Flash-grilled: Avinash Shashidhara

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled with Pali Hill head chef Avinash Shashidhara London Indian restaurant

Related tags: Chef, Indian cuisine, London

The head chef of recently launched Fitzrovia restaurant Pali Hill on dining at Italy's Trattoria Caprini, and why he'd be a surgeon if he wasn't in kitchens.

What was your first industry job?
My first job was at the age of 17 as a kitchen trainee at The Oberoi hotel in Bangalore as a part of my hotel management degree. It was then that I knew I wanted to be a chef.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
I think I would’ve loved to be a doctor or surgeon. I have always been fascinated by the human anatomy and the workings of it. I also think it is a very selfless profession just like being in hospitality.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers - they are both very inspiring women and have had a formative influence on my approach to cooking, looking after their staff and creating a great restaurant.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Messy table tops and floors drive me nuts.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
"Can I have the pizza without the topping?"

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Simple, seasonal and hearty.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Try and travel and expose your taste buds to new flavours and ingredients; eat well and you will cook well; and cook with the seasons and your senses and not with gadgets and probes - it is the best way to cook.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
My knives. I remember having so little money when I started off as a chef and saving up for each one of them. I’ve had the same ones for the last 15 years. They are not expensive, but I keep them sharp.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
A meal cooked by my mum. One of my favourite dishes is a slow cooked sprouted horse gram that is very popular in the state of Karnataka served with malty steamed ragi dumplings and ghee.

À la carte or tasting menu?
À la carte.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
Trattoria Caprini in Torbe, overlooking the Valpolicella hills. It is a restaurant owned by my friend Davide Bonaldi’s family where they make fresh hand rolled pasta every morning. The whole family is somehow involved with either going to the market each day to buy the best produce or hunting, cooking, serving or entertaining in the restaurant. It’s like being in your grandmother’s home eating the heartiest meal and the most gorgeous wines from the region.

MasterChef or Great British Menu?
Great British Menu.

Most overrated food?
Nann and chicken tikka masala - there’s so much more to Indian food.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Food waste. There are so many families and homeless people starving in the current circumstances. It would be great to find a way to feed them whilst reducing restaurant food waste.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
Sir David Attenborough, Alice Waters, David Hockney, and Banksy.

What’s your earliest food memory?
We had a big garden with fig, coconut, rose apples, avocado and pomegranate trees. We grew a lot of our own vegetables and coffee beans too. I still remember eating ripe honey figs from the tree before the birds or squirrels got them.

Twitter or Instagram?

Tipple of choice?
Love a good Brunello.

What do you consider your signature dish?
The Pali Hill sour dough roti – I created the starter last year when I was doing my pop ups. The idea was to create a flatbread full of flavour that was slightly healthier and lighter on the gut using wholemeal flour and rye as supposed to a naan which is made with refined flour and can be hard to digest. Delicious with our Chettinad style veal shin, chargrilled venison or lamb cutlets to mop up those rich sauces.

Related topics: People, Restaurant, Profiles, Chef

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