really original cocktails and ingredients.
What did you do during lockdown to keep your mind sharp?
Many things have become a memory; my cherished uniform, meeting colleagues every day, the hustle and bustle of busy function days at the hotel and more. A life where I used to leave for work at the break of dawn and come back home late.
I began experimenting more with Indian cooking with limited resources while trying new plating ideas and sharing them through social media. Our home kitchen became the most happening and comforting place to be. I was fortunate to take virtual cooking classes, food plating tutorials as well as guest speaking at international universities.
While my wife was serving the nation as a key worker I had to cook wholesome meals three times a day for my family. From breakfast to their many sweet cravings, my family supported and encouraged all my new learnings and experiments. I learnt that beyond a Chef, I’m also a husband, a father and a friend, and it was all endearing. It has been an incredible journey of learning and transformation.
Tell us about your menu at The LaLiT and some of the new dishes you created
The north-west frontier is known for its rich curries; this was the inspiration behind Baluchi when it was first launched at The Lalit New Delhi in 1988. Over the years, the restaurant gains the love of its loyal guests and become the cornerstone of fine Indian cuisine.
We have taken the best from Indian heritage and elevate the cuisine to new heights to create an Indian fine dining experience like no other. The food at Baluchi is curated from the best of British ingredients with complex, innovative Indian flavours and modern presentation to surprise and delight its diners. Some of the must try delicacies at Baluchi are a banana stem steak with ivy gourd salad, goose breast Mappas, pumpkin steak (from one of my local cuisines dish called Errisseri) and lobster served with Theeyal (a Keralan delicacy)
What is your favourite restaurant in London?
I love going to Soho. I feel rustic and casual food in London has its own charm and represents the best out of their mother town. But I do crave for my mum’s home cooked food very much.
What is next on the culinary journey for The LaLiT?
To be recognised as a gastronomic destination winning international acclaim and respect for innovation and creativity with an unwavering promise to quality. We are looking forward to winning the heart of each guest and make sure they will leave the hotel with an experience.
To discover more, visit: thelalit.com/the-lalit-london
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