A plateful of Art & the Mystery of Wine

Professional Chef, Shagun Mehra’s passion and flair for cooking led her to become a top Indian chef. She is the founder of Food Design Studio and co-founded the first accredited Wine School of India. She is present at the ongoing Woman Up! Summit. In an exclusive conversation with City First, Shagun shed light on her motivation to join the industry, her life journey, TV food shows, wine clichés and her session at the Summit.

Where did the passion for joining the culinary industry come from?

I’m the fifth generation in the food industry. My family has been in the food business for more than a hundred years, hence I’ve grown up loving and understanding food from a very young age. You might even say, I grew up in kitchens. I wanted to be an artist, so being a chef was a great way to be creative. The ingredients are my palette and the plate my canvas. It worked out beautifully.

What does it take to become a successful chef? What are some of the challenges you have faced?

Practice makes perfect. Chefs need to spend time inside the kitchen and practice techniques and recipes as much as possible in order to gain success. Creativity, innovation and thinking outside the box will bring attention to a Chef’s work.

I grew up in a vegetarian home. Although I now cook and eat seafood now, I found it very challenging to establish myself as a serious chef. Fortunately, the world now embraces vegetables as serious cuisine. The trend today lies in Ayurvedic, holistic kitchens and cooking ethos.

How have reality television food shows affected the culinary industry?

Food Television has brought an immense amount of exposure to domestic Indian kitchens. There’s an excitement to experiment, emphasis on the finesse in dressing a dish and a whole new world of International Cuisine that unleashed itself to millions of viewers. I think it’s absolutely marvellous!

Which clichés would you like to banish from the wine world forever?

That wine is a pompous drink. Wine is not supposed to be intimidating. From what I believe, wine is a part of the everyday eating culture. It is for everyone. It’s not just an alcoholic beverage, it’s a mystery in a bottle waiting to be released into a glass and then into the mouth of the taster.

What message would you like to give to aspiring chefs, especially women?

Don’t let anyone or anything stop you or discourage you! Cook with your heart. And if you want a secret to success? Learn from your grandmother and master it. This will place you above the rat race!

Give us some insight into your session ‘High on Food’ at the Woman Up! Summit?

It’s a food & wine immersive session where I bring out the nuances of Indian & Western Food trends as well as some personal experiences that helped frame my food portfolio.