Interviews

Cyrus Todiwala, Café Spice Namasté

We chat to the owner of Café Spice Namasté in east London’s Tower Hill.

What inspired you to become a chef?
There are several things. Liking to cook was one, but the sheer magic of creating something great out of raw ingredients is in itself inspiring and exciting. It was also the opportunity to settle into a profession where skill and natural senses prevailed over academia, and I still remain as excited and creative as I was when I began my career.

What would you be doing if you weren't a chef?
Probably an agriculturist or even running a garage, which would have seen my father and I running it together.

At the end of a long day, what do you like to cook?
The end of the day for most chefs means midnight, so it has to be something simple, light and quick to put together. It could be something like fried eggs to a grilled sandwich, depending on what is available at home. Or it might be some griddled cheesy chapatis or a simple and delicious pasta dish.

What's your favourite junk food?
Pizza, if it can be termed junk – or a Turkish adana kebab wrap, which is then doctored on reaching home.

What food could you not live without?
The Parsi mori daal and chaawal. Parsi-style daal and rice, with lots of caramelised onion, garlic some mango chutney and fried papads. It has all the childhood memories and aromas of happiness, family and taste.

What is the most unusual cooking technique you use?
We do mostly Indian and sub-continental Indian cuisine, so we do a different style of sous vide which works for us. While slow cooking is traditional and all our sauces, gravies and curries are very slow cooked, it's the meat that we have gradually learnt to treat differently.

If you could cook for anyone who would it be, and what would you cook for them?
Having had the privilege of cooking for the Queen and Prince Philip, I would relish the thought of cooking at a state banquet with all the royals and their guests to demystify Indian cuisine and banish those fears surrounding it.

Who is the most interesting person you have cooked for?
King Hussein of Jordan.

What is the strangest request you have had from a diner?
It has to be 36 masala-roasted chicken heads with the beaks and eyes cut off, so that the head is exposed on both sides. This would ensure that the guest could get enough brains out of the lot to make a starter portion.

Which chef do you most admire at the moment?
I have always admired Anton Mosimann. He was my hero as a budding executive chef in India. Today, even as a friend, I admire the way he does things and how he enjoys every moment of it. Such humility and strength of character, with an immense amount of achievement under his belt, are the benchmarks of a great man.

Do you have a favourite restaurant?
The Green Papaya Vietnamese restaurant in London is a homecoming, and it has never failed to please us.

Tell us something about yourself that will surprise your diners
That I do all the laundry and ironing over the weekend, and let my wife Pervin rest a bit more. Of course, she might claim that it's because of my OCD of wanting to do them in a particular way and ironing a tight crease!

Read more GFG news and features