India has the most exciting cuisine in the world and we don’t know much about it, says Masterchef and co-host of Farm to Fork, Michael Weldon  
Chef Michael Weldon, a household name in Australia as a Masterchef celebrity, has never lost his passion for discovery. He came to wow India with his unique interpretation of Australian cuisine but was dazzled by India’s vast culinary repertoire. A new age chef, he is also a co-host on the Aussie cooking show, Farm to Fork. The show explores the journey food makes on its way from farmers and producers to people’s kitchens, and the best way to use those ingredients. 
On his first visit to the country in partnership with the Government of Australia, he confessed that even a lifetime may not be enough to truly explore the sheer breadth of Indian cuisine. That’s one reason the Australian High Commission partnered with Chef Weldon at a time when the India-Australia free trade agreement is on the cards. This collaboration saw him present his vision of Australian cuisine in the four metros in India, including The Oberoi, Bengaluru.  
According to Carlo White, First Secretary, Public Affairs, Australian High Commission in India, “We felt Chef Michael Weldon would be the best person to convey our expression of modern Australian cuisine.” White added that as there’s an unprecedented interest in Australian wine among Indian wine aficionados, they teamed up with Penfolds, a premium Aussie wine label for this special showcase of Australian cuisine.  
The menu for the two-day promotion at Lapis, the all-day diner with a European slant at The Oberoi, Bengaluru, was eclectic, to say the least. It also demonstrated Chef Weldon’s skills as a quick learner. He told me how the inspiration for a scrumptious mountain pepper squids with saltbush (a native Oz shrub) came from an onion bhaji. Chef Weldon was overwhelmed by the response to his roast pumpkin with cashew nuts sauce served with wattle seeds salsa, especially in Kolkata. He prefers using whole vegetables in his vegetarian dishes and wasn’t sure how Indian diners would respond. “I love how India embraces vegetarian cooking. India is probably the best country to be vegetarian. You don’t miss out on a variety of textures and flavours if you’re a vegetarian in this country,” he said.  
Chef Weldon has been equally surprised with the awareness around Australian ingredients, thanks to the success of MasterChef Australia in India. A lot of diners have enjoyed trying out new ingredients—like lemon myrtle—that they’ve watched contestants cook with on the show. Akshay Chonkar, Executive Assistant Manager (F&B Service) at The Oberoi, Bengaluru, adds that it was Chef Weldon’s ability to steer away from culinary stereotypes that made him a natural fit for Lapis.  
Chef Weldon credits Nornie Bero (who runs Mabu Mabu in Melbourne)—one of Australia’s best-known advocates for indigenous ingredients—for his understanding of local ingredients and cooking techniques. In a country with a relatively young culinary culture and external influences, Chef Weldon believes that indigenous ingredients could be the future of Australian cuisine. We saw of that future play out on our plates in a fascinating culinary journey at Lapis.  
Lapis, The Oberoi, Bengaluru, MG Road. (080) 2558 5858 

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