The Weekender Interview: Dhruv Mittal

By Georgia Bronte contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Weekender Interview: Dhruv Mittal
The Cordon Bleu-trained DUM Biryani chef patron on saffron old fashioneds, clicking at waiters, and why toddlers shouldn't listen to T-Pain.

What image do you currently have on your phone’s wallpaper?
A Technicolour picture of New York’s Meatpacking district. I took it myself.

What was your first job?
Paper rounds when I was 12. Making £20 would take me three days.

Gordon or Marco? 
Both!

What was the last film you saw in the cinema? 
Black Panther, and it was overrated. 

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?  
Burgers.

Where are you going on your next holiday?
New York.

What industry figure do you most admire (and why)? 
Sat Bains. Decades can pass, the sky might fall and Kanye might become president but Sat will still live by his motto: “taste is everything”. Three words that will always underpin my ideas and vision behind food. If you don’t believe me, you should taste his food.

If you weren’t in restaurants, what would you do? 
Journalism or creative writing.

Biggest regret?
Losing my temper in the kitchen at my staff very early on, in the restaurant opening. For a brief few moments I turned into the same animals I hated in Michelin starred kitchens. I’ve never let myself get that worked up again.

Pet hate?
Mobile phones on dining tables.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
Can you turn off this T-Pain song because my toddler just asked ‘what’s a stripper?’

Marmite: love it or hate it?
Love it!

Describe your cooking style in three words
Rustic, simple, luxurious. 

What country do you next want to visit?
Mexico.

Most overrated food?
Pulled pork.

Restaurant czar for a day – what would you implement?
Ban rude customers, especially those who ‘click’ at waiters.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
The most hurtful one from November 2016 described our food as ‘disgusting’ and ‘overpriced’, our portions: ‘tiny’ and our staff ‘extremely rude’.

What made you want to become a chef?
The realisation that food was the one and only thing that brought me true happiness, warmth and satisfaction, thanks to my mother, who’s cooking still inspires me every day.

What do you cook at home on your days off?
I default to curries, lentils, vegetables and pasta.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Learn from the point you wake up until you sleep. Work in different types of kitchens, operations and in as many different positions as possible. Taste everything, make observations and challenge your ideas and perceptions every single day.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
My chef’s knife: A Wüsthof​, still going strong since Le Cordon Bleu.

iPhone or Android?
Android.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Listen, smile, agree then do whatever the f*** you want to.

What’s your earliest memory? 
Pedalling my yellow toy car through the snow near our first house in Bury.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
The countryside. If I have time on my side, I’ll drive up to the Lake District for a weekend and feel one with nature and myself. I’ll write, walk and sleep until I feel 100% again.

Twitter or Instagram?
Instagram.

Tipple of choice?
A saffron old fashioned. It’s based on a cocktail we serve at DUM Biryani House, but when I make it at home I use something a little smokier like a Lagavulin 16 year old.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
My mum’s kadi (chickpea yoghurt curry) with bhindi (stir-fried okra), lache (pickled onions) and steamed rice. I’d mix it all together, eat with my hands, and probably lick the plate clean.

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