Cyrus Todiwala sits back for a chat with Time Out as he looks back on his time in Dubai and forward to his plans for the future at home and work.
Born and bred in Bombay, Cyrus Todiwala graduated in Hotel Administration and Food Technology from Bombay’s Basant Kumar Somani Polytechnic and quickly became corporate executive chef of the famous Taj Groups Taj Holiday Village, The Fort Aguada Beach Resort and The Aguada Hermitage in Goa.
He left India for Australia in 1991, but on the behest of an old friend moved on to London to run the Namasté restaurant in Alie Street, where he developed his hallmark style of blending traditional Indian culinary techniques and flavours with more unexpected ingredients. Ever the keen environmentalist (he helped to establish two bird sanctuaries in Goa), Cyrus cooks with organic products and fully supports British produce wherever possible.
Today, Cyrus and his wife Pervin run an award-winning London restaurant and a new café: the landmark Café Spice Namasté, on the border of the city. In 2005, Frommer’s London guide named Café Spice as their ‘Favourite Indian Restaurant’, while Tatler cited it as one of the best restaurants in the capital serving Sub-Continental cuisine. In 2006, Cyrus unveiled Café’t’, in New Cavendish Street, and the coffee shop-cum-restaurant of Asia House, one of London’s premier cultural centres.
What excites you about the Festival of Taste? Cooking in a different land always excites me. Cooking in Dubai, which I have never done, will be fabulous. Dubai has now become well-known for high-end cuisine and the demands and expectations are high. Cooking at the Burj Al Arab is the icing on the cake.
Have you been to Dubai before? Yes, I have been to Dubai before, but it was a few years ago, much before the current boom.
What do you think about the food scene in Dubai? The Dubai food scene was taking off when we went, but it has blossomed now into a truly dynamic food haven which I wish to experience first hand. Being with chefs will hopefully offer me the opportunity to explore some more.
What will you be doing for the Festival of Taste? I have a full programme at the Festival of Taste, from opening night canapés, to a cookery demonstration, to cooking a three-course luncheon on a private boat, to hosting tables at dinners, to doing a starter along with Brian Turner for the gala dinner and then a dessert on the last night for 500…
Why did you decide to provide these recipes? My recipes are based on the ease of acquiring raw materials – I know that Dubai will have all of the ingredients I mention. But I also wanted to do things that will really work for a wider audience, as I am sure the readers will be very international and eclectic. My food does not require oodles of cream and butter for taste – I rely on instinct and experience to create flavours that will titillate the palates of my diners.
When did you last cook them, and for whom? I last cooked the patrani machchi for a banquet for 350 persons in a stately home – the host demanded it! It was not easy due to the nature of the dish, but it was a success. The machchi na pattice was done just a few days ago for a lunch hosted by the Chinese Ambassador to the UK.