Flash-grilled: Sameer Taneja

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Sameer Taneja executive chef at Indian restaurant Benares in Mayfair

Related tags: Sameer Taneja, Chef, Benares, Indian cuisine, Fine dining

The executive chef at Indian restaurant Benares in Mayfair on his admiration for Pierre Koffmann, wanting to be a stand-up comedian and his dislike of smart phones.

What was your first industry job?
Rajvillas Jaipur, India – part of Oberoi Hotel Group.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
Stand-up comedian.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
Chef Pierre Koffmann - my mentor, my hero, my God! I have followed him since I was young, and I am extremely blessed to have had an opportunity to work for him at Koffmans. Cooking is religion for him rather than a passion or job and his presence in the kitchen makes it a ‘temple’. There are of course a few others, who helped me in on this amazing journey.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Blank knives and distraction using smart phones.

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Simple, clean and precise.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
Although a negative review does hurt, they keep us on track. I see all feedback as constructive and always take it very seriously.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Little steps at a time, keep your head down and learn and document every recipe.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
Pestle and Mortar.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
My mum’s rajma chaawal (kidney bean curry with steamed rice).

À la carte or tasting menu?
A la carte.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
Tough call. I love my food and always remember a good meal but to name a few, a meal cooked by Nathan Outlaw and another one at Pujol in Mexico City.

MasterChef or Great British Menu?
Great British Menu.

Most overrated food?
Gold leaf – it’s just an expensive ingredient and does not add any flavour to the dish.

Twitter or Instagram?
Instagram.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
I don’t have hair.

What do you consider your signature dish?
I think reaching to a ‘signature’ point can stop creativity. I love my cured fish chaat, but I wouldn’t call it a signature, more of a favourite. It has been on our a la carte menu since the day I joined as executive chef.

Related topics: People

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