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Chef’s Table talk to Chef Patron of The Painted Heron, Yogesh Datta

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It was in his native India where Chef Datta first discovered his natural flair for cooking and where his talents as a chef were first recognised. His career began as a young man in Delhi, where he became well versed in Indian culinary traditions at the PUSA Institute of Hotel Management.

His culinary journey continued as he honed his expertise at India’s prestigious Taj Palace Hotel. It was whilst here that he first received training in the more classical European kitchen methods and where he first began to develop his own unique Indo-European cooking style.

His restaurant and chef experience was further enhanced when he moved to study at the International College of Hotel Management in Switzerland.  In Geneva, he worked for a time at the Metropolitan hotel. He then moved back to India, to the historic City of Jaipur, in Rajasthan to take up the Head Chef position at the Hotel Mansingh, followed by a stint as Executive Chef at the Hotel Maharani Palace.

Following a successful spell in Dubai from 1996 – 1998, Chef Yogesh arrived in London to take up a challenging position as Head Chef at Tabla restaurant in Canary Wharf, London. He was tasked with “turning round” this once popular restaurant. This he did and it was whilst there that his style of cooking became influential in its own right and was brought to the attention of successful local business man and regular customer Charles Hill. During 2000 the pair teamed up to open their own restaurant, Charles having recently acquired a suitable property in Chelsea. At the time the building was being used as a french style brasserie but had fallen out of favour with customers. The pair’s confidence of creating a success was helped by the history that the building had housed restaurants since 1953.

2002 saw the opening of The Painted Heron in Cheyne Walk and in 2012 it celebrated 10 years as one of London’s finest Indian restaurant with numerous accolades being bestowed including AA rosettes, best restaurant and best chef awards.

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FT asked Chef Datta: What he felt about accolades and in particular his thoughts on Michelin Stars,

CD: Every chef and restaurant owner wants to know that they are serving customers to a high standard and that the customer is happy. The Painted Heron has always had great feed back and whilst we are listed in the Michelin guide a star is probably not something we could achieve, we’re not setup for that. Over the past 14 years since The Painted Heron opened, online and social media have played an increasing part in the types of feed back restaurants like ours receive. In the most part it has been very positive, however, talking directly with customers is still the best way to understand how they feel about the experience they have just enjoyed.

FT: You have lived and worked in some interesting cities around the world, why have you settled in London.

CD: London is just an amazing place to work as a chef and I have been lucky enough to be able to work with and influence many up and coming young chefs. Some of these have gone on to achieve great things here in the UK or even back in India taking what they have learnt back with them and changing local perceptions of dishes. Others have stayed with us here and are now in their 10th year cooking in London. Our Head Chef is someone I have known and worked with for nearly twenty years.

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FT: When The Painted Heron first opened, the menu changed almost every day and the relationships with local suppliers was crucial. How has that changed?

CD: When we first opened, The Painted Heron was considered ground breaking and we were as far as Indian cuisine was concerned, with our daily changing menus and the freshness of the meat and fish we used. The menu development has now settled down and we are more influenced by seasonal focused changes now. However, the great relationships built with local butchers and fishmongers has continued and this helps us source incredible ingredients when they are at their best.

FT: You have talked about getting the best ingredients and the freshness of produce used in your menus, is there any foods that you won’t eat.

CD: Not really I will try most things and I think that is to do with the chef in me. However I’m really not keen on raw meat or fish. I much prefer eating well cooked and properly seasoned foods, adding the correct spice to enhance flavours. How food is cooked is very important to our style here at The Painted Heron. We have recently invested in a Josper Grill to add another level of flavour to the meat and fish we cook and also it allows us to create a “tandoor” feel to a wider variety of different ingredients that would be difficult  in the traditional clay oven. New dishes are being introduced to the menu over the coming weeks including a Black Cod dish.

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FT: So Chef, as with all our Chef’s Tables, we love to know where you like to eat when you have time away from the kitchen. So where are your favourite tables?

CD: I Have been many times to St John, Smithfield’s and really enjoy the style of the restaurant and the food. Great ingredients, cooked well and presented in relaxed environment.
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And since it open the Chiltern Fire House, Marylebone has been a regular place for me to visit especially with family.
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Reviewer: Chef Yogesh Datta
Address: The Painted Heron,
112 Cheyne Walk,
London SW10 0DJ
Website: http://www.thepaintedheron.com/
Twitter: @thepaintedheron
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thepaintedheron/?fref=ts

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