One of the pioneers of Indian fine dining, two Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar was responsible for changing our perceptions of the cuisine and helping British diners realise how refined Indian food can be. Combining the flavours of north, east and south India with the finest produce, it’s his contemporary style and love for traditional cooking which have brought him his success. Today, he continues to showcase the incredible flavours of his home country in the UK.
Born in east India but growing up in the north of the country, Atul came to appreciate food from a young age thanks to his grandfather – a baker – and his father, who owned a catering business. ‘I learnt a lot of things form a young age,’ he says. ‘Going to the market, buying the right ingredients, looking at the melons and pumpkins – it was a part of my everyday life’.
Atul already had a good knowledge of northern and eastern Indian cuisine, so decided to study in southern India to expand his culinary knowledge even further. ‘It was like being in a new country,’ he says. ‘The language was different, the people were different, the food was different; I had to put my learning boots on and start all over again. I loved living there.’
In 1994, Atul migrated to the UK and opened Tamarind, which was soon known as one of the best Indian restaurants in the world. In 2001 it won a Michelin star – making Atul the first Michelin-starred Indian chef in the world. This spurred him on to leave Tamarind and open his own restaurant, Benares, which was awarded its own Michelin star in 2006. Since then he has opened numerous successful, award-winning restaurants; Sindhu and Hawkyns in Buckinghamshire and Indian Essence in Kent. In 2018, Atul left Benares to pursue other independent ventures, most recently Kanishka in Mayfair, London.
Atul has published several cookbooks, including Curries of the World and Indian Essence. He is also an International and UK nationwide TV personality – featuring on Million Dollar Menu and Saturday Kitchen and the first three series of Great British Menu.