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Indian sweets could be presented in a contemporary yet authentic way, says Chef Ajay Chopra

After co-curating the menu for the spouses of G20 leaders in New Delhi, chef Ajay Chopra, 46, is on cloud nine with recognition on a global scale.

Calling the opportunity to serve the distinguished guests an “extraordinary experience that left an indelible mark on my culinary career”, Chopra said that the menu aimed to “represent the essence of India’s culinary traditions while catering to the diverse palates of the visitors”.

“The experience was both challenging and immensely rewarding. The positive feedback and appreciation from these influential guests reinforced the importance of celebrating Indian cuisine and culture on an international platform. It was a moment of pride and a testament to the potential of Indian cuisine to impress even the most discerning global audiences,” Chopra told in an exclusive interaction.

Talking about his reinterpretation of “Indian desserts in a fresh and innovative way”, Chopra shared that he prepared a delightful sweet dish from Bihar, thekua, and transformed it into a cracker.

“In addition to thekua, I crafted a variation of the beloved West Indian dessert, shrikhand, infusing it with a lemon twist, resulting in a delightful lemon curd shrikhand. I also prepared a berry khichdi, enhanced with the addition of fresh fruits to balance the yogurt’s tanginess,” recounted Chopra.

Looking for the perfect ingredients

Chopra stressed that there’s a growing appreciation for the depth and variety of flavours that Indian cuisine offers. He further said, “It’s not just about traditional dishes anymore; it’s about innovation, modernisation, and presenting Indian flavours in new and exciting ways. As we celebrate our culinary heritage, we’re also blending it with contemporary approaches, making Indian cuisine a global sensation.”

Cashew Maysore cake Cashew Maysore cake (Source: PR Handout)

Looking back at his culinary journey, Chopra, who hosted the first two seasons of MasterChef India, said his “passion for cooking is a profound exploration of ingredients and their behaviour”.

“It’s like conducting a symphony, where each element plays a unique role in creating harmony. I believe that the best matches in the culinary world are made in heaven, just like perfect pairs of ingredients — like tomato and basil, or pistachio and honey. This passion drives me to understand the intricacies of each ingredient, leading to extraordinary culinary creations,” Chopra said.

Blending the best of two worlds

After the culmination of the G20 event, Chopra has now excitedly set his eyes on the launch of his gourmet mithai brand – Kshir&Canelé – which, he said, aims to blend and bring the best of French pastry techniques with the depth that Indian flavours offer.

While ‘Kshir’ is a Sanskrit word for milk symbolically representing purity and is a common ingredient in many popular Indian desserts, Canelé is a French word for a small vanilla-flavoured pastry with a soft custard centre and a caramelised crust.

Chopra stated that the desire to start a gourmet mithai brand developed six years ago with the realisation that Indian sweets and patisserie could be presented in a contemporary yet authentic way. “We set out to create a brand that not only pays homage to the rich heritage of Indian sweets but also takes it to a level of sophistication that can rival international luxury brands. It has been a journey of relentless dedication, from perfecting recipes to designing showrooms that exude the elegance of Gucci. We aim to redefine how the world perceives Indian sweets,” said Chopra, whose first store opened recently at M3M 65th Avenue Mall, Sector 65, Gurgaon.

Chopra said the store offers fig and date-stuffed tiramisu barfi delight, apricot du luxe laddoo, and Nutella and pumpkin spice, among others.

He added that he is “very conscious about not using any preservatives”. The celebrated chef further said that he sticks to using only the finest ingredients sourced from across India.

‘Exciting journey’

Chopra, who has been wearing the chef’s hat for more than two decades, said his experience in the field will help him expand his store as well as keep experimenting with the cuisine.

“The difference would be that my many years’ dream morphed into a great passion for this project and my unique take on the flavour/texture juxtaposition,” he said.

When asked if he had any advice for those aspiring to become chefs, he had three words to offer. “Jump right in!”

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“The hospitality sector offers an exciting journey filled with learning experiences. What sets this profession apart is its ability to broaden your perspective and develop a keen eye for detail. Chefs have a unique talent for seeing beyond the obvious, and this skill translates into a well-rounded and creative personality,” added Chopra.

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“It’s a field that demands hard work, but it also comes with numerous rewards and perks. I’m excited to witness the next generation choosing hospitality as a profession,” he concluded.

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