We talk to one of Ireland's most exciting chefs - Sunil Ghai of Pickle, Dublin - about all things culinary
What’s your earliest food memory?
Leaving for school every morning with a tiffin box in hand and eating lunch in the peace and quiet of the classroom during break. I can still remember the flavours of the flat bread (parantha), potato with fresh pomegranate and coriander and of course my mother’s mango pickle.
What was the most valuable lesson you have learned on your career path?
Keep food as simple as possible, keep the flavour pure and use the best produce possible. And of course, keep it local.
What is the best thing you ever cooked?
Ahh that’s the hard one for me to decide, it is like asking a mother who is your favourite child! I remember cooking back home in India while I was working in Oberoi Hotel, and I cooked a Himalayan antipasti platter for Mr. Oberoi. He loved it. The platter had all the local favourites like quail breast rolled with pine nuts and cooked in mustard oil, lamb pickle, Himalayan kullu trout pickled with locally grown fennel. I might bring that dish back on the Pickle menu soon.
What is your pet peeve in the kitchen?
I always believe in two things, to keep the kitchen clean, maintain hygiene to the highest level possible and the consistency of the food coming out from the kitchen. That’s why I always believe in having an open kitchen – it gives guests confidence in the restaurant as they can see how their food is being prepared.
Which kitchen tool could you not live without?
A mortar and pestle. My mother is my inspiration and she never used any grinder or blender. I used to see her making all the spice paste and powders in a mortar and pestle.
What is your current ingredient obsession?
Irish lamb – I think this is the best lamb quality I have ever cooked with anywhere. We’re enjoying spring lamb at the moment; it is so tender and flavoursome.
What/who are your biggest influences?
Travelling around India and eating different dishes inspires me a lot. I try to bring dish ideas back in to my kitchen and use local artisan produce to create those flavours of North Indian cuisine.
What was your most memorable meal?
Food cooked by my Mom. Makki ki roti and sarsoan da saag – fresh mustard leaves cooked slowly for good 4-5 hours and tempered with garlic, ginger, green chillies and topped with home churned white butter. I could happily eat for the rest of my life.
Dream dinner party guest?
I always wanted to cook for Mother Teresa! I’d also really love to host a lunch for kids who don’t have any families or parents. I really want to cook for them.
What are your favourite eateries at home and abroad?
I am big fan of chef Ross Lewis and his food, but I hardly get time to go. Back home I have a list of places to eat – Indian Accent is one I always go to.
What/who inspires you?
Good quality ingredients and people who really enjoy food – they inspire me to always try and create different flavours. I do love a chef biography too!
Let us in on your top foodie tip…
Buy good quality meats and grind your own spices. Keep it simple and just cook a tasty plate of food.