Celebrity chef from Mumbai cooks his way to the Capital
Celebrity chef Kelvin Cheung’s popularity goes beyond the Bollywood set, and he’s popular with the hip crowd. The young favourite made Ellipses in Colaba a popular choice for dining and partying. His last outing, Bastian, was a hit with celebrities from the film industry.
Cheung couldn’t resist being part of the food Capital of the country, and cooked his way to Delhi. He is set to launch a fine dine restaurant Kiko -Ba and Bar Dadel in association with White Panda Hospitality later this month. The contemporary entrant promises to serve Asian gourmet and it aspires to set a precedent of an inclusive dining concept. Inspired by the eastern Asian folklore of shapeshifting tanukis, who bring good fortune and luck to spaces, Kiko-Ba presents heirlooms of recipes from sacred homes in Eastern Asia celebrating tradition, flavour and craftsmanship with a contemporary refined resonance.
Bar Dadel is jointly curated by celebrity mixologist from Poland, Bartosz Jakowiec. It will pay ode to one’s complex mind, bringing to the fore an enticing blend of cocktails, narrating tales as old as time, a place where culinary meets mixology. We spoke to the third-generation chef, who is of Chinese-Canadian origin, about what we can expect.
**Having created quite the food story in Mumbai do you think it was finally time to make inroads to the food capital of the country?
Cheung: Delhi chose me. Well, actually Arjun Jain and Aman Kumar, the dynamic duo behind GrubFest, chose me. They already had an amazing space and a clear vision of the design, but were lacking in the food department. When they asked me if I’d join them in Delhi and take on this project I knew after creating wonderful food in both Colaba and Bandra, it was time to take on a new challenge.
While my heart belongs to Mumbai, especially after the birth of Bodhi, I can’t wait to settle into Delhi and start feeding them. I didn’t have a single friend or even an Instagram when I first moved to Mumbai, so I’m very familiar with being an unknown chef just cooking for the love of it.
Mumbai doesn’t quite have the number of restaurants that Delhi does in the premium category, do you think you’ll be able to impress this food obsessed city?
Cheung: I sure hope so! Mumbai has amazing food and the patrons are very committed to their restaurants across the spectrum from hole in the walls to premium. If you walk into Cafe Madras on any given day, you’ll see customers from all walks of life. So while the amount of premium restaurants might not be the same in sheer number, you are competing with everyone inside and outside of your category.
That being said, I believe the more the merrier when it comes to good restaurants. I truly believe in keeping my head down and continuing to create dishes I am proud of, want to eat myself, and am excited to serve regardless of what is already available in the market.
For the longest time recipes have been these massive secrets heavily guarded by chefs and home cooks. At the end of the day, even if you follow a recipe exactly, it will likely come out just a bit different. The real difference is the heart and patience put into a dish. I know that will reflect in what I am serving in Delhi.
In an already crowded Asian segment do you feel Kiko -Ba will hit the spot and what do you think will give it an edge?
Cheung: The real difference and the secret ingredients to a great eatery are the heart and patience put into a dish. You can’t train passion. One thing I’m known for is an ever evolving menu. So you’ll always find something you love and something new.
**You launched Bastian in Mumbai, don’t you think a sea food restaurant in Delhi is much needed?
Cheung: Sure! You’ll see a lot of fresh seafood, like grilled lobster Thermidor with Macau Curry, on my new menus- especially the robata section. But it’s certainly not a seafood focused restaurant. Go ahead and put a little pressure on the White Panda Hospitality management team and I’ll gladly start working on the food concept for one!
**You have your finger on the pulse have quite the love story with Mumbai, will you be spending time in Delhi?
Cheung: I’m based in Delhi now. New company, new home. The works. It’s a big change for my family and me, but we’re loving the new adventure and finding new inspiration, new vendors, and overcoming new hurdles.
For instance, the organic farms here are so much closer in Delhi than they were in Mumbai. It changes the game when it comes to using what’s in season and in terms of inspiration. I can pick something one day and serve it on the menu the next. How exciting is that? What I’ve learned is that life is a massive adventure.
You truly never know what the universe has in store for you and what is next.
**Are you partial to any food trend and do you think the restaurant caters to it?
Cheung: Just like my previous two stints in Mumbai in Bandra and Colaba, everything was completely different, but everything also stayed the same. If that makes sense! While my plating style changes with age, you can always except a focus on exhibiting the diversity of Asian food, highlighting traditional cooking techniques and contemporary globally inspired flavours, along with native sustainably sourced ingredients.
**Cantonese cuisine is close to your heart, share a few details about the food we can expect
Cheung: White Panda Hospitality is launching two distinct spaces-Dadel, in the basement, is a fun, flamboyant lounge that’s a grown-up bar for great cocktails where I’ve designed the global bar nibbles menu. It’s the perfect space for you to come and unwind over live music, small plates, and a good drink.
Upstairs, we have the restaurant Kiko-Ba that’s been named after a Japanese fictional character who comes down from heaven and brings good luck to the people. Essentially, this menu will include everything I learned at my father’s restaurant, my training in French culinary, my work at restaurants in Belgium, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver, and eventually Mumbai. Over the years, my food, plating, and skills have evolved, and I’ll be putting it all together and serving up a enew Kelvin’.
The heirloom baby corn with smoked honey truffle butter is a dish I am extremely excited about. My family spent the majority of this summer in Toronto and the corn we picked at the farms was incredible. Bodhi and I were both obsessed with the Peaches and Cream variety that is only in season for about six weeks. It’s incredibly sweet and doesn’t need any butter or seasoning.
I’ll be making a smoky gai yang chicken on the robota which is inspired from eating at the open ends market from one of my many trips to Thailand.