Chef of the Month - Samaira
1. Who is Samaira?
Ever since appearing on the public circuit, Samaira Kavatkar better known as 'The Bombay East Indian Girl', has continued to catch Hong Kong Foodies by storm with her refined Indian Cuisine.
An ex-corporate professional turned Chef, she has been a quiet force on the city’s F&B scene, forging her own path with a powerful culinary narrative that brings together East Indian flavours with sprinkles of Portuguese influence. Her dishes, proudly Indian, incorporate many secret family recipes, often saluting her East Indian Community heritage.
East Indian here refers not to a geographic territory in India, but on contrary East Indians actually reside on the rugged section of the western coastline of India: the Bombay Coast.
Love for food and passion for cooking has always been in her blood, and came naturally, with her picking up the art of cooking at the tender age of seven.
Raised in an Indo-Portuguese family, with a Catholic father and a Hindu mother, Samaira cooking style reflects the rich complexities of flavours intrinsic in the two food cultures. This intertwining of cultures combined with travelling and working abroad have all contributed to her knowledge of food, flavours, and different cuisines across the globe.
Her creative cooking style is precise and refined, with fresh seasonal produce parlayed into beautifully intricate dishes that are multi-layered and complex. A staunch believer in making all her spice blends, pickles, chutneys and marinades from scratch, Kavatkar represents slow food at its best, where each element on the plate is carefully considered and created.
Nominated and identified as the "Rising Star" by Tatler Dining in 2020, her last major collaboration with Tater Dining X HAUS in September 2021 paired her cuisine to the elegant Champagnes of The House of Perrier-Jouet, first of a kind for Indian Cuisine in Hong Kong.
2. Brief introduction of your restaurant/ working place
The Bombay East Indian Girl- Private Practice
I am currently working as a free-lance Private Chef in Hong Kong and cater to restaurants, private kitchens, private & corporate clients, pop-up events, collabs on a free-lance basis. My services can be booked through my IG page: www.instagram.com/thebombayeastindiangirl_14 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Where does your cooking inspiration come from?
I once read, “Cooking is very much like art, and just like painting or making music, it is inspired by the work of those who have come before the artist.” Hence, for me the inspiration comes from my Mother, she is the Julia Child of my life. My roots, the food we eat at home. A farmers’ market, from my travels, my husband who is an accomplished chef himself. There are many factors actually …
4. Your specialty dish?
If I must choose, then as per people’s choice currently it will be the most loved, “My version” of the:
East Indian Chicken Khuddi, Arroz Fugath (created 3 versions of this dish so far) and
the vegetarian version of the same “Precious than Gucci”- Khichdi (Morel) or can be also
My version of the East Indian Lamb Potato Chop, Green Pea Chutney, Kachumber and East Indian Fish/ Prawn Kujit.
They have been a constant on my menu- on demand, traditional family recipes which I have recreated using seasonal Indian ingredients such as the Morel dish or Gucchi as we call in India.
5. Who would you most like to cook for and why?
Cooking makes me happy, so I can cook for everyone and anyone. As my guests, it can be for people who can afford to pay the price & also as community service for those who cannot. No favoritism/ discrimination there.
However, it is always interesting to cook for most people who think Indian cuisine is only about “Curry.” Happy to let them experience the real Indian culinary heritage through my cooking and, look forward to their feedback and perception of Indian food post that. It is a learning :)
Also, for the record, I can cook multiple cuisine dishes besides Indian food hahahaha
6. What is your favourite thing to do when not cooking?
Spending time with my family - married to a chef and being in the industry myself now I make most of the free time we get together (besides chewing off his ear with my talks hahahaha). Exploring other restaurants (we both are big foodies), getting inspiration from farmers markets. I love Dancing, and in better times prior to the pandemic, Travelling. I am an Hodophile.
7. Where is your most favourite city and why?
Bombay (Mumbai), India…that’s my identity, where I was born & raised and hence -The Bombay East Indian Girl.
Besides favorite city my most favourite place is Mauritius. It is like my second home where I spend all of my Summer and Diwali holidays growing up with my family since I was 4 months old!
8. Your greatest indulgence?
It is always a tie between Crabs & Mutton (Goat Meat)!
Crab in any style, Mutton Biryani & Nalli (Bone Marrow)- all prepared by my Mother.
9. What will really make you angry at work?
Waste, sloppy cooks/ poor sanitation & hygiene and if someone tells me - not my job.
10. What is your favorite thing about your career?
Cooking has been my lifelong passion. I took a career swerve into the kitchen at 39, an age where probably people want to have a relaxed & settled life. I did that because feeding others is the only thing that gives me immense joy & I wanted to share the joy beyond my own circle. It also has given me a chance of giving back to the community in certain ways and putting my East Indian food on a global map.
Food is probably the only thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. It is the only thing that can heal & comfort us without medicines. I hope to do that with my cooking too..
11. What would you like to say to the young people who have just started their career in the culinary field?
I started working in a professional kitchen only in the last 3 years when I switched career paths. That said I am someone who had too much and too early experience with the culinary world and restaurant/catering business growing up through my family. My husband and I are both self-taught chefs with no culinary school background but have a very deep understanding about food- We take food very seriously! Therefore, through our own individual and personal culinary journey experiences I can say this confidently to aspiring young chefs:
Take inspiration from your roots, your culture. Learn as much as you can from many people as you can. Make it a goal to learn about everything in the kitchen- even beyond what you are assigned. Do not just run after money or taking positions first - it will come with time. Go out to eat, it is important to see what others are cooking –it will help to train your palate- take inspirations from it. Being a Chef involves lot of demanding work and personal sacrifices, but it is also very rewarding if you look at it that way – so don’t be afraid to take risks or the chance. Let your food speak for itself. My personal motto is- “Nothing to Prove, Everything to Improve.” Live your dreams.
Some of Samaira's dishes:
East Indian Chicken Khuddi, Arroz Fugath
Precious than Gucci- Khichdi
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