Imagine India

World-class chef, Ajoy Joshi, from Nilgiri's Restaurant in Sydney is passionate about cooking as an art form. He says that being able to master the basics is the key to any good chef...

Ajoy Joshi has been a chef for 29 years, and arrived in Australia in 1988 from his home state of Hyderabad. He received formal basic training in India and developed his skills by spending time with six different 'Masters' who specialised in their own field. Ajoy said it was tough because he had to win the confidence of these 'Masters' in order for them to share their techniques and secrets. Indian chefs don't believe in standardised recipes and exact measurements. Instead they teach the 'How and Why' of ingredients turning the pot itself into the recipe, like a blank canvas for a painting.

Ajoy now has a certain level of proficiency and believes in the creativity of food and the chef's role as the creator. He attributes his successful and enthusiastic cooking career to his use of essential knowledge from Hyderabad and other Indian regions, enabling his cuisine to be set apart from the rest. Nilgiri's restaurant won the 'Restaurant and Catering NSW - Best Indian' award in 2004, 2006 and 2007. It also took out the prestigious 'Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide - Best Indian' award in 2003.

The restaurant is famous for its diverse and innovative menu. Each month the restaurant creates a regional dinner, which highlights a cuisine from one of the 36 Indian states. Nilgiri's also has a pre-packaged curries counter, books for sale and offers Indian regional cooking classes to individuals and groups.

Ajoy feels that anyone can learn a recipe from a book, but a great chef and restaurateur creates an unforgettable dining experience by tapping into and researching what makes their skills as a chef unique or special. He is worried that chefs are now just taught to follow recipes and not use their imagination to mix up and change ingredients.

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VJ Rodney Meier

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