Transcending culinary traditions – The Hindu


Alta Calidad’s Indo-American leader Akhtar Nawab will cook up a Mexican storm for two nights in the city.

Alta Calidad’s Indo-American leader Akhtar Nawab will cook up a Mexican storm for two nights in the city.

There are many parallels between Indian and Mexican cuisine, whether in ingredients or methods. The number of restaurants in Mumbai that attempt to serve authentic Mexican dishes can attest to this.

Indian-American chef Akhtar Nawab, who founded Alta Calidad in New York (in the spring of 2017) noticed it too. “I decided to try something new and challenged myself with Mexican cuisine,” says the chef, who noticed similarities between the two cuisines as he learned about the ingredients. “They both share a very basic way of eating and sometimes a similar set of ingredients,” says Nawab. “Things like cumin and cinnamon get the palate moving the same way Indian food does. cooking mole [ a traditional Mexican sauce] I found similar to my mother making biryani. Basically, I found the two worlds to be connected. Tonight, Nawab will begin serving a two-night-only Mexican dinner at Magazine Street Kitchen in association with vacation home developer Isprava.

great indian trips

Growing up in the US, Nawab’s mother was born in Lucknow (hence his biryani joke). “I had traveled to India with my mother from a very young age until my late teens – every summer for three months at a time,” he says. “We mostly stayed in the northern region of India, but my dad was from Bihar so we used to do trips there as well.” The chef says there are “a number of Indian influences on the menu” at Alta Calidad, but this is the first time he’s cooked a Mexican meal in India. The menu will include a la plancha fish tacos, chili relano and churros, but also a “version of a roti we do at the restaurant which I think is going to be a lot of fun for an Indian to try.”

Before focusing on Mexican cuisine, Nawab created the Indian restaurant Elettaria in 2007. But with the financial crisis and as a “young restaurateur”, Nawab made all the mistakes imaginable, and more. “We closed after about a year and a half,” he says. It was also the time when the restaurant industry was going through, according to Nawab, a fundamental revolution. The culinary sector began to attract money from institutional investors and led to distinct changes in the profile of a chef in a decade. “It used to be that all a chef needed was good training and skills, and everything else fell into place,” he says. “When I left alone, I felt like I was at the moment when things were moving and at that moment I was not equipped to pivot as quickly. But now I think I have the experience to do it. Once Elettaria closed, Nawab decided to recalibrate and “reconnect” with her daughter Ela. During this process, the chef was brought back to the kitchen and decided to experiment with Mexican cuisine.

From an industry favorite, Nawab has now grown his restaurant empire across the United States. He now oversees restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama and Washington DC, in addition to New York. Regarding his visit to the city, his very first, he looks forward to “endless vadas, idlis, dosas, bhel puris”.

The pop-up will take place on November 16 and 17 at Magazine Street Kitchen. For more details,


Comments are closed.