Blog: Mark Poynton in India

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th March 2015
This is the second of three blogs by Michelin starred chef Mark Poynton while he is in India for the Taste of Britain Curry Festival 2015. Pumpkin risotto resizedAfter our fun time on the beach we had to get down to the actual reason I’m here: cooking! After my initial meeting with the chefs, discussing ingredients and service, I discovered that unfortunately three of my dishes would have to be cut and added later on when the correct ingredients could be sourced. The team and I then start prepping for our first service for press and local dignitaries, where two of my dishes would be showcased alongside creations from the UK Curry Chefs. We kicked off with a photo shoot and press conference, where I answered questions about English spices and produce, before we made our way back to the restaurant to cater for lunch. It was here that I was hit by my first dilemma - the High Commissioner wanted to have a sit down meal with me! Something that wouldn't normally be an issue, but I was leaving my dishes to be cooked by eight people who had no idea how to accurately create my dishes, let alone present them.Cod So in between courses, I left the High Commissioner to make a dash to the kitchen to ensure that everything went out correctly and to finish the dessert, using British strawberries, which thankfully arrived midway through the press conference. I think we pulled it off and everyone left happy. I had another free day after the press conference to try and organise my food, so my team and I started on the prep - wow what a mission this turned out to be. What I hadn't planned for was the fact that reaching the dispense kitchen would mean two separate elevators and a 15 minute walk, to find out the produce was arriving in dribs and drabs. Unfortunately, it was at this point I lost my temper and told the boys to get everything they could find that was on my list and bring it back upstairs. Two hours later, the boys turned up with half the stuff we needed, so to make the most of the situation, we worked with what we could, thinking we could get some stuff done and get the rest sorted in the morning. We worked until 3am preparing what we could and it was at this point I told them to get some sleep and I would see them at 9am to push on. However, this is when I found out how dedicated the Indian chefs are, not only would they not leave the kitchen until I did, they told me they work 28 days a month for 1000rps which works out to the equivalent of about £100 for the month. Next morning we tried to scrape together the remaining ingredients so we could finalise a menu. We managed it somehow and were ready and set for service at six pm to do a briefing with FOH staff. DuckI and my assigned number two, Roberto, then created all the dishes; minus the three we didn't have ingredients for, as well as talking the staff through each of the dishes, one at time. Everyone understood and we were ready to roll. Service started at 7pm and the checks started pouring in. This is when the reality that Indian diners are not in any way like westerners kicked in. Four people ordered just one carrot soup with whipped goat’s cheese, coriander, cumin and pickled carrots, and two mains to split and share between all of them. This was then followed by a complaint that they were still hungry. I had a job on my hands trying to explain to these guests that if you order one starter and two main courses between four people, not to mention no dessert, is it any wonder you would still be hungry? I was soon notified that things work a bit differently in Chennai and if an order like this comes through, they have to serve four portions of soup and main courses regardless of the order, as this is what they are expecting – lesson learnt! Mark PoyntonIn blog three, the Queen’s birthday party for 400 or is that 750? Mark Poynton is the chef patron of Michelin starred restaurant Alimentum in Cambridge. Mark started his career at the age of 15 at the Queen Hotel in Chester, before moving on to work at Juniper in Altrincham. After seven years with Daniel Clifford at Midsummer House in Cambridge, Mark became head chef at Restaurant Alimentum and took over the Michelin starred restaurant in early 2010.
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th March 2015

Blog: Mark Poynton in India