Sydney's critically acclaimed Indian restaurant Aki’s, has become the only Indian restaurant in Australia to receive a coveted ‘Chef’s Hat’.
The announcement, made at The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide Awards, has left chef owner Kumar Mahadevan beaming with pride.
Following his coveted win, Lifestyle FOOD caught up with Chef Kumar, also known as “Australia’s Godfather of Indian cuisine” and probed him on what inspires him in the kitchen and his top tips for cooking the ultimate Indian curry.
Try these recipes for Kumar Mahadevan's signature dishes:
When did you realise you wanted to be a chef?
I have wanted to be a chef right since I can remember – some of my earliest memories involve cooking at home with my mother in grandmother. I have grown up around their passion for food and I have always had a knack for flavours!
Congratulations on Aki’s receiving a Hat – you and the team must be thrilled! Does an accolade like this mean a lot to you?
Thank you! This is the ultimate recognition for team morale, and gives us the lift we need to take it to the next level. It is nice to be acknowledged by the industry for our dedication to Indian cuisine. When I opened Aki’s in 2003 on the Woolloomooloo Wharf, it was considered a risk – I was trying to place Indian food in the market as a fine dining cuisine not just a casual, take away style of food. The process of education and acceptance of Indian cuisine in this way has truly been validated receiving this honour from the Good Food Guide.
What is unique about your restaurant?
At Aki’s I am always trying to innovate and create modern dishes, bringing together Indian traditions with the most up-to-date contemporary techniques. I always use the freshest produce and keep things light and delicately spiced, which is often not the case with Indian cuisine.
Who or what inspires you in the kitchen?
I travel back to India regularly so that I know what is going on with local chefs and regional Indian cuisine. I am always inspired by fresh produce, such as seafood – we have such a wealth of this in Sydney so I like to make the most of it!
What is your signature dish?
There are a few, but probably one of the most recognised is my palak patta chaat – it has been on the menu since my restaurant Abhi’s opened over 20 years ago.
Describe your ‘ultimate’ meal.
As always – it would be a white truffle degustation cooked by my good friend and fellow chef Danny Russo. I love Italian food, especially his!
What’s the most bizarre dish you’ve ever tried?
I have had some interesting meals on planes before…
What are your top tips for cooking an Indian curry?
It is important to understand the flavour of each spice on its own, and blend them cleverly. It is very important not to over complicate the dish with spices – you want it to be delicate and fragrant, not heavy and over powering!
Any other secrets or tips for LifeStyle FOOD fans to help them cook authentic Indian cuisine at home?
Don’t use packet spices or herbs - fresh is always best. Fennel and green cardamom are great additions to many Indian dishes. Fresh coriander is another versatile herb.
Aki’s is located at 1/6 Cowper Wharf Rd, Woolloomooloo. To make a reservation please call 02 9332 4600 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.