Slender and soft-spoken, Adhira Swami is not your typical chef. However, the 25-year-old very quickly and efficiently ensures that all those preconceptions are put aside when she manages the pass with professionalism that far belies her years.
Chef Adhira, who completed both her Grand Diplôme at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu, London, and also has a Spanish culinary program at Le Cordon Bleu Madrid under her belt, is now ready to bring all her learning to Chennai.
We meet Adhira during her Kitchen Takeover at On The Rocks in Crowne Plaza, where she’s been working for a month to put together a very unique menu. “I have been preparing for one month and I wanted each dish to have intricacies that will make it memorable.” The starters or Prima as she calls it is a cold Gazpacho but tailored around a familiar rasam. “A couple of years ago my maternal grandmother, who is not completely from the south, asked me if I wanted to taste Gazpacho and I loved it. Whereas in my paternal side of the family, the rasam has to be pitch-perfect. It has to have the right amount of tamarind, spices, and even the temperature at which it should be served. So it was my maternal grandmother, who introduced me to Gazpacho and this is my take on it — a spicy shot of cooled and clarified Gazpacho ‘consommé.” The Prima also has Miso Medjool, Roman Bruschetta with Anchovies, and House Bread, Everything Butter. Two stand-out veg dishes are a delicious Japanese Vegetables Kikunae and the Leek and Preserved Lemon Risotto. Having been mentored by Michelin star chefs, Adhira says that cooking has been a part of her life long before that. “I remember being interested in cooking from the time I was a child, and my entire family comprises top-notch cooks. My dad (actor Arvind Swami) is the best chef when it comes to Indian cuisine. His signature dish is Mutton Kola Urundai, but I am personally inspired by global cuisines, especially Italian dishes,” she says.
Via her menu, Adhira showcases her expertise across European and even transcontinental Mediterranean cuisine that includes a Fish Tartare and a slow-cooked French leg of lamb for the main course. However, her inclusion of local ingredients like the Uthukuli butter, and cheese from local farms give it that glocal touch.
“If you look at the cheese platter, it includes artisanal cheese from across Chennai, Himachal, Ooty, and Bengaluru such as the Garlic Nettle Gouda from Himachal or the Monterey Jack from Ooty. If something goes well with the dishes I don’t mind adding it. It is not about whether it is Indian or European. I see my cuisines as a global cuisine and not restrict them based on geography,” she explains.
Ask her what her signature dish is, and Adhira urges us to try the liver pate. She smiles and says, “I constantly keep innovating and this chicken liver pate is a result of that.” The beautifully arranged cheese platter accompanied by a Ginger Granita, Kashmiri Raw Honey, and Candied Walnuts for texture enhance the experience further. Having traveled across the world, Adhira says that she is excited to put up her culinary skills on display in Chennai.
“This city has a great food audience. When chef Prateek Sadhu had his pop-ups across the country, Chennai was sold out. People here have traveled far and wide and have embraced cuisine from across the world. Moreover, being a Chennai-bred girl, I am happy that I am doing it here,” she concludes.