As we foray into our next big release with TheVibe Originals series Chefs Eat Out, we are excited to bring you a one-on-one with Chef Kelvin Cheung, the legendary entrepreneur-cum-restauranteur who is all set to feature in Episode 1. Kelvin is the corporate chef at Aalia Hospitality and is the Main Chef at One Street.
Chef Kelvin’s restaurants are recipients of multiple food awards and have legions of raving mad fans who swear by the signature gastronomical experience of these destinations. His establishment — Bastian, named after “Sebastian — the crab,” from The Little Mermaid, knows of patrons who sometimes favour the place for all three meals of the day!
“I am like two different people. At work, I am this intense, detail-oriented person who likes to follow a specific system of function and flow. Outside of work though, I am very chill. I like to keep it this way,” says the third-generation restauranteur who has witnessed many a kitchen storm.
Both Kelvin’s father and grandfather were cooks. His early days at various Cantonese-styled restaurants is where he learnt the first tricks of the trade.
“Restaurant business is hard. I rarely saw my father while growing up. Our entire family was dedicated to working. Everyone who was able, who had time, was at work. That’s the nature of the business. It requires that kind of dedication and sacrifice.”
Born in Toronto, raised in Chicago and settled in India — Kelvin is well-travelled and exposed and has clocked many frequent flier miles in search of food and inspiration.
EVOLUTION OF A SIGNATURE STYLE
Your signature style is honed over the years. It’s a process of evolution admits the Chef. He recollects, “It’s funny because not only does your technique, your knowledge and experience change as well. The way you see food, how you perceive it, all of that changes with time. And it grows with you. I started in a multi fine dining situation where we spent hours, after hours, meticulously picking herbs, cleaning and weeding things.”
He further reveals, “From there my style has morphed into making more comfort food, seasonal food, more ingredient-driven food. But you still see flashes of everything you have done. Flashes of the culinary school (Kendall School of Culinary Arts), the first job you’ve worked, the first recipe you’ve worked on, the chefs you’ve trained under. All of these leave a mark on you, and come together to create your signature style.”
The move to India was life-changing and in his own words, “my scene changed exponentially.” In India, my knowledge of flavours, recipes, inspired me to create and push my own boundaries. This is a high pressure, high-stress situation. It’s a very demanding lifestyle in this industry, where the hours are long and you don’t get any off time. But there is so much to learn every day.”
BASTIAN — PUTTING THE SEA ON THE PLATE
Talking about the Bastian, he explains how the idea germinated. “India has all this fantastic seafood, yet the food genres remained unexplored. Everything was almost made to fit the same style — flavour, cooking, profile, curry-based masalas.”
The Bastian wanted to marry the local seafood with natural ingredients to create a food experience that brought everyone together.” There is an easy-going informality to the place, and the menu has expanded from his many travels over the world.
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And the testing for the perfect loaf of yeast free sourdough continues… The best part of my job is not just creating and testing new recipes, but passing them onto my junior chefs who work the hardest, have a hunger to learn, and appreciate a little one-on-one lesson. 📸 @andreamicheleb Also I wish I could keep my tan. @bastianmumbai @onestreetmumbai @lodgebreadco #bastian #bastianbakery #baking #bread #breads #sourdough #yeastfree #wholewheat #teacher #chef #cheflife
ONE STREET — BRINGING OVER THE AMERICAS
With one successful establishment functional, how did One Street come about? Cheung tells us, “One Street came about when we took a break at Bastian to get it renovated. We were thinking of a fun place that would serve exclusive cocktails at affordable rates.”
The base drinks and cocktails are all made of premium drinks. We wanted a place that served fun American food, where people could come down to unwind.”
The food here resonates with the people, it is simple and honest. This is exactly what the patrons crave.
THE INDIAN EXPERIMENT
His experience in India has been life-changing he tells us. “I’ve had countless memorable meals here. People have invited me into their homes and cooked some of the most memorable home cooked meals, infused with love.”
Recounting his most memorable, he says, “We had a crazy meal at this fine-dining restaurant called 11.35 AD at Amer Palace in Jaipur. It was made so special, the view from the fort, overlooking the parapet, as around 50 musicians played local folk music.” His favourite Indian dish however remains the quintessential Idli, although he says his last meal would be Dosa.
THE LAST MEAL
As we conclude our interview with Chef Kelvin, we couldn’t help but ask. If ever the Chef had to shut shop, what would be the last meal he would serve?
He takes a few moments to decide, before revealing, “It will obviously be a tasting menu. The endeavour would be to pay my respects to everything that I’ve done in my career. There would be multiple courses. The first stop would feature ultra fine dining made of luxurious ingredients like truffles, caviar, and a whole bunch of crazy stuff.”
The meal would then follow the curve from there to what I’ve learnt under each chef, to what I have learnt myself, to my individual style, to what my family and what my parents have taught me. I think that would be the progression of food that would make it characteristic and memorable.”
Catch director Sumedh Natu as he trails Chef Kelvin Cheung across his favourite joints in Mumbai in TheVibe Originals Chefs Eat Out. STREAMING SOON!