In conversation with chef Dominic Chapman: Curry, spices, and much more
The alchemy and combination to come up with new flavours is nothing short of science and magic combined. In today's world, you have to be nothing short of a maverick to create your flavours. Chef Dominic Chapman is one such person who has travelled the world, gaining knowledge and experience to create something magical. Star Lifestyle had a chance to sit down with the Michelin-starred chef and discuss his method and love for preparing food at the British Curry Festival, held at the five-star hotel, InterContinental Dhaka between 21 and 26 October.
The highly regarded Castle Hotel in Taunton has been owned and operated by Dominic Chapman's family for more than 60 years, so foodie love runs in the family. Dominic Chapman grew up with a keen interest in food thanks to his father, who is both a chef and an author, and who pushed for the inclusion of traditional, basic meals on menus before it became fashionable. The chef began by professing his love for curry due to the bombastic flavours one receives.
"Curry is all about bringing all the senses of flavours together," the chef says.
Having the art of culinary alchemy in his blood, chef Dominic has roamed around the world gathering experience for his craft from different cultures and countries. The chef had started young due to his pedigree.
"My family has been in the restaurant business for quite some time now, which is why I was always around food. Unlike other kids of my age at the time, I was dragged into restaurants and started to gather experience before I even realised. I have always been around this culture, and it is something I truly enjoy. That is how I truly started," Dominic explains.
The world-travelling chef learned about gastronomic art from southern European countries such as Greece, Italy, and France.
"They have a beautiful variety of cheeses. However, countries like India or Southeast Asia are where you truly get the enchanted whiff of spices. So, in short, I get my inspiration from all around the place," the Michelin-starred chef shares.
According to chef Dominic, the science behind conjuring up the perfect curry dish is about balance and spices.
He says, "You cannot just chuck everything in altogether. There is a delicate balance to be maintained at every step. The right amount of chutney with the right amounts of spices takes the dish to the next level while adding the 'wow' factor."
He further adds, while laughing, "Eating the curry is my most favourite part of the cuisine!"
When it comes to spices, the culinary artist prefers fresh whole spices right off the market.
"The spices we get back home are from packets sold at shops. However, the real magic lies in the whole spices, which have not been ground into powder yet. You will get an extra burst of flavour from a freshly ground spice. That is something I will always prefer more than anything for my curry cuisines," he adds.
The chef picked lemon, salt and pepper, and seaweed as his top diverse ingredients.
"You will need umami, and seaweed fits perfectly for it. You can use it in fish, meat, and even desserts!", the chef asserts.
Chef Dominic Chapman finds cooking the most rewarding part of being a chef.
"The reason I love being a chef is cooking. I get up in the morning without worrying about people or numbers in business. I get to choose beautiful ingredients and be creative with them to my heart's content. That is what happiness means to me," the chef concludes.