An Interview with Chef Vivek Singh
Vivek Singh is highly respected around the world for his modern Indian cooking style. Now running three successful London restaurants — The Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Soho — he made his name at the five-star Oberoi Grand in Kolkata, India.
Vivek has become a household name thanks to his skill with spices and also with regular appearances on programmes such as Saturday Kitchen. When not running one of London’s most successful restaurants, Vivek finds the time to write cookbooks, with five currently in circulation.
Here, he talks about his career, his advice for young chefs and his guilty culinary pleasure…
What is the most rewarding thing about owning or managing a restaurant?
It’s generally a very uplifting profession, which allows one to make a positive difference in someone’s day, week or life for that matter, in a very simple way. It involves entertaining, hosting, feeding, and connecting with a wide range of people from a wide range of different backgrounds and experiences, and giving them an opportunity to become a part of your story. It is an opportunity to express yourself through food, drink, space and stories. And the instant feedback from your guests is the bit that I like best about this business.
What would you have done differently earlier in your career if you knew then what you know now?
Professionally, not a thing. I have allowed life to take its own course, taken opportunities when they have presented themselves, not always knowing what the future had in store. I’m very happy about it, I think it’s important to have the bandwidth to be able to receive opportunity when it presents itself, and I’ve been very fortunate with this. Personally, I would have liked to explore the world a little more when I was younger, but didn’t have the opportunity.
What is the strangest ingredient you’ve ever used?
Long ago I came across Sangri Beans and initially didn’t get the point of it. But after having tried it a few times, I grew fond of it and its been on our menu at The Cinnamon Club since day one, 14 years ago. However, not all new discoveries end up that successful. I once tried dried ants in a rice dish and it didn’t last very long on the menu.
What is the worst meal you’ve ever had?
Life is too short to dwell on the worst meal. Actually it’s never a bad meal that rakes with me. Like most people I can “do” good, but I can also understand bad. What I don’t understand, however, is indifferent food.
“There is no substitute for keeping up”
What piece of equipment can you not live without?
Mortar and pestle, it is ideal for crushing small amounts of spices and gives you a perfumed kitchen. A good quality natural stone mortar and pestle is an essential for Indian cookery.
Which food is your guilty pleasure?
Spicy omelette in a tea cake; a favourite at home and quick and easy to prepare.
For the chef’s reading, what is your advice to them?
No matter what age you are, no matter what stage in your career you are, the advice I give to chefs is to set aside £15 each month to buy a cookbook. Amazon frequently come up with lists of new releases, and for those that you can’t buy for £15, buy every other month, there is no substitute for keeping up.
Interview courtesy of russums-shop.co.uk