Born and raised in London, Karam Sethi, 29, is head chef-proprietor of Trishna, Marylebone, which specialises in southwest Indian cuisine and gained its first Michelin star this year. There is a sister restaurant in Mumbai.
Had you been thinking you’d win a Michelin star?
We won a Michelin Bib Gourmand last year, and we thought we couldn’t go from that to a star, so it was completely off our minds. We just focused on improving our ingredients – we put more wild fish on the menu; a lot of it is from the Hampshire coast, Cornwall and Devon. What Michelin look for is consistency and identity, and I think they saw that we specialise in the southwestern coastal food of India, that we’re using really good British ingredients, and that at £40-£45 a head we’re quite accessible.
Is there anything in your family history that points towards what you and your siblings are now doing (Sethi’s sister runs the front of house and is his sommelier; his brother looks after ﬁnance)?
Not really, but we’ve always eaten out with our parents from a really young age. We usually went to Gaylord – that was a treat on a Saturday night, to have their sizzling tandoori grills. My mum is also a very good cook, and we went to Normandy every summer. Seeing the food there really got my interest going.
How did you start as a chef?
After school I had a year at the Sheraton New Delhi. I spent a lot of time just learning the basics of Indian kitchen: all the tandoori marinades, then you go on to the curry section and learn the different sauces – God knows how many – and the preparation of lentils and vegetables. Indian food is so diverse; this was northwestern frontier cuisine.
How often do you visit India?
We’re lucky as we used to go to India every year as children, and we had cooks in the house – you got to see different ingredients. At least one visit every year we’d stay for about four to six weeks; it was so hot we just chilled out playing cricket, or I spent time with the cooks in the kitchen. Their fragrant spicing and the freshness of the sauces is probably something you can see in the food at Trishna.
What do you think of the London dining scene?
It’s probably the only city in the world where you can have so many cuisines in one day at top quality and on a budget. We’ll focus on London for the next five years before we do anything in India or abroad. We’re opening something else in the W1 area in the spring – it will be Indian, but completely different to Trishna.
For three new recipes by Karam Sethi, go to ft.com/recipes.
Trishna, 15-17 Blandford Street, London W1U 3DG, 020 7935 5624